Ireland needs EU ‘direct aid’ to handle Brexit, says FF leader
Micheál Martin says British ministers have been ‘cavalier and grossly unprofessional’
Speaking at the annual Fianna Fáil Wolfe Tone Commemoration in Bodenstown, Co, Kildare, party leader Micheál Martin described the actions of the London government on Brexit as “little short of shambolic”. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times
Britain’s vote to leave the EU is of such enormity that it fundamentally changes Ireland’s economic model, Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin has said.
He also condemned the British government’s response since the referendum as “shambolic” and said its cabinet ministers with responsibility for Brexit “have been cavalier and grossly unprofessional.
“They have been making it up as they go along and after four months have yet to say what they are looking for other than to keep all the good bits, dump everything they don’t like, make their own rules and pay for nothing.”
He also claimed the Government was “drifting” and had failed to tackle problems with the urgency and ambition required. He insisted this had nothing to do with its minority status.
And he he singled out Minister for Protection Leo Varadkar, claiming that when in the health portfolio he was “PR obsessed”, had done little of substance in his time in health. He had been replaced by a more careful successor but this “has simply confirmed that the Government has no health policy”.
He said “this is also a moment where basic democratic and humanitarian values are under attack throughout the world. We cannot stand quietly on the side-lines. If our values are to stand for anything we must speak up and we must support others.”
Mr Martin was speaking at the annual Fianna Fáil commemoration of Theobald Wolfe Tone at his grave at Bodenstown, Co Kildare.
He said there was a sense that the Government had not grasped the reality that the Brexit decision is of such enormity that it “changes fundamentally Ireland’s economic model.
“It’s as decisive a moment in our history as the decision” taken by then taoiseach Sean Lemass in the late 50s to change’s Ireland’s direction into a more open trading economy.
He said Ireland had to re-orient the economy “particularly in terms of diversification of markets, investment in education and research in a much stronger way”.
He said Ireland “will stand by the European Union” but “we need Europe to stand by us. We need the Union to allow and to support direct aid to stop us from serious damage from Britain’s decision to take its own route”.
Mr Martin said “we can’t wait for another two and a half years before businesses and communities receive support to either replace lost markets or to be competitive in spite of the massive fall in sterling.”
But he acknowledged the work that had been done in terms of foreign direct investment and the financial services to attract companies, expected to leave Britain, to Ireland.
He described Britain’s approach to the vote by Northern Ireland and Scotland to remain as “at best dismissive”. There was no way of reconciling British prime minister Theresa May’s promise to prioritise Northern Ireland with her failure to put Northern Secretary James Brokenshire on the Brexit committee.
“We must stand by the people of Northern Ireland and never fail to speak up for their interests.”
Speaking afterwards to reporters he again criticised the Government and said what health policy over the last five years “was a fiction put forward by the last government that never got near realisation and in essence the services were damaged by a lot of PR and misguided decisions in the absence of” a clear policy.
The service plans brought forward by the HSE “must not be interfered with by Cabinet. It was last year.The strategy and language of the service plan was changed to suit the political needs of the Cabinet because of an election. That can no longer happen.”