Unionists rally over Varadkar's Northern Ireland claim

Unionists have shot down the Irish prime minister's suggestion that Dublin should have 'meaningful involvement' in Northern Ireland.
Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar
Leo Varadkar

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that if power-sharing talks here fail, he would not support a return to direct rule from London but would instead seek “real and meaningful involvement” in the Province.

His comments have been criticised as “irresponsible” by DUP MP Gregory Campbell and “aggressive” by TUV MLA Jim Allister.

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UUP leader Robin Swann said Mr Varadkar was “showing signs of over-excitement as Christmas approaches”.

Both Mr Campbell and Mr Swann referred to the strained relationship between unionists and the Dublin government following a string of comments from Irish foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney about southern involvement in Northern Ireland.

“Unfortunately this only adds fuel to the fire,” Mr Campbell said.

The East Londonderry MP added: “The dangerous thing in what Mr Varadkar is saying is that he is raising expectation levels. But what is going to happen when he inevitably can’t live up to them?”

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Mr Campbell added: “That is quite dangerous and it is irresponsible.”

Mr Swann added: “I recently advised the Irish foreign minister to step away from the microphone if he wants to repair relationships with unionists.”

He added: “The message is not getting through to some in Dublin. There is nowhere in the Belfast Agreement that permits joint authority or joint stewardship. Articles 2 and 3 are gone.”

Mr Allister said: “The aggressive assertion by Leo Varadkar demonstrates the mindset of the constitutional claim of old Articles 2 and 3 of the Republic’s Constitution lives on.”