DUP accuses Taoiseach of using ‘inflammatory language’ on North
Leo Varadkar wants ‘meaningful role’ in North if powersharing efforts fail
DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson said the Irish government has “no mandate to govern Northern Ireland”. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
The DUP has accused the Taoiseach of using unhelpful and inflammatory language after he said the Government want to see “real and meaningful involvement” in Northern Ireland if efforts to restore Stormont fail.
Speaking on Thursday, Mr Varadkar said in the absence of devolved government in the North, he would not support direct rule from London but does not view Ireland’s potential role as a form of “joint rule”.
He also acknowledged legislative authority lies with Westminster.
“Essentially the Good Friday Agreement provides for matters that are not devolved to be dealt with by the British-Irish governmental conference and that’s what we will seek,” he said.
“We won’t be supporting direct rule. We didn’t support direct rule.
“So the alternative to the assembly and the executive being up and running is either a) an election, or b) convening the British-Irish governmental conference, and that’s what we’ll seek, and I should point out that is what the Good Friday Agreement says.
“So all we’d be seeking is the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement which, as you know, is an international agreement between two governments endorsed by referendum in both parts of the island.”
On Friday morning DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson said the Irish government has “no mandate to govern Northern Ireland”.
He told BBC Radio Ulster: “No one in Northern Ireland elected them. It would be a fundamental breach of all of the agreements we have reached - the principle of consent, the three stranded approach which says that matters internal to Northern Ireland are a matter for the UK government and the Northern Ireland politicial parties alone.”
Mr Donaldson was asked if he viewed it as the Irish government trying to put pressure on parties to resolve the Stormont impasse.
He said: “We are ready to be around the table today but unfortunately Sinn Féin has said that they are not prepared to talk.
“So, if they are not prepared to talk, never mind go into government, that makes it very difficult and I think there will be many unionists listening to this, and observing what the Taoiseach is saying and asking the question, ‘should the Taoiseach not be putting pressure on Sinn Féin?’.
“Right now it seems by the language he is using, the inflammatory language he is using, he’s trying to put pressure on unionists, when we are saying we are prepared to go into government today. No pre-conditions, no red lines, let’s get the Executive up and running.
“Shouldn’t it be Sinn Féin? Why are Fine Gael afraid to put pressure on Sinn Féin? Why is it they have to use inflammatory language directed toward unionists? I think many people in Northern Ireland will be asking that question.”
On how bad the relationship between the DUP and the Irish government is, Mr Donaldson said both Mr Varadkar and Tánaiste Simon Coveney should stop using what he described as “inflammatory language”.
“If you are going to repair relationships, the first thing you stop doing is using this type of inflammatory language,” he said.
“The Taoiseach knows it’s unhelpful and if he and Simon Coveney are serious about a rapprochement with the DUP then I say stop using this inflammatory language, sit down and talks to us by all means. Let’s sit down and see how we can move forward but I have to say this type of language is not helpful at all.”
TUV leader Jim Allister said: “The aggressive assertion by Leo Varadkar that he will require “real and meaningful” input into the affairs of Northern Ireland, if Stormont is not returned, demonstrates the mindset of the constitutional claim of old Articles 2 and 3 of the Republic’s Constitution lives on in Dublin.
“The British Irish Agreement of 1999 provides for no such Dublin role, but rather for the putting forward of ‘views and proposals’ to the sovereign UK Government. So in demanding a ‘real and meaningful role’ Varadkar is playing the part of a political chancer.
“No doubt he is encouraged by the fact that this fraudulent threat worked in 2007 when the DUP under Ian Paisley clutched at the fake figleaf of the supposed threat of ‘joint authority’ to justify their somersault into government with IRA/Sinn Fein. Joint Authority was a lie then and it is a lie now.
“The con perfected in 2007 is now coming back to haunt those who peddled it. This time unionism needs to stand firm.”
Sinn Féin MLA Conor Murphy commented on the issue, saying the DUP and the British government need to focus on the creation of a new Executive.
“There will be no return to the status quo,” Mr Murphy said. “Sinn Féin is determined to see the restoration of sustainable power-sharing institutions on the basis of equality, rights and respect.”
“The majority of MLAs want to see marriage equality, language rights and legacy inquests delivered.
“What the political process requires is the British government and the DUP to focus on the creation of a new Executive and end the denial of rights and equality.
“Unionism’s faux outrage at the Taoiseach’s comments which are simply in line with the Good Friday Agreement is about deflecting attention from its denial of rights.
“Under the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement an intergovernmental conference involving the Irish and British governments should be called in the absence of political institutions.”