The Minister for Foreign Affairs has indicated there could soon be a "more real round of dialogue" on the Northern Ireland Protocol between the European Union and the UK.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Simon Coveney said it is understandable that there is very little being said publicly on the issue as the UK is in mourning following the death of Queen Elizabeth on 8 September.

However, he said, private conversations he has had, and the Taoiseach has had, would "certainly suggest to us there is an opening when we move beyond next week" to a "new and perhaps more real round of dialogue in an attempt to try to resolve some of these differences that have caused such polarisation in Northern Ireland."

He warned if differences are not resolved it could result in another election in Northern Ireland.

Mr Coveney said: "I have cautious optimism that we will see in a few weeks time the opening of an honest effort to try to settle some of these issues that have been outstanding for far too long."

He said the Government and the European Union are clear that will require compromise on the UK side as well as the EU side.

He said there is a landing zone if there is a real effort to achieve this once both teams work on this basis and said he suspects the British government is "up for that" and British Prime Minister Liz Truss will instruct her team to move in that direction.

However, he added, "we can't be sure."


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Mr Coveney said of the early conversations he has had with the new Northern Ireland Secretary, Chris Heaton-Harris, and UK Foreign Minister James Cleverly, that "certainly the language is positive".

The UK and EU have been embroiled in a row over Britain's proposals to override parts of the controversial post-Brexit treaty, as it seeks to reduce trade barriers with Northern Ireland.

Ms Truss said her preference is for a negotiated solution to the dispute, but that such a resolution would have to deliver "all of the things we set out" in the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, which is currently making its way through the UK's parliament.

Yesterday, the European Commission has said it received a letter from the UK in response to legal action taken by the EU against the UK over non-compliance with the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Four infringement procedures were triggered by the European Commission in July, adding to three already launched a month earlier.

Fresh legal action was taken in June and July after the then-foreign minister Ms Truss introduced legislation which will dismantle large parts of the protocol.

Last week, the EU's chief negotiator on Brexit suggested that physical checks on goods travelling across the Irish Sea could be cut to a "couple of lorries a day".

Maroš Šefčovič said the union stands ready to work in an "open and constructive way" with the UK.