Hopes are rising of a deal between the UK and EU that could help ease tensions in Northern Ireland, it was reported on Sunday night.
he Financial Times said progress was being made in negotiations about how to apply the new trade rules under the Northern Ireland Protocol.
The ‘Irish Sea border’ is just one of the reasons behind recent rioting in Belfast and elsewhere.
The FT reported that recent talks had led to optimism over how the Protocol, which has affected trade from Great Britain into Northern Ireland, could be implemented.
“Technical talks are ongoing”, said an EU official.
“Depending on the progress made at technical level, a political-level meeting may be held soon.”
The new implementation of the Protocol could ease trade in steel and medicines, and deal with everything from soil on plant bulbs to the construction of border control posts.
“The mood seems to have warmed up a bit – the tone of the discussions is quite good,” one British official told the newspaper.
Meanwhile, adults in parts of Northern Ireland recently marred by violence have been accused of child abuse by the Children’s Commissioner.
Children as young as 12 were reportedly among those involved in a week of violence that began in Belfast before spreading to other towns.
Close to 90 police officers have suffered injuries, including 14 in the Tigers Bay of north Belfast – one of two areas, along with Coleraine, where officers came under attack from youths lobbing petrol bombs and other missiles on Friday night.
Three 14 year old boys were arrested in Tigers Bay on Friday night. They were later released pending further inquiries.
The streets were largely quiet over the rest of the weekend, apparently as a mark of respect following the death of Prince Phillip.
But the scenes over the week of children on the frontline of the riots led to Northern Ireland’s Children’s Commissioner Koulla Yiasouma to describe what happened as “child abuse”.
The violence and the frontline involvement of children is “criminal exploitation and coercion by adults of vulnerable and at-risk children and young people”, she said.
Those adults “have to be held accountable and stopped”, Ms Yiasouma told BBC Radio 4.
“‘Child abuse’ is a very loaded term but I think it is within that safeguarding family of abuses children may suffer and experience.
“When it comes to safeguarding issues I would put it in that group, yes.”
She added: “Enough is enough when the first petrol bomb or stone is thrown.
“It’s criminal actors trying to take control and what we need is a calm narrative from our politicians.
“We need them to be seen, to be supporting our community workers on the ground.
“These young people are still there. They’re still living in our segregated community.
“It shows how fragile some of the communities are and that is in spite of the fantastic work people are doing and over 20 years of relative peace.”
Following calls by community organisations and the Loyalist Communities Council (LCC) – which represents the views of the UDA, UVF and Red Hand Commando – for an end to the violence, the unrest was confined to two areas on Friday with no major incidents reported over the rest of the weekend.
Petrol bombs and masonry, including roof tiles, were thrown at police in Tigers Bay in Belfast on Friday, the 12th night of recent disorder, while a car was hijacked and pushed towards police lines.
Police came under attack also in the Atlantic Road area of Coleraine as a crowd of around 40 people, some masked, most of them teenagers, attempted to block the road with burning pallets. Petrol bombs and other missiles were thrown.
While tensions remain high, the UK Government was reportedly reluctant to convene a special summit with Dublin leaders to discuss the street violence and the overall fragile political situation.
Dublin has suggested to London that the crisis requires an inter-governmental summit that can be called under provisions of the Good Friday Agreement, according to a report by the Observer newspaper.
The request was relayed to Boris Johnson’s government via diplomatic channels late last week, but was turned down, the paper reported.
“There is a fear of upsetting unionists, a worry that this would be seen as Dublin interfering too much in the affairs of Northern Ireland,” a source told the paper.
However, on Sunday night a senior official at Number 10 said it has “not refused anything”.
“It’s something we will consider,” the FT reported.
On the 23rd anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement at the weekend, Ulster Unionist leader Steve Aiken said that at its “was the principle of consent, the understanding of parity of esteem, and building trust and mutual respect”.
Mr Aiken added: “There has never been a better time for us all to recommit to the Agreement and perhaps a good time for many, both here and across these islands and beyond, to reread the document and see the vision of David Trimble and John Hume.”
Former Irish President Mary McAleese, originally from north Belfast, described the recent violence as regrettably familiar territory. She said children here are “still being taught to hate”.
“It arises because they’re in a vacuum,” Ms McAleese told the BBC.
“There is undoubtedly a vacuum of political leadership and… Brexit,” she said, adding that the crisis has “exposed how little planning the Brexit process had allowed for the impact in Northern Ireland.”