Leo Varadkar’s meddling and antagonism is hindering Anglo-Irish relations

“It’s time now to cut them some slack, to cut the British government some slack, when it comes to their request for an extension and when it comes to their request that the Strasbourg Agreement be ratified formally by the European Council over the next two days.” When Leo Varadkar took it upon himself to […]

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“It’s time now to cut them some slack, to cut the British government some slack, when it comes to their request for an extension and when it comes to their request that the Strasbourg Agreement be ratified formally by the European Council over the next two days.”

When Leo Varadkar took it upon himself to make the above announcement yesterday, I was met with the familiar feeling of déjà vu. I was immediately reminded of the Taoiseach’s antagonism over the Northern Irish border in January. Not much has changed in his attitude since then, only this time he undercut Mrs. May’s integrity by announcing she would be addressing the British public last night.

This meddling, coupled with the antagonistic “cut them some slack”, is counter-intuitive for any progress on an acceptable Withdrawal Agreement and it is a disservice to many Irish people too.

Sadly, it has now become regular practice for Mr Varadkar to use media engagements to slight Theresa May and her Government’s approach to Brexit. It’s hard to determine what is the purpose of these slights. Personally, I feel he is opportunistically capitalising on public dissatisfaction for Theresa May to boost his own image.

A bit like Jeremy Corbyn, Mr. Varadkar is quick with a quip but slow on any real solutions. All he managed to achieve yesterday was to enrage both sides of the Brexit debate. With his underhand remarks and his big reveal that Mrs. May would be addressing the people, he was insulting the British people.

But why should this matter to the Irish public? Well, our relationship with the UK is unique, a troubled history exists but this doesn’t define our future? For the sake of the Irish in Britain and the British in Ireland it’s time our Taoiseach shows some respect to all involved in this Anglo-Irish relationship.

If anything, Varadkar’s behaviour yesterday will serve only one purpose, to kick our neighbours while they are down. Rather than coming across as suave and debonair, he is in fact damaging the future of Irish citizens, his citizens. Currently it is estimated that roughly 400,000 Irish-born citizens call Britain their home. Furthermore, almost 10% of British citizens can claim some sort of Irish heritage.

Coupled with strong trade relations – Britain accounts for 24% of food, fuel and other merchandise brought into the state according to the Irish Central Statistics Office – this should be ample evidence for co-operation. Alas not in the eyes of Leo Varadkar. As former Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald said in 1983, Britain is “our nearest neighbour and our natural friend”.

Finally, it is interesting to note how the beleaguered Mrs. May alluded to social issues, education and knife crime as she spoke to the public last night. She acknowledged their frustration and though her croaky considerations may be too little too late, at least she acknowledged her citizens.

The Taoiseach seems to have forgotten who has elected him, or is this ignorance by choice? Perhaps he has spent too long with Donald Tusk and is of the opinion that he too cannot be replaced by the public. However, the homelessness epidemic and the housing crisis in Ireland are nearing cataclysmic levels. So I would say to my Taoiseach, remember your citizens here and abroad and do your duty for them.

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As an Irishman, I’m appalled by Leo Varadkar’s antagonism over Brexit

“If things go very wrong it will look like it looked 20 years ago. It would involve customs posts, it would involve people in uniform and it may involve the need, for example, for cameras, physical infrastructure, possibly a police presence, or an army presence to back it up.” So said Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar […]

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“If things go very wrong it will look like it looked 20 years ago. It would involve customs posts, it would involve people in uniform and it may involve the need, for example, for cameras, physical infrastructure, possibly a police presence, or an army presence to back it up.”

So said Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on Bloomberg during the recent World Economic Forum in Davos.

Over the past few days, the Irish Government has been scrambling to play down those comments. In fact, our Minister for Foreign Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister, Simon Coveney, attempted to frame these ill-thought words as anecdotal in order to remind people what things were like before the peace process was finalised. But these comments unnecessarily antagonise our neighbours and jeopardise co-operation going forward; there is no explaining them away.

In a time of polarised politics and social upheaval, the leader of our country shouldn’t be making comments in jest about The Troubles in the North which resulted in the death of over 3,500 people. It is not appropriate, nor is it wise, to be smiling and joking on camera while thousands of people on the island of Ireland face an uncertain future.

The Taoiseach should recall the help we get from the UK’s armed forces. When Russian aircraft regularly enter controlled Irish airspace without their transponders on. it is the Royal Air Force that scramble jets to monitor the risk. So, as an avid member of the European Union that claims to be “United in Diversity”, why does Varadkar see it as acceptable to make a call to arms? Is it ironic or moronic?

Furthermore, the draft Withdrawal Agreement currently on the table proposes internal borders that directly contradict and undermine the integrity of the Good Friday Agreement. There is work to be done, and we should work together. The assumption of a “stronger together” EU that works for us, not against us, may not be true in this instance. Let us segue to the story of Sir James Dyson to shed light on why we need to co-operate with our neighbours going forward.

Over the last week or so, the media in Ireland and the UK has been awash with criticism of James Dyson for moving his company’s headquarters to Singapore. In fact, it was met with raucous indignation by most media outlets as it was seen to be in direct contradiction with Dyson’s support of Brexit. This is either a simple assumption or a convenient opinion. Dyson has simply identified the shift in global trade and economic power away from the West – something the UK will soon be free to exploit on their own.

The reality is that the 21st century will see Asia increase in its ascendancy. During the first decade of this century, a rapid shift in the world’s economic centre of gravity showed the wilting power of the West and Europe. Airports such as Addis Ababa International in Ethiopia or Dubai International Airport serve as some of the busiest in the world due to growth in the South and East. It is time Europe adapted to this shift in power.

At present it seems highly unlikely that Ireland will be adopting our own portmanteau and rushing to have a referendum on Irexit, but maybe we can actualise some of the possible benefits the UK will see. With the UK soon to be creating their own trade agreements outside of the EU’s purview, Mr. Varadkar should seek to cooperate with our friends across the Irish Sea rather than antagonise them.

Perhaps the UK could become Ireland’s ‘Gate to the South’ rather than a conflict zone? Our Taoiseach’s salivating lips are anticipating a full plate of opportunity when Big Ben knells 11pm on 29th March; however, perhaps he ought to remember Pavlov’s dogs and be wary of an empty bowl. After all, friends make the worst enemies.

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