Varadkar to prioritise Northern Ireland power sharing when he becomes Taoiseach

Ireland’s deputy prime minister said he was “disappointed” by the failed attempt to restore power-sharing at Stormont.

eo Varadkar said the Irish government had “not given up for a moment” on the issue and that he would make it a “huge priority” in the new year.

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Mr Vardkar is due to become Taoiseach again on December 17 as agreed under the plan for government when the coalition was formed in 2020.

MLAs met at Stormont during a memorial meeting of the Northern Ireland Assembly on Wednesday in another bid to bring back the executive.

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However, the DUP’s boycott of devolution in protest of the Northern Ireland Brexit protocol again prevented the return of the assembly and executive.

The party has announced that it will not return until it takes decisive action to remove the protocol’s economic barriers to trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Negotiations between the UK government and the European Union to resolve the disputes regarding the protocol are ongoing.

Mr Varadkar told reporters in Dublin that he was “disappointed” that the assembly and executive could not yet be restarted.
“But we’re not giving it up, not for a second,” he said.

“Last time when I had the privilege of being Taoiseach, at least in the last months of my tenure, we were able to reach an agreement with the British government on the protocol and we were able to get the executive and the assembly going again. That is definitely a priority for me.

“Therefore, I hope before the end of December or the beginning of the new year to meet with the British Prime Minister, Prime Minister Sonne, and also to travel to Northern Ireland and meet with all parties and see what we can do.

“First of all, to reach an agreement in relation to the protocol so that we can avoid a hard border, but to reassure the union members about their position in the UK, but also especially, to activate the assembly and the management.”

He said the Irish government wanted to see the institutions up and running “well before the 25th anniversary” of April’s Good Friday Agreement.

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Irish Minister of Foreign Affairs and Defense, Simon Coveney (Neil Carson/PA)

“There’s no First Minister, Deputy Minister, First Minister, there’s no one who can legitimately say they speak for Northern Ireland or for the people of Northern Ireland. And that’s really lacking, it was helpful in the past when we were trying to negotiate a solution to Brexit and it’s been very helpful now .

“That’s going to be a priority in December and into the new year.”

Mr Vardkar also said the Irish government was “not happy” with the UK government’s legacy legislation on the Troubles and that he would let the UK prime minister know when he spoke to him.

Mr Coveney held talks with Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton Harris about the controversial bill which is moving through its parliamentary stages in Westminster.

Mr Vardkar said: “As a government we are really unhappy with the proposals being put forward by the UK government in relation to heritage, in fact all the parties in Northern Ireland as well.

“So, this is one of those issues where all parties in Northern Ireland agree that the UK government’s proposals on heritage are wrong and Mr Coveney has conveyed that message very clearly to the Foreign Secretary. I will also contact the Prime Minister if and when I get a chance to speak to him.”

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