Thursday 20 June 2019

Editorial: 'We must secure a top seat in Europe to meet Brexit threat'

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar arrives ahead of a European Union leaders summit to discuss who should run the EU executive for the next five years, in Brussels. Photo: John Thys/Pool via REUTERS
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar arrives ahead of a European Union leaders summit to discuss who should run the EU executive for the next five years, in Brussels. Photo: John Thys/Pool via REUTERS
Editorial

Editorial

'How do you solve a problem like Maria?' was one of the hit songs from the film 'The Sound of Music' which was released 14 years before the Taoiseach was born. But even if Leo Varadkar could answer that question, it's only one of a mounting sea of troubles arising from the local and European elections.

The Fine Gael party needs a healthy post-mortem on its lacklustre performance in the local elections. The sheen has been taken off the Leo political shine, partly over what's now been jokingly referred to as "swing gate".

The claim against a Dublin hotel, initiated by the Dún Laoghaire TD Maria Bailey, damaged the party which did not perform as well as hoped for in the local elections.

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She has described herself as someone who "shoots straight", but on this occasion her foot got in the way.

That was bad enough for Fine Gael, but now the party leader is suffering personal reputational damage with the publication of withering criticism of him in Alan Shatter's book 'Frenzy and Betrayal'.

He claims Mr Varadkar once "laughingly described himself as 'a media whore'".

But there will be little for the Taoiseach to laugh at in the book which claims he has "no concept of collegiality".

According to the former justice minister, "Varadkar was depicted as the handsome hero, Luke Skywalker, and Martin Callinan (former Garda commissioner) and I joined at the hip as Darth Vader, with the shadow of Maurice McCabe (the Garda whistleblower) cast across the whole stage".

Shatter's book will tarnish the Taoiseach's image for some time to come.

He can take some credit from his party's better performance in the European elections.

But the fault lines across Europe are becoming more evident and not just in Britain, where Nigel Farage's six-week-old Brexit Party humiliated the Conservative and Labour parties.

Farage tweeted that unless Britain left the EU at the end of October, a general election would return a similar result.

The Euro election outcome poses existential threats to both the Tories and Labour, which is now edging towards giving its backing to a second "people's vote".

Many on this side of the Irish Sea would love to see a second referendum, but the outcome is by no means certain, given the strength of the Brexit party.

The reality also is that Theresa May's successor will be chosen from one of a slate of soft or hard Brexiteers.

The very real danger of a no-deal exit by Britain poses huge threats for this country, which is why it is essential that we secure a top seat in the new European Commission.

That process began last night in Brussels at a meeting attended by leaders from EU countries including Ireland. Securing a heavyweight portfolio is more important than solving any party political squabbles at home.

Irish Independent

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