Irish government ‘willing to help restore devolution in any way financially possible’

The Irish government is willing to “assist in any way financially” to help restore devolved government in Northern Ireland, a senior minister has said.

The institutions of Stormont have effectively collapsed for more than a year and a half amid backlash from the DUP over post-Brexit trade arrangements.

This has left senior civil servants with limited powers leading government departments in Northern Ireland in the absence of locally elected ministers.

Talks are continuing between the DUP and the UK government to address trade union concerns.

At the weekend, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said the Irish government would be “happy to contribute” to any economic package that would support the return of Northern Ireland's power-sharing institutions.

Mr Varadkar also told Fine Gael's special party conference that there was a “real possibility” the Stormont Assembly and Executive could return by Christmas or New Year.

Last week, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said they were “in the process of improving the legislation” that protects Northern Ireland's ability to trade with the UK, while Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris previously said he believed the talks were in the “final phase”.

On Monday, Ireland's Minister for Public Expenditure, Paschal Donohoe, stressed that working devolved government in Northern Ireland would benefit the whole island.

Regarding the money from the Republic, he said that there has been money in the Common Islands Fund for a number of years that has not been allocated.

The Shared Island Fund was announced in 2021 with a plan of €500m (£437m) in capital funding available until 2025 to invest in North/South collaborative projects.

In June, the Irish Government announced €44.5 million (£38.97) in major investment at Ulster University's Londonderry campus from the Shared Island Fund.

Asked where the money would come from to support the restoration of Stormont, Mr Donohoe said: “It will be money that we will set aside that we have not committed in the past, but those funds and that money will come from the Shared Island Fund in the first instance.

“I would have to say that the benefits of reopening institutions in Northern Ireland would be so beneficial to the whole island of Ireland and obviously to the communities in Northern Ireland that the Government would really be crawling to try and help in any way we can with it financially.

“But at the moment, we have a large amount of funding under the Shared Island Fund that has not yet been allocated and this is the first part that offers the ability to support any initiative that can help.”