NORTHERN IRELAND'S relationship with the Republic has never been worse, according to the new leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) Edwin Poots.
Mr Poots, who arrived in Dublin on Thursday for "very frank discussions" with Taoiseach Micheál Martin, said that North-South relations were "really, really bad," primarily due to issues surrounding the Northern Ireland Protocol, which the DUP leader has been a vocal critic of.
He also hit out at former Taoiseach Leo Varadkar for deepening the divide between the two nations.
Prior to the meeting, Poots told reporters: "We really need to recognise that the Protocol, as it currently exists, is not deliverable and must go and that is something that the Taoiseach needs to recognise as well.
"I believe there are solutions which can be achieved to ensure that the single market is protected and there are no borders on the island of Ireland and can also deal with the issue of the barriers that have been erected between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
"I have to say that our relationships between north and south have never been as bad, I do not blame the current Taoiseach for that, I blame the past Taoiseach," he said.
"Northern Ireland cannot be a plaything of the European Union or indeed the southern government. Northern Ireland people are more important than that."
Pleased to welcome new DUP leader Edwin Poots to Government Buildings this evening.
We shared an open exchange of views on North-South cooperation, the Protocol, COVID-19 and ongoing political developments. pic.twitter.com/9GDbj2AWJo
— Micheál Martin (@MichealMartinTD) June 3, 2021
Despite the tension, Poots insisted that his meeting with Martin was "positive, frank and useful".
In a statement issued after the meeting, the Taoiseach said that he and Mr Poots had "an open exchange of views across a number of issues," including political developments, Covid-19, North-South cooperation and the Northern Ireland Protocol.
"The Taoiseach highlighted the critical importance of the stability and good functioning of the NI Executive and all the Institutions of the Good Friday Agreement, in these challenging times," the statement read.
"Recognising and understanding the genuine concerns in unionist and loyalist communities around the Protocol, the Taoiseach said the focus needs to be on getting issues resolved and on reducing friction where we can."