Saturday 21 April 2018

Enda Kenny invites Theresa May to make historic Dáil address on visit

Theresa May says she and Enda Kenny are
Theresa May says she and Enda Kenny are "absolutely on the single page on this"
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

British Prime Minister Theresa May has been invited to make a historic address to the Dáil during her state visit to Ireland later this month.

An official invitation was sent by the Department of the Taoiseach to Number 10 Downing Street yesterday afternoon.

Mrs May is visiting Ireland to begin formal Brexit negotiations with Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Mrs May would only be the second British prime minister to speak before the parliament - the first was Tony Blair, who addressed the Dáil in 1998.

Invitations to foreign dignitaries to address the Dáil are extremely rare and Mrs May is only the 20th leader to be extended such an invitation.

However, Fianna Fáil last night questioned the need for Mrs May to address the Dáil.

British Prime Minister Theresa May. Photo: REUTERS/Neil Hall
British Prime Minister Theresa May. Photo: REUTERS/Neil Hall

The party's foreign affairs spokesman Darragh O'Brien said the invite was "nothing more than a photo opportunity" for the Taoiseach.

"Instead of looking for a set-piece media opportunity, which is all it will be, I really think the Government should be focused on putting our own plan and putting Ireland first," Mr O'Brien said.

"There is nothing to be served by it and that's not being rude to the prime minister."

Speaking in the Dáil, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said it was important for Mrs May to address the parliament when she visits Ireland. Responding to Mr Ryan, the Taoiseach said he would see if it was possible for Mrs May to address the Dáil during her one-day visit.

Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl made the suggestion to the Taoiseach.

Meanwhile, senior sources have said the Government is confident it will retain its common travel area with the UK once Brexit negotiations are completed.

The Government believes the EU will not seek to restrict the free movement of people between the two countries once Britain triggers Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

Read more: John Downing: May's strong message that UK will not be 'half-in/half-out' means headaches for Ireland

However, there are still concerns that a custom border will have to be introduced between the North and Ireland if the UK completely leaves the EU Single Market.

"Borders and immigration issues will be solved relatively easily but the customs aspect will pose a problem," the source said.

It is believed the EU will not seek to interfere on Ireland's immigration arrangements with the UK as there is already a historic and unique relationship between the two countries.

Concerns over reigniting sectarian tensions will also be at the fore of Brexit discussions on the Border. However, the Government is expecting tough negotiations on customs controls which could be introduced after Brexit.

A source ruled out introducing any restrictions on EU citizens travelling to Ireland after Brexit. "The freedom of movement of EU citizens coming to Ireland will in no way be diluted," the source said.

Yesterday, Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar said the Government would have to be "tactical" during Brexit talks.

"Bear in mind, this is not an agreement between Dublin and London," he said during an interview with Ocean FM.

"It's going to be an agreement of the 27 member states, of which we are part, and Britain, or rather the United Kingdom," he said.

Irish Independent

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