Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said that there should be a redoubling of efforts in the coming weeks by both the Irish and British governments and the Northern parties to re-establish power-sharing in Northern Ireland.

Speaking at an event in Washington last night, Mr Varadkar said the two governments may have to table their own proposals to help break the deadlock, but he assured Unionists that his approach would be balanced with no hidden agendas.

Mr Varadkar was speaking at an event in Washington to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

In a message to unionists, the Taoiseach said he recognised that recent statements by the Government on Brexit may have been seen as unwelcome or intrusive.

He said that was not their intention and insisted there was no hidden agenda.

The Taoiseach said that Ulster-Scots protestants are an integral and valued part of the history and the future of the island of Ireland.

He said that young people must now be engaged to build on the achievements of the Good Friday Agreement.

Former US special envoy to Northern Ireland George Mitchell

Mitchell calls for no return to hard border after Brexit

Also speaking at the same event, former US special envoy to Northern Ireland George Mitchell said a Brexit outcome that avoids a hard border between Ireland and the UK must be encouraged.

He also urged those grappling with the issue to seek inspiration from the Good Friday Agreement, which Mr Mitchell was instrumental in brokering 20 years ago.

"We must encourage a Brexit outcome that does not re-establish a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland," Mr Mitchell said.

"The governments of the US and the UK must avoid any economic decisions that cost jobs or create hardship in Northern Ireland.

"As they today reflect on their responsibilities I hope that the current leaders of Northern Ireland, of Ireland, of the United Kingdom and of the European Union look back 20 years to what their predecessors were able to do."

The former senator said President Bill Clinton was the first US president to make peace in Northern Ireland a central objective of his administration.

"He jumped in where others feared to tread and he deserves great credit," Mr Mitchell said.

Meanwhile, Mr Clinton also urged Northern Ireland's political leaders to use the anniversary of the peace agreement as a stimulus to save powersharing.

In a video message broadcast at the event, Mr Clinton acknowledged that, 20 years on, there was work to be done to salvage the institutions that the agreement created.

"We know the progress that has been made has been imperilled by the consequences of recent events and the uncertainties of the Brexit vote," he said.

"We also know in our heart of hearts that none of these problems is an excuse not to save, strengthen and build on the peace.

"This anniversary gives us all an opportunity to recommit to the spirit of courage and co-operation that made the Good Friday Agreement possible in the first place."

Additional reporting PA