Political relationships ‘not where they should be’, Leo Varadkar tells summit

Political relationships between Northern Ireland, the rest of the UK, and Ireland, are “not where they should be”, Leo Varadkar has told a summit in Belfast.

The Tanaiste added that it was an issue that would need to be taken stock of after the May Stormont elections, as strong working relationships help to drive investment.

Mr Varadkar was speaking at the Retail NI Future High Streets Summit on Wednesday.

NIO Minister of State Conor Burns, shadow Levelling Up Minister Alex Norris, Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots and Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey also addressed the high street conference.

Leo Varadkar was speaking at the Retail NI Future High Streets Summit

Addressing the conference virtually after contracting Covid, Mr Varadkar told business leaders that the future of retail is hybrid, with both bricks-and-mortar and online stores crucial in high street regeneration.

He pointed to the pandemic as ushering in a third way of doing business under a new and improved hybrid model.

He added: “Politically speaking, relationships within Northern Ireland and north-south, east-west are not where they should be right now.

“I think this is something we are going to have to take stock of when the elections in Northern Ireland are over, when the votes are counted and we know what the people are telling us.

“No matter what, I am sure that strong working relationships and greater collaboration helps the business community and helps drive both public and private sector investment.”

Mr Burns spoke about the UK Government’s vision for the high streets of Northern Ireland and how the Levelling Up funding will help the regeneration of the high streets, with £49 million being invested in projects.