“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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