Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said the Northern Ireland Protocol "is here to stay" despite opposition from unionist parties.

Mr Coveney said the protocol is part of an international treaty, which was negotiated to allow for the UK's departure from the EU and this is understood by the British government, the Irish Government and the EU.

The protocol was designed to allow seamless trade between the two jurisdictions on the island of Ireland, but has caused anger among many unionists because of its requirement for checks on many goods arriving from across the Irish Sea.

Temporary border control posts are already operating.

However, on Friday, the North's Agriculture Minister Gordon Lyons said he was halting construction work on permanent posts and recruitment of staff, because of "practical difficulties", which he said have been caused by the protocol.

Mr Coveney said: "This is obviously a matter for the British government and the executive in Northern Ireland now, to ensure that they are compliant with their commitments under the protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland and I think that's where everybody needs to focus their attention now." 

Mr Coveney added: "The protocol is here to stay. There is of course an ongoing discussion on how flexibilities can be used within the confines of the protocol to make sure that we can support trade between GB and Northern Ireland with as few restrictions or checks as possible, but that being said the protocol is part of an international treaty; it's international law, it needs to be implemented and everybody has a legal obligation to do that and that’s where the focus should be."

Asked how unionist opponents to the protocol could be placated, he said: "We know that the DUP and other unionist voices don't support the protocol, we are focused on trying to ensure that we learn some lessons from the first couple of months of implementation of the protocol and that we use the flexibility mechanisms within the protocol to respond to genuine problems when they are raised.

"That’s a very different thing, though, than doing away with the protocol, which is what some people now are calling for. We cannot do away with the protocol because that's essentially doing away with an essential element of an international treaty, which is part of facilitating the UK leaving the EU in a structured and managed way.

"I think the British government understand that, our Government understand that and the EU understand that.

"We will of course work with all voices in Northern Ireland to understand the problems with the protocol and try and address them with the mechanisms which have been set up to do that."