Royal portraits don’t offend me: Taoiseach

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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said that he is not offended by portraits of British monarchs hanging in Dublin Castle, as he reacted to a controversy over the removal of the Queen’s painting from Stormont House in Belfast.

Northern Ireland Secretary of State Julian Smith last week ordered a review of the decision to take down Royal portraits from the walls of the Northern Ireland Office building on the Stormont Estate.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar during his visit to Northern Ireland.'Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar during his visit to Northern Ireland.'Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Mr Varadkar, who yesterday toured the Queen’s official residence in Northern Ireland, Hillsborough Castle, said: “In relation to the portraits, that is absolutely a matter for the Northern Ireland Office, not one for me to make any decisions on.

“The only thing I would say is that in Dublin Castle we do have portraits of British monarchs and we haven’t taken them down and they certainly don’t offend me.”

DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson, who greeted Mr Varadkar as he arrived at Hillsborough Castle, welcomed his remarks on the portrait issue.

“I think what the taoiseach said represents the common sense approach that I believe most people in Northern Ireland feel, that there is no need to go tearing down portraits off a wall,” he said.

“I think it’s a tiny minority who make an issue out of this and we really need to get to a more sensible place.”

The NIO has declined to comment on a claim that it paid £10,000 to one of its senior civil servants because he was offended at having to walk past portraits of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.

Lord Maginnis made that claim in the House of Lords last month but the NIO has said it will not comment on it because it is a “personnel issue”. Last week, Boris Johnson was said to be “puzzled” after unionists told him that the NIO had banned the Queen’s portrait from its walls.