Government to seek ‘consultative role’ in NI if direct rule imposed after Brexit

British PM expressed desire to attend next British-Irish Council meeting, says Varadkar

The Government will seek to have a "consultative role" in the government of Northern Ireland if the British Government imposes direct rule after a no-deal Brexit.

The Taoiseach reiterated the Government's opposition to the introduction of direct rule after Brexit, which is widely expected. But he also told the Dáil this afternoon that the Government will use the provisions of the Belfast Agreement to seek a role in Northern Ireland in such a situation.

"On direct rule, the imposition of direct rule by Westminster on Northern Ireland is not something that the Government can support. We believe it would be contrary to the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement and, in particular, the St. Andrews Agreement," Mr Varadkar said.

“However, if the sovereign British government were to impose it, we would seek a consultative role under the auspices of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference, as envisaged by the Good Friday Agreement.”


Further meeting

Mr Varadkar said that he had told the British prime minister Boris Johnson of his intentions when the two men met in Dublin last week.

Mr Varadkar also said that his officials were trying to arrange a further meeting with Mr Johnson on the fringes of the UN general assembly which takes place in New York next week, and which both men will be attending.

He also said that Mr Johnson had expressed a desire to attend the next British-Irish Council meeting, which takes place in Dublin in November.

“I expressed the view that it would be a positive statement for him to do so because, generally, it has not been the practice of British Prime Ministers to attend; they have usually been represented by the Deputy prime minister. It would be a positive statement for the Prime Minister to attend if he is able to do so,” Mr Varadkar said.

The Taoiseach also said that a no-deal Brexit would make it "very difficult" to restore the Stormont assembly and the power-sharing administration.

“In terms of the prospects for restoring the Executive and the Assembly, much of that hangs on Brexit,” he said.

If we are able to secure a deal we would be in a good position to do so. If we are not, I believe it will be very difficult to do so for many reasons that are obvious to every Member in the House.”

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times