Taoiseach on Bombardier, Brexit and bad blood with SF

Leo Varadkar said the Irish government is lobbying hard to help protect jobs at Bombardier
Leo Varadkar said the Irish government is lobbying hard to help protect jobs at Bombardier

The Irish government is lobbying on behalf of Northern Irish Bombardier workers, the taoiseach declared during a wide-ranging BBC Spotlight interview on Tuesday night.

In the programme Leo Varadkar was introduced as being gay and the son of an immigrant, whose “personal story has made him an international hit”.

Among the issues which he spoke about during the interview, conducted in Londonderry, was the Bombardier row.

It centres on tariffs which the US government has imposed on C-series planes built by the firm – something it is feared could hurt the 1,000-or-so workers in east Belfast who build aircraft wings.

Mr Varadkar said the Irish government was concerned about the developments, adding: “We are actually working to help Bombardier.

“I met with the Canadian cabinet minister [Bombardier is a Canadian firm] just last week and we discussed this and we’re using our contacts in the US to try and have a more favourable decision. Because you know we want to protect the jobs and economy here in Northern Ireland as well. And we are very much on your side in that regard.”

He said of the Brexit negotiations that Ireland has found itself in a position where it, a former part of the UK, is sitting around a table with French and German leaders “making decisions that are going to affect the UK – for many centuries it was the other way around, they made decisions that affected us so that’s a little bit ironic”.

It was put to him that the UK government has more control over what happens in Ireland regarding Brexit than him.

“I’m not sure if that’s the case,” he replied.

The presenter put it to him that there is a “mutual loathing” between his Fine Gael party and Sinn Fein, and he said he “cannot conceive” of a time when the two would share power – not just because of the latter’s background of violence, but because it is “anti-European” and do not share Fine Gael’s pro-business, low tax policies.