It is “unacceptable” that the Northern Irish Executive is not fully functioning ahead of a challenging winter, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said.
Mr Martin said the failure to form a working government is a “denial of the mandate” given in the Stormont Assembly elections in May.
The Irish Government will seek to work in partnership with the new British prime minister, Liz Truss, her government and the leaders of all Northern Irish parties to secure the effective operation of the Executive and the North-South Ministerial Council, he added.
“It is to the detriment of the people of Northern Ireland that their executive is not in place to take the decisions and to provide the leadership needed, particularly as we face into a difficult and economically challenging winter,” Mr Martin said on Thursday.
The Taoiseach’s comments come amid calls from Sinn Féin, Alliance and the SDLP for the restoration of the Executive to enable any cost-of-living assistance from the UK government to be distributed quickly and in a manner tailored to the Northern Ireland market.
The Stormont Assembly has been unable to sit since the May election, when the DUP refused to re-enter the power-sharing institutions. It is demanding that issues around the Northern Ireland protocol, which is opposed by unionists, are resolved to its satisfaction.
Mr Martin said the Belfast Agreement was an “indispensable framework or bedrock” which the Irish government would always work sincerely to support and protect.
Progress does not happen overnight and “takes commitment over generations”, he continued.
Continuous engagement with civil society on the island is “all the more important”, said Mr Martin, when the Executive and the North-South Ministerial Council are “once again not able to fully function, which is unacceptable”.
The Taoiseach was speaking at the launch of the National Women’s Council all-island women’s forum report, which has called for the centring of women’s voices in peace building.
It is an “uncomfortable truth”, he said, that women’s voices, experiences and interests remain “underrepresented”, while their contributions are “under-acknowledged and insufficiently harnessed”.
There is a commitment to develop a government-wide framework to continue to advance women’s empowerment, he said.
He praised the forum for highlighting the value of a North-South approach to confronting and ending “appalling” violence against women.
On this, the Government “fully agrees” and will shortly be convening a shared-island dialogue on this issue, with the participation of Minister for Justice Helen McEntee and Northern Ireland Minister for Justice Naomi Long, he said.
The Government is keen to collaborate more with the Northern Irish Executive and the UK government in increasing student mobility and educational attainment, particularly in marginalised communities, he added.
The women’s forum was financially supported by the Department of Foreign Affairs’ reconciliation fund. Funding has recently been awarded for a second term of the forum’s work as part of the Shared Island initiative, the Taoiseach said.