Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is attempting to “bully” unionists and the UK government into breaking the power-sharing deadlock at Stormont, a senior DUP figure has claimed.
Sammy Wilson accused the Irish premier of “astonishing arrogance” after Mr Varadkar revealed that Dublin had proposed a joint initiative with the UK Government to kick-start the floundering Stormont talks process.
And the East Antrim MP said he was “glad” that the NI Office had “slapped down” the taoiseach’s proposal, adding: “It has made him aware of what exactly his place is in this whole scenario.”
The veteran DUP man asserted that Mr Varadkar was trying to put pressure on unionists and the British government with what he described as “bullying tactics”.
Mr Wilson – who previously claimed that Dublin’s “arrogant” approach to the Brexit talks has damaged relations between Northern Ireland and the Republic – told the News Letter yesterday: “This is yet another example of Mr Varadkar’s ongoing display of astonishing arrogance where he feels he has some role to play in the internal affairs of Northern Ireland.
“The setting up of an administration is the remit of the parties of NI and the UK government. Dublin has no role or say whatsoever.
“It either shows his lack of knowledge, his naivety or his arrogance. I happen to think it is arrogance, as the man has form in this area.”
Mr Varadkar outlined the difference of opinion between Dublin and London as he fielded taoiseach’s questions in the Dail on Tuesday.
“The Irish government has proposed a joint initiative by the two governments – our government and the UK government – working together, perhaps producing a joint paper and using that as a basis to encourage the two main parties, the DUP and Sinn Fein, to come together and form an Executive,” he said.
“As things stand we don’t have agreement from the British government to do that.”
But Mr Wilson added: “There is no way that any unionist would ever accept that an Irish taioseach – particularly one who has been as belligerent toward the unionist position as Leo Varadkar – should have any say in putting forward proposals for the setting up of government in Northern Ireland.
“We already know his views on an Irish language act and we can be sure he would insist on that being part of any proposal put forward.
“We are not going down south and telling people how they should vote on the abortion referendum, even though we have strong views on that issue.”
When asked for a response to Mr Varadkar’s remarks that the government had rebuffed his joint proposal, an NI Office spokesperson told the News Letter: “It’s been a longstanding policy of the NIO not to comment on the detail of talks.”
The Province has been without a properly functioning government for 16 months.
Attempts by the DUP and Sinn Fein to strike their own deal have so far failed, with the last round of talks ending in acrimony in February.