Monday 10 December 2018

McDonald backing up Taoiseach's stance on North is welcome

Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
John Downing

John Downing

Sinn Féin's Mary Lou McDonald has welcomed the EU Commission's backing for no return to a hard Border after Brexit.

That of itself was a boost for Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney, who knew the opposition parties were already preparing 'more in sorrow than anger' Dáil speeches effectively saying: 'We told you so.'

It was notable that Mr Varadkar said the EU Commission's Brexit blueprint showed he had not "oversold" the draft deal it got last December. That is code for 'No, I told you so' stuff.

The EU remains on Ireland's side with plans that, in a worst-case scenario, the North will remain an effective part of the EU customs union. That notion is utterly unacceptable to British Prime Minister Theresa May and anathema to the Democratic Unionist Party, upon whom her government depends.

The Taoiseach said the Government will push for the best possible deal for all of Ireland. This included the bigger economic prize of preserving tariff-free trade between Ireland and Britain.

So, good EU-UK trade terms post-Brexit would be best for Ireland as well the United Kingdom. Thus Mrs May's current distress might impact upon Ireland when it comes to resolving that bigger prize for the Irish Republic.

There was an element of normal service here as Ms McDonald told the Dáil the Taoiseach now faced a big responsibility to ensure that the "British Conservative and DUP axis did not shred the Good Friday Agreement" in their determination to drive the most radical form of Brexit.

We've all known about that for the past 21 months since we awoke on June 23, 2016, to that horrific referendum result. Still, it was an interesting concession by the Sinn Féin leader, saying the EU Commission's draft withdrawal agreement had clearly supported special arrangements for Northern Ireland in the wake of Brexit.

Ms McDonald and her party had backed this special status idea since the Brexit referendum result emerged. And she warned of the threat of the North leaving the EU single market under Brexit.

Mr Varadkar had his own pithy way of summating the challenge ahead.

"I don't want a border between Letterkenny and Derry any more than I want one between Larne and Stranraer or Dublin and Liverpool," the Taoiseach said.

Irish Independent

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