Tánaiste Simon Coveney has described calls for border polls on the island of Ireland during the ongoing Brexit negotiations as "unhelpful".

Addressing a seminar on Brexit organised by the Association of Higher Civil and Public Servants, Mr Coveney described such calls as an unnecessary distraction.

He said they were fuelling polarisation in Northern Ireland at a time when the Government was trying to deliver practical and sensible solutions to Brexit.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs told the seminar that of course people had the right to nationalist or unionist aspirations, but called on all sides to focus on the task at hand.

He said that given the magnitude of the challenge posed by Brexit, all focus should be on that, rather than seeing it used to promote other aspirations and fuelling fears, as a result of which progress on Brexit would be even more difficult than it already is.

Mr Coveney said it was ironic that after four to five years of intensive negotiations, the Government was hoping for an outcome that would be as close to maintenance of the status quo as possible.

He also said it was important for the political system and the civil service in Ireland to work together on this important issue, but also praised the work of the UK civil service in the ongoing negotiations.

The Tánaiste said from his experience, the British civil service was arguably the best in the world, but that it needed political direction in terms of making progress on the very complex set of issues linked to Brexit.