The Taoiseach has said he hopes that legislation to restore an informal agreement to allow Irish and Northern Irish trawlers fish a six-mile zone between Ireland and the UK will be passed by Easter.

Mr Varadkar was responding in the Dáil to Labour Leader Brendan Howlin.

Mr Howlin asked for reassurance that any resolution of the issue would not lead to a "back door to wholesale access to Irish waters from either other UK registered vessels or London Agreement vessels which would be very significant to the Irish industry".

The Voisinage agreement allowed boats from Northern Ireland to fish within a six-mile zone in Irish inshore waters and vice versa, but it was struck down following a Supreme Court challenge.

The UK continues to recognise the Voisinage agreement so Irish vessels remain free to fish inshore waters around Northern Ireland, but Northern Irish vessels do not have reciprocal rights.

This led to the arrest of two Northern Irish vessel owners in Dundalk Bay last week.

Mr Varadkar said the current situation "was quite unfair" and the Government wanted to "correct the situation and put it right".

"It would help if the UK government could clarify their intention not to withdraw Northern Ireland from the London Convention, but we are not going to make that a pre-condition," Mr Varadkar said.

He called for cross-party support to get the legislation passed.