Saturday 17 March 2018

'Make no mistake, it's a hard border' - Varadkar rejects using the US Canadian border as a template for Ireland

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar visits Canadian border
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar visits Canadian border
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar visits Canadian border
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcomes Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at the Royal Highland Regiment Armoury in Montrea
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has rejected the idea of using the US Canadian border as a template for Ireland saying "make no mistake, it's a hard border."

Mr Varadkar was speaking at the border between Canada and the US, having wrapped up his official tour of Canada.

"It was a very interesting visit but it certainly left me in little doubt that the US Canada model would not  be desirable on the island of Ireland," he said .

Mr Varadkar paid a visit to the border earlier today near Niagara Falls, saying: "There are Armed guards, dogs, flags and  checkpoints."He said it was very interesting to get a detailed briefing from the Canadian Border Service and described it as a highly complex operation which costs a lot of money - around a billion Euro a year.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar visits Canadian border
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar visits Canadian border

He earlier described it as a “fact-finding mission” to see if it could be considered as an option for Ireland post-Brexit, adding that he had heard it described as a soft border though others had told him this is not the case.

His last official engagement in Canada was to turn the sod on a new famine memorial in the middle of downtown Toronto – the site of a long-forgotten fever hospital used to treat victims of the Great Famine who had crossed the Atlantic from Ireland amid desperation.

Having survived the journey across the Atlantic during the summer of ‘Black ‘47’, more than 38,000 wretched victims – many suffering from typhus had swamped Toronto – a city then of just 20,000 people.

A wealthy doctor, George Grassett risked all to help them  – dying six weeks later himself in the process.

“In a way you could call him the first Médecins Sans Frontières doctor in Canada. He knew he would die helping these people,” explained Robert Kearns, Chairman of the Ireland Park Foundation in Toronto.

892 people had died, with 10 local medical staff lost their lives tending them. Theirs had been the untold story, said Mr Kearns.

The Taoiseach said the famine was a chapter of our national story we would never forget and which still defines who we are.

The arrival of those migrants must have seemed like “an impossible challenge at times”, he commented – but said the park would serve as a fitting tribute for the “generous and courageous response of the medical community in Toronto.”

“As a doctor he knew full well the risks he was taking,” he said of Dr Grassett, adding that his story was “one of a generosity of spirit and intrinsically Canadian.”

Meanwhile the Taoiseach spoke of his delight that Toronto Dominion Bank has now decided to move its post-Brexit EU hub to Ireland, describing it as “a big one.”

“It’s one of the biggest banks in Canada, it’s one of the top 20 banks in the world with a balance sheet of over a trillion dollars,” he said, explaining that they had wanted to wind down their operations in Dublin but “as a consequence of Brexit, have decided to scale up their operations in Dublin and make Ireland their home post-Brexit.

“It’s one of the upsides if you like of Brexit that Ireland is somewhere now that people can invest and be sure about policy into the future what our tax rates are going to be, that we’re going to remain at the heart of the European Union, in the euro,” he added.

The bank had previously met with his predecessor Enda Kenny as Taoiseach and having met them himself yesterday, said it was nice to be able to confirm the announcement while he was there.

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