Meeting of the North-South Ministerial Council takes place in Armagh after a near three-year hiatus

First Minister Michelle O'Neill has said that is is "business as usual as far as the Executive is concerned" following the changes in the DUP's ranks; Emma Little-Pengelly said that "people demand stability and delivery and that is what I will be focusing on".

The North-South Ministerial Council met today in Armagh at the Joint Secretariat Offices.

The meeting was co-chaired by First Minister Michelle O’Neill and Deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly. The Irish Government was led by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar – in his last appearance before Simon Harris takes over.

This was the first meeting of the North-South Ministerial Council since July 2021 – nearly three years ago. The meetings did not take place when Stormont was collapsed.

Ministers from both Governments were at the meeting, including Finance Minister Caoimhe Archibald, and DAERA Minister Andrew Muir.

“We are here today as joint heads of Government to be part of the North-South Ministerial Council meeting.

“What the public deserve and want is leadership, and we’re prepared to provide that leadership, we’ve spoken to all Executive colleagues, everybody was here to do their part in terms of their own ministerial responsibility.

“We’re leaving here very quickly after the press conference to get back into the Assembly because we’ve much business to do, we’ve an Executive meeting later this week, so that’s where we need to be focused.”

– First Minister Michelle O’Neill

The press conference was shorter than normal, with the ministers needing to get back to the Assembly for the Executive’s Question Time session.

“I’m absolutely determined to provide what stability I can to ensure that the Executive can continue in a positive tone.

“We have an important number of weeks coming up where we will be discussing the draft Programme for Government and the budget, those are two key docuements in terms of the agenda for Government, and ensuring that this is an Executive that can and will deliver for the people of Northern Ireland.

“The people of Northern Ireland demand that stability, they demand that delivery, I am very conscious of that and that is what I will be focusing on”.

– Deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly

The Deputy First Minister also commented on the new Interim Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party following Jeffrey Donaldson’s suspension from the party, “I believe that unionism has a very strong and capable leader in Gavin Robinson, he has my full support and I know he has the support of unionism right across the piece”.

She continued, “I wish him all the best in the weeks and months ahead, I think he will do a fantastic job to be that strong leader for unionism at this time.”

Outgoing Taoiseach Leo Varadkar reinforced that the institutions should be able to stand through periods of instability.

Simon Harris is to take over as Taoiseach and leader of Fine Gael on Tuesday 9 April after Leo Varadkar announced his resignation

The ministers discussed a range of matters including Business, Trade and the commitments in the New Decade, New Approach agreement.

You can view the full Joint Communiqué on the North-South Ministerial Council website.

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