Poots: Dublin government ‘needs to step up’ over port delays

Northern Ireland Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots has slammed the Irish Government, saying it needs to “step up” in addressing post-Brexit issues importing agri-food produce.

Poots said it was difficult to secure meetings with officials from the south to discuss solutions to hold-ups at Dublin Port.

Delays have been so bad, several haulage firms are opting to travel to and from Rosslare instead. There have also been reports of perishable goods arriving spoiled due to lengthy delays.

But it wasn’t just the Irish Government in the firing line; Poots also said Northern Ireland Secretary of State Brandon Lewis was “going about like the emperor with no clothes”.

Lewis has repeatedly denied any issue with agri-food supply chains, claiming empty shelves were due to Covid, and not Brexit.

Completing the comparison, Poots told MLAs on Tuesday (January 19): “However, it is not a small boy who is pointing it out, but the entire crowd. He really needs to reflect on that.”

“It is not a good policy to go about saying something that is blatantly not the case. We know what the problems are and where they emanate from, and we know that those issues need to be dealt with.”

Waiting two weeks for a meeting

Minister Poots said he had put a request in “around two weeks ago” to meet his counterparts in the Republic because of “significant issues of concern”.

“However, I have to admit that I am getting better cooperation in getting meetings with the UK Ministers than I am with Ministers in the Republic of Ireland,” he said.

“They may be busy, but everybody is busy, and these are significant issues. The port of Dublin is a huge issue; there are huge problems there. In some instances, hauliers are waiting there for days in very poor conditions, without good sanitary conditions or anything else. It is grossly unfair.

Perishable goods are being lost as a consequence of those delays, and, from what I gather, a number of vehicles that would normally transit through Dublin are now coming through Belfast and Larne.

“They include vehicles that have the Republic of Ireland as their destination. We need cooperation in working those things out to the benefit of everyone.

Dublin Port

Tensions have further escalated with dozens of hauliers taking to Dublin city centre to protest on Thursday (January 22).

Protesters parked lorries outside Dublin Port and hand-delivered a letter to Taoiseach Micheál Martin demanding the government take action.

Poots added: “I suspect that people in the sector will not be laughing as a consequence of the problems at Dublin Port.

“Dublin Port is incredibly important, particularly for just-in-time goods and for goods traversing to the south of England.

It is incredibly important that we, as a country that sells a large volume of food and relies on the food and food-processing sector for so many jobs, ensure that we keep all routes open to export our goods.

“The Dublin Government need to step up and work with us to ensure that that transit can happen.”