Ireland is prepared to contribute to a financial package for investments in Northern Ireland if powersharing is restored, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said after meeting with British prime minister Rishi Sunak.
The two held a “brief engagement” at a summit of European leaders in Moldova at which they discussed how to restore the powersharing institutions that have been collapsed for more than a year.
The assembly could be restored “hopefully in September” Mr Varadkar said, adding that there were “no guarantees of that at the moment”.
In a radio interview on Thursday, Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MP Ian Paisley dismissed the idea that a solution could be in sight, saying his party saw “still substantial hurdles that have got to be crossed” and that the re-establishment of Stormont “could be an ice age away”.
Mr Varadkar said the majority of people in Northern Ireland as well as the British and Irish governments wanted to see the institutions back up and running.
“The DUP is seeking some assurances from the British government about their place in the UK, that’s really a matter between the DUP and the UK government,” Mr Varadkar told reporters.
“But we’ve said we would just like to be aware of that, so that we’re not caught off guard or by surprise and that there’s nothing that would concern us in terms of the integrity of the Good Friday Agreement, and I fully trust the prime minister in that regard.”
The Taoiseach said there had been discussion about “what sort of financial arrangements might work for Northern Ireland”, and that the Irish government was willing to make a contribution.
“There’s a big budget deficit there, lots of challenges on healthcare, housing, education, public pay. So I think it makes sense that there should be a financial package to enable the executive, if it is re-established, to be a success,” he said.
Mr Varadkar suggested the Irish government would be prepared to contribute to projects along the lines of support for upgrading the A5 road and offering funding to universities such as the Magee campus in Derry.
“The Irish government is willing to make a contribution to particular projects to help with that,” Mr Varadkar said. “We’re really up for doing a lot more and co-financing it, and we want to be part of that conversation.”