American politicians tour Ireland amid protocol tensions

Martin met with the delegation of American politicians led by Democratic Congressman Richard Neal, chair of the House of Representatives’ Ways and Means Committee responsible for taxation and tariffs, on Monday (23 May). The group are on a four-day visit to Ireland and the UK.  [EPA-EFE/Tasos Katopodis]

US lawmakers met with Irish Taoiseach Micheál Martin in Dublin on a trip to Europe centred on the growing tensions around the Northern Ireland protocol.

Martin met with the delegation of American politicians led by Democratic Congressman Richard Neal, chair of the House of Representatives’ Ways and Means Committee responsible for taxation and tariffs, on Monday (23 May). The group are on a four-day visit to Ireland and the UK.

Before arriving in Ireland, the bipartisan group visited Brussels and met with officials, including the European Commission’s Brexit negotiator Maroš Šefčovič. The politicians also met with British officials, including UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, to discuss the current protocol impasse in London this weekend.

“Deep understanding of the need to protect the [Good Friday Agreement], and to resolve issues around the Protocol,” Martin said on Twitter after the gathering. “Negotiation, not unilateral action, is the way forward,” he added.

Last week, London announced that it would introduce new legislation which would allow it to change the agreement. Ireland, the EU, and the US have all expressed concern over the move.

Read also: EU threatens sanctions after UK proposes law to override NI protocol

Following the meeting with Truss, Neal said that Brussels had made it clear that they were ready to negotiate and that the UK should similarly do so. He added that he, US President Joe Biden, and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi “have made our position known. Nothing can jeopardise the Good Friday Agreement or any sort of return to a hard border.”

The protocol is key to the ongoing delay in forming an executive in the Northern Irish Assembly. The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which came second in the recent elections won by Sinn Féin, refuses to form an executive until its concerns over the protocol are resolved.

Neal is set to address the Seanad, the upper house of Ireland’s parliament, on Tuesday (24 May), and the group will also meet with Irish President Michael D. Higgins and Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald while in Ireland.

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