‘Political climate change’ of Brexit will go on forever, Varadkar says

Tánaiste tells Fine Gael TDs and Senators that NMH paused helped to reassure people

Brexit is like "political climate change" and will go on "forever", Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has told the Fine Gael parliamentary party.

Speaking to colleagues on Wednesday evening, Mr Varadkar said Brexit was "not a passing storm" and was more like climate change in that there would be a "permanent change in relations between Ireland and the UK and also between the EU and the UK".

"It will go on forever and will never just be done," he said, adding that "Ireland had been threatened before by the UK but Ireland and Europe faced down these threats".

He told the meeting that the Government was dealing with a counterpart in London “that we are struggling to trust as evidenced by what has happened since the Withdrawal Agreement was made”.

The meeting also heard strong support for the decision to approve plans to relocate the National Maternity Hospital, with Minister of State Patrick O'Donovan saying that "either we are for the new hospital or we are not".

Kildare North TD Bernard Durkan, a member of the health committee, said he strongly supported the move and that "issues were very well aired at the committee" about the ownership structure and that the move was "long, long overdue".

Useful pause

Mr Varadkar told the meeting that the two week pause before Cabinet approval was granted was useful and had allowed for transparency and for people to be reassured.

Senators Seán Kyne and John Cummins and TDs Michael Ring and Michael Creed raised the issue of delays for first time passport applicants, including the issue of gardaí witnessing forms and not being contactable to verify this when called by the passport office.

The meeting also heard details of a report on diversity and inclusion, while Minister of State Josepha Madigan was praised for her decision to use powers under the Education Act to force schools to accept pupils with special needs who were struggling to access education.

At the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting, Taoiseach Micheál Martin reiterated his view that the legal position underpinning the move of the NMH to St Vincent's campus was "watertight".

He also said the economic recovery plan published in late 2020 was delivering an “exceptionally strong recovery” from the pandemic, which he said was the strongest in the EU. He said there was “substantial” foreign direct investment growth.

Serious situation

Mr Martin warned that the situation with climate change was “serious”, emphasising the need to act and “move faster and accelerate the delivery of renewables”.

He also said the school admissions system was in need of reform for pupils with additional needs and that it must be “faster and more effective in delivering places and an inclusive education system for all children”.

He said the situation in Northern Ireland was also "serious" and that "in any democracy the assembly should be convened to reflect the democratic will of the people".

The Taoiseach said there must be “professional and serious talks between the EU and UK”.

“The unilateral impulse of the British government on issues relating to Northern Ireland and the Good Friday Agreement is not conducive to a proper resolution of outstanding issues particularly related to the protocol and legacy.”