Leo Varadkar: Stormont needs to be restored to give Northern Ireland a Brexit voice

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Stormont should be restored to give Northern Ireland a first and deputy first minister’s voice at the Brexit negotiating table, the Irish premier has said.

Negotiations between the main parties, led by the British and Irish governments, are ongoing to resolve a two-and-a-half-year impasse.

Leo Varadkar speaking to young people in north Belfast during his visit on Tuesday

Leo Varadkar speaking to young people in north Belfast during his visit on Tuesday

Leo Varadkar compared the impact on Brexit of the political deep freeze at Stormont to former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger’s famed quote asking who he should call when he picked up the phone to Europe.

The taoiseach also said he had read a UK media report dubbing him “Lenny Verruca” as the Brexit debate hit new levels of discourtesy.

He was in Belfast to meet young leaders of the future and appealed to Northern Ireland’s political leaders to restore power-sharing as he met community and business leaders close to a north Belfast sectarian dividing line.

Mr Varadkar said: “We all know that Brexit poses an incredible set of challenges for all of us on this island.

“As taoiseach I have always attempted to do what is right, conscious of the Irish government’s role as co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement.

“Conscious too of the continuing absence of a Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly.

“In this time of crisis, Northern Ireland needs its own voice. Our history shows how change is possible.”

He said civic society had persuaded political leaders to take courageous steps towards change in the past.

“From the Peace People movement to the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition, from the Corrymeela Community to the thousands of men and women who live the message of peace and reconciliation every day in their local communities.

“Building links between communities is the best way of lowering barriers.”

He visited an Ireland Funds Young Leadership Series meeting in north Belfast.

He said: “The challenges we face – in Northern Ireland, on our island, on our planet – can sometimes seem enormous and insurmountable.

“We can’t rely on other people to solve them for us.

“We are all responsible for the kind of society we live in, the kind of country we have. It’s up to us to make sure it reflects our hopes, our dreams and our values.”