Sunday 18 March 2018

Varadkar's Brexit remarks are 'unhelpful', says Foster

DUP leader Arlene Foster Photo: Gareth Chaney
DUP leader Arlene Foster Photo: Gareth Chaney
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

DUP leader Arlene Foster has hit out at what she described as "unhelpful" remarks by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on the issue of Brexit.

As the two leaders prepare to meet in Belfast tomorrow, Mrs Foster warned Mr Varadkar that Britain's decision to leave the EU is final.

Mr Varadkar is one of a number of EU leaders, including the Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, who have raised doubts about Brexit happening at all.

But speaking in Lisburn yesterday, Ms Foster said such claims were "disrespecting" the British people.

"He [Mr Varadkar] may be hopeful, but that is disrespecting the will of the British people," she said. "Brexit is going to happen. We are leaving the European Union.

"I just hope the Republic of Ireland will continue to work constructively with us in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK because it is very much in its interest to have a Brexit that works for it as well as a Brexit that works for the UK," the former Stormont first minister said.

Ms Foster did, however, suggest that she had no issue with Mr Varadkar attending a breakfast event to mark Gay Pride on Saturday.

The DUP has to date been accused of blocking attempts to hold a referendum on marriage equality.

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But Ms Foster said remarks by Mr Varadkar and other ministers in Dublin about the Border had not been helpful.

She warned the Irish Government to "reflect on whether it is being helpful to the process here in Northern Ireland or not".

"It has made various interventions recently in relation to Northern Ireland politics. It would be better if we focused on finding solutions to what is in front of us. We want to find ways forward," Ms Foster said.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams - who is also due to attend talks with Mr Varadkar tomorrow - rejected claims by Ms Foster that his party is not serious about re-establishing the executive at Stormont.

Mr Adams added he was willing to cancel his holidays to engage in fresh talks.

"You could write a thesis on Arlene's remarks this morning. She starts off by saying that the talks will begin again in earnest in August. I presumed until now that because we were there that the talks were in earnest.

"She goes on to say that she's disappointed to say that Sinn Féin is not up for making this work," the Louth TD said.

"When you boil all of this down, the big question which no unionist leader has been able to get away from, is whether unionism, or at least its leadership, is prepared to embrace a new dispensation in which everyone's rights are respected and actively promoted and defended; or whether it wants to cling to the remnants of the old unionist way of doing things."

Irish Independent

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