Taoiseach wisely softens his tone on first NI visit

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

On his first visit to Northern Ireland as Taoiseach yesterday, Leo Varadkar seemed to soften some of the rhetoric that has been coming out of Dublin.

He said that while he was strongly pro gay marriage, it was a matter for Stormont. This is obviously true but his earlier comments on the matter had seemed to sound like instructions on how the assembly should deal with that particular matter, so his clarification yesterday was welcome.

Mr Varadkar also talked about possible arrangements that could be introduced for Ireland and the UK if the latter leaves both the single market and the customs union.

While some of the proposals that he made in that regard yesterday, on possible post Brexit arrangements, will not be what British leaders have in mind, Mr Varadkar’s tone was nonetheless softer than his previous seemingly ill-tempered comments about “not making a border for Brexiteers”.

Mr Varadkar is keen to get Stormont up and running again and says that the prime minister, Theresa May, is also prepared to get involved.

That is a welcome offer, but Arlene Foster was right to make clear that this cannot happen without Sinn Fein dropping its various demands.

The DUP had previously sounded so keen to return to devolution that it appeared to raise the spectre of the party agreeing to some of those republican demands.

The party has been right not to do so, despite its Westminster election success.

It seems that Sinn Fein are not going to abandon their red lines, so a longer term solution might be needed.

Northern Ireland cannot be held to ransom by a political party that does not want the Province to work.

Gerry Adams is, we report, planning to fight the next Irish election. It might be that a long period of uncertainty is ahead.

If so, there will be no alternative to direct rule.