Leo Varadkar has helped cause decline in UK-Ireland relations

News Letter editorial on Friday July 1 2022:

By Editorial
Friday, 1st July 2022, 11:46 am
News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

It is hard to know where to begin in response to comments from Leo Varadkar about the UK government not being “even handed” in Northern Ireland.

The ex Taoiseach said the UK “had given commitments in the past that it would be even handed in its approach to Northern Ireland. I don’t think that’s the case when it comes to this government, they’re siding with one of the three blocs of opinion that now exist in Northern Ireland”.

Mr Varadkar TD said he had “never seen relations as bad” between London and Dublin in his political lifetime. He said the best way to restore trust was the UK “de-escalating this”.

Yet Leo Varadkar and his Fine Gael colleague Simon Coveney share as much culpability as any other politicians for the downturn in relations between Ireland and the UK. Their government abandoned the pragmatic approach of the previous Fine Gael Taoisecah Enda Kenny to the Brexit challenges.

The Varadkar-Coveney tactic of complete loyalty to Brussels, whatever its Brexit demands of the UK, seemed for a while to work. It led first to Theresa May’s backstop, which (despite what its advocates claim) would ultimately have led to a full trade border between NI and Great Britain. Then it led to the disastrous NI Protocol (the outcome of Boris Johnson’s capitulation to Brussels in 2019, after all his tough talk).

Then Varadkar-Coveney support for an EU enforcement line on Northern Ireland fuelled a situation in which the UK felt it had to act unilaterally to mitigate the Irish Sea border.

Mr Varadkar and Mr Coveney saw fit to admonish Boris Johnson’s government on NI, both prior to the protocol and when the UK began to retreat from the Irish Sea border. Also, during the years of the SF collapse of Stormont, they told us we must pay the republican ransom of an Irish language act.

And while elderly UK veterans face trial for Troubles allegations, there is no scrutiny of the Irish state’s role in violence when for decades it refused to extradite IRA murderers.

Mr Varadkar should be told that he and Mr Coveney have been at the heart of the collapse in UK-Ireland relations.