Saturday 21 April 2018

'Harsh EU critic' May should not address TDs - Varadkar

Leo Varadkar said the timing is not right for a speech. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Leo Varadkar said the timing is not right for a speech. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Minister Leo Varadkar has said he doesn't think British Prime Minister Theresa May should address the Dáil during her visit here after her "harsh" speech on Brexit.

His remarks come despite an invitation to Mrs May being issued by the Department of the Taoiseach last week. She is due to visit Dublin - her first as prime minister - before the end of the month.

But Mr Varadkar said he's "not sure if now is the right time" for her to address the Dáil.

"Obviously she's made her speech last week in London...while the words were soft and polite, the message behind it was a very harsh one and I don't think this would be the occasion on which she should really address the Dáil," he said.

"I think we have some hard talking to do in Government Buildings before that happens."

The possibility of Mrs May delivering a speech to TDs was floated by Green Party leader Eamon Ryan last week.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny told the Dáil that Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl had written to him about the matter and said he would "follow through" on that letter.

It's understood Downing Street has received an invitation for her to address the Dáil but a spokesman for Mrs May could not say if it will be accepted. "Planning for the visit is still ongoing," he said last night.

Meanwhile, Mr Varadkar has indicated that Mr Kenny may not be in office for the full duration of the Brexit talks.

"Brexit is going to go on for many years. There'll be many changes in prime minister across the European Union," he said after being asked if he was concerned a change in Taoiseach would weaken Ireland's position.

"I think what's important there is to make sure that Ireland's approach to Brexit is not just about any one person, that it's a whole of government approach."

The social protection minister will travel to London next month to meet his British counterpart to discuss pensions, welfare and employment law issues which he said will be "significantly impacted by Brexit".

Mr Varadkar has been tipped as one of the main contenders to succeed Mr Kenny, who has said he will step down as Fine Gael leader before the next election.

Mr Varadkar confirmed a report at the weekend that he told Fine Gael members in Tipperary that they need to be prepared for the possibility there will be an election this year. The constituency is a key target for his party, which lost two of its seats in the county in 2016. Mr Varadkar said that he told members that elections can "happen by accident", pointing to the events in the North.

He said he doesn't believe either Sinn Féin or the DUP thought they would be going to the polls even six or eight weeks ago. "The point I made was that in Tipperary we need to be prepared"

Mr Vardakar said he isn't predicting that an election will happen this year.

He was speaking at an event marking the 70th anniversary of his department. He put a letter in a time capsule for whoever holds the office in 2027.

Irish Independent

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