The Ulster Unionist Party has accused Irish premier Leo Varadkar of “enhancing the deterioration” of relationships between the UK and the Republic of Ireland.
Party leader Robin Swann MLA yesterday expressed disappointment at the tone of the language emanating from the taoiseach regarding Brexit and the Belfast Agreement.
He was responding to comments made by Mr Varadkar on Saturday, in which he claimed that Brexit is undermining 20 years of peace in Northern Ireland.
Speaking on RTE Radio One’s Marian Finucane programme, the taoiseach said: “Brexit has undermined the Good Friday Agreement and it is fraying relationships between Britain and Ireland.
“Anything that pulls the two communities apart in Northern Ireland undermines the Good Friday Agreement and anything that pulls Britain and Ireland apart undermines that relationship.”
His comments came two days after Nobel peace prize winner and Conservative Lord Trimble accused Mr Varadkar’s government of “riding roughshod” over the 1998 agreement.
Responding to the Irish premier’s remarks, Mr Swann said: “The tone of the language coming from Leo Varadkar at the weekend is, at best, disappointing and, at worst, a deliberate attempt to heighten tensions.
“His words and tone are in direct contradiction to the approach adopted by his own Foreign Minister Simon Coveney at the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference.
“If not handled properly, Brexit could undermine relationships between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, but I certainly didn’t expect the prime minister of the Republic to be directly involved in attempting to enhance the deterioration of those relationships. His words have a direct impact in Northern Ireland and not in a positive sense.
“Instead of grandstanding to a domestic audience with one eye on an Irish general election, the taoiseach should start listening and taking advice rather than attempting to put his spin on the negotiations.”
Backing Lord Trimble’s comments, Mr Swann added: “Whenever a Nobel peace prize winner tells the taoiseach that his government is riding roughshod over the Belfast Agreement, perhaps it’s time he started listening instead of talking. Perhaps it’s time he started concentrating on getting a deal for the benefit of everyone.”