As the Irish Taoiseach welcomed the 2023 class of the Washington Ireland Program, some two decades after he served in the office of congressman Jack Quinn via the same program, Leo Varadkar said he believed he was looking at the leaders of the future, and urged them to enjoy the city which prepared him to begin the political career which has seen him twice lead his country. So far, so platitudinous.
The Taoiseach, on a rooftop just across a lawn from the US Capitol, joked about the fact that he interned in the last year of the Clinton presidency “when parents might have had cause for concern about what happened to interns” in the city. Varadkar made the comment just two hours after meeting Hillary, and after he had confirmed the Clintons would visit Northern Ireland next month to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, which Bill Clinton was pivotal in securing. The Irish press has gone to town on the clanger.
Irish politicians value their US relationship dearly and always exploit St Patrick’s Day as an opportunity to visit the White House. Even more so with President Joe Biden self-identifying as Irish. He will also meet Vice President Kamala Harris. Which will see two people of Indian descent in positions of power meet to celebrate St Patrick’s Day!
Leo Varadkar is back as Ireland’s Taoiseach, following a coalition deal switcheroo, and is already turning to the neverending problems seen with the Northern Ireland protocol. At a press briefing in Dublin, he told hacks that all parties – the EU, Ireland and the UK – “made mistakes in the handling of Brexit.” He specified that one error was designing the protocol as “perhaps… a little bit too strict.”
“We’ve seen that the protocol has worked without it being fully enforced.
“And that’s why I think there is room for flexibility and room for changes and we’re open to that and up for that, and I know from speaking to President Von der Leyen and Maros Sefcovic, that’s their position too.
“So, we are willing to show flexibility and to make compromises. We do want there to be an agreement.
He also tried to improve his poor image among Northern Ireland’s unionist community, many of whom blame him personally for the protocol problems:
“And, you know, I have spoken to a lot of people who come from a unionist background in Northern Ireland over the years.
“I do understand how they feel about the protocol. They feel that it diminishes their place in the Union, that it creates barriers between Britain and Northern Ireland that didn’t exist before.
“And I do understand that and I do get that.
Reacting to Varadkar’s honest statement, this morning John Redwood has said he is “glad Ireland now admits they and the EU made mistakes”, asking “will the EU now end its intransigence and drop the Protocol?” Guido reckons John will have to wish on tonight’s expected Quadrantid meteor shower to see any chance of that happening…
Irish politician Peter Fitzpatrick today called for the Irish Army to patrol the Northern Irish internal border to stop cars driving south in an effort to combat Coronavirus, which is far more rife in the North than in the South. The Teachtaí Dála (TD) told the Irish parliament that cross-border travel is “being abused” and that “the number of northern registered cars you see is unreal”. He added “I don’t like it”…
“I think it’s about time that we started using the army. You see what’s happening in Dundalk we have a barracks in Dundalk where we have 450 soldiers there. Why not deploy them along the border area?”
Leo Varadkar responded by dismissing the suggestion, saying says the Irish “5 kilometre rule” is best enforced by gardaí (police) “and not by military means” in the border counties. Bit rich of the Irish Parliament to talk about protecting the Good Friday Agreement one day then discuss patrolling the border the next…
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar tells Newstalk Breakfast it was an…
“… extraordinary statement from a Cabinet member in a respected liberal democracy. You either adhere to the rule of law or you don’t and you either respect international treaties or you don’t. “There is no middle way. To me, Britain is a country that has always been an honourable country. It is inhabited by very honest people, it is the country of the Magna Carta, of the rule of law, of Parliamentary democracy. It is not a rogue state and to behave in this way is pretty extraordinary… Both the Attorney General in the UK and the Lord Chancellor have professional reputations. They take a particular oath of office and they need to consider that.”
Over in Dublin the Irish Taoiseach has been pictured on Sunday evening enjoying the sunshine in Phoenix Park, away from home following the relaxing of the rules to allow people to meet friends outdoors, so long as social distancing was maintained. Varadkar’s people explained away how he was over the 5 kilometre limit for travel, claiming he was not living at his usual residence. Official sources claim the Taoiseach chose to stay at the Steward’s Lodge park residence in the park, because it has an office with “secure connections” for video conferencing which allows him to work from there. Convenient.
The tame Irish press seem disinterested as to whether or not he broke the 2 metre rule on the picnic. In fact they have not, as far as Guido can see, even reported with pictures of the picnic. Picnicking is against Varadkar’s own government’s guidance:
Outdoor spaces and tourism sites, including car parks beaches and trails will be opened, where people can move around freely and where social distancing can be maintained. If you’re visiting a public amenity, try not to stay too long at the site or have picnics. Please do your exercise and then go home.
Astonishingly the Irish press seem keener on reporting on Dominic Cummings’ movements…
It’s almost as is there’s an election on…