LONDON Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said Ireland was keen for Brexit talks to start and to ensure the process of Britain leaving the European Union did not have an adverse impact on Northern Ireland's fragile peace process.
Flanagan was speaking as the British political situation was in turmoil following an election on Thursday that produced no clear winner. Unable to govern alone, Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May was seeking to form a minority government with support from Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party.
"I do believe it's important we have certainty," Flanagan told ITV.
"Our priorities are to ensure that there is as close as possible a deal between the UK and the EU, having regard to the very severe consequences and severe adverse consequences of the UK leaving the European Union on us here in Ireland," he said.
"We will be anxious to ensure that whatever the result of these negotiations is doesn't in any way adversely impact on our unique circumstances here in Ireland, with particular reference to our peace process."
Asked whether a delay in the start of the Brexit talks, scheduled for June 19, was possible, Flanagan said: "I'm conscious of the fact that this clock is ticking.
"We're a year now since the referendum. We lost some time over the last seven weeks during the general election campaign. Europe is ready to start these negotiations."
Asked whether the prospect of a Conservative government in Britain reliant on support from the DUP was in itself a threat to Northern Ireland's peace process, Flanagan said:
"Not necessarily the case. It remains to be seen what the nature of that deal is."
He said he had raised the issue with Britain's minister for Northern Ireland, James Brokenshire, and would meet him again on Monday.
(Reporting by Estelle Shirbon; Editing by Keith Weir)