Varadkar to propose anti-Brexit Ulster farmer for Seanad
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar intends to nominate former Ulster Farmers' Union president Ian Marshall to Seanad Eireann, the Sunday Independent has learnt.
Mr Marshall, from the unionist tradition, said in 2016 there was "no compelling argument" for the UK to leave the European Union.
Government sources maintain Mr Varadkar "would like to have a voice in the Seanad from a unionist background." His nomination, if successful, may help repair relations with the DUP. However, it seems more likely that Mr Marshall's nomination relates to his position on Brexit.
He is on record as stating Brexit is causing splits within families in Northern Ireland because people were approaching the issue from the perspective both of their "heads and with their hearts". "Husbands and wives are completely opposed," Mr Marshall has said, stating that one partner may believe staying in Europe guarantees an element of market security while the other may be worried about losing their UK identity.
Mr Marshall also told the House of Commons Northern Ireland Affairs Committee two years ago that the UK may be an important trading partner when it came to farming exports, but there was nothing to stop the remaining EU27 member states 'trying to fill the food gap' when the UK left the EU. Northern Ireland farmers were "not completely dependent on the UK for their survival," he has said.
Yesterday a Government source said Mr Varadkar and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney had met with Mr Marshall and the former Ulster farmers' leader was "interested" in taking a seat in the Seanad.
A by-election is to take place shortly to replace Denis Landy, a Labour Senator who has resigned for health reasons. He was elected to the Agriculture Panel in 2016.
Government sources said the Taoiseach intended to seek cross-party support for Mr Marshall's nomination.