Wednesday 26 June 2019

Editorial: 'Paddy likes to know what the story is, Mr Varadkar'

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Niall Carson/PA
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Niall Carson/PA


It's less than a decade since the public was deliberately misled by its government about talks with a multi-national organisation which would have profound consequences.

Unfortunately, we all remember the sight of ministers, behaving like nodding donkeys, claiming they didn't know anything about any talks with the IMF.

The shock of the Troika's arrival in the country and the resulting bailout was exacerbated by the sense of betrayal.

Fianna Fáil reaped the whirlwind at the subsequent general election. The party is recovering ever since.

It would appear Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tánaiste Simon Coveney have forgotten how easy it is for a government to lose the trust of the people it serves.

The way they are conducting the current Brexit negotiations is leaving much to be desired. Nobody is asking for the negotiations to be conducted in open air.

But Mr Coveney had dinner with British Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab in London last week. He didn't divulge the existence of this meeting until a day later. He also didn't divulge that Mr Raab demanded a 12-week get-out clause for the British from the so-called Brexit backstop - the guarantee there will be no border on our island.

Mr Coveney was on the back foot when word of the contents of the meeting came out from the British side.

Mr Varadkar spoke with British Prime Minister Theresa May yesterday. The backstop was again discussed but Dublin and London interpreted the outcome differently.

Merrion Street says Mr Varadkar expressed "an openness to consider proposals for a review" of the backstop, which would see Northern Ireland remain under EU trade rules unless a better deal is struck. Downing Street says they agreed the backstop should only be a "temporary arrangement".

"In order to ensure that the backstop, if ever needed, would be temporary, the prime minister said that there would need to be a mechanism through which the backstop could be brought to an end," No 10 said.

Mr Varadkar's officials claim there is no shift in position - except for the review.

The Government's insistence there is nothing to worry about would be reassuring if it was more upfront.

When he took office in 2011, former Taoiseach Enda Kenny pledged the then-incoming government was not going to leave the people in the dark.

"Paddy likes to know what the story is," he declared.

Whether Mr Kenny lived up to this commitment is an argument for another day. The principle was sound though, and remains so to this day.

Paddy has a right to know what the story is.

Irish Independent

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