Brexit: Coveney rejects claims Government triumphalist on deal

Simon Coveney warns parties against arguing about ’majority versus minority’ in North

The Tánaiste has rejected claims that the Government is being triumphalist about the deal reached on the withdrawal document for the UK to leave the EU.

Simon Coveney said neither he nor the Taoiseach or Minister of State for European Affairs Helen McEntee "will claim victories or anything like that".

He insisted that the Government has “an obligation to explain to the Irish people what has been agreed”.

He added that “we also have an obligation to reassure people that the agreement deals with core Irish concerns because many people were sceptical that it would be possible to get this deal done”,


Mr Coveney was responding to Fianna Fáil TD Darragh O’Brien in the Dáil who said “there is no triumph in negotiating something which cannot be delivered so we all need to be mature about this.

“The time for victory and celebration is when this draft agreement is accepted and ratified by all.”

Mr O’Brien said the Government should “try from today to resist the temptation to brief the press with victorious statements, such as we have seen in some of the Irish newspapers today. That is irresponsible and you should desist from that.”

Earlier a press conference Fianna Fáil Brexit spokeswoman Lisa Chambers criticised Leo Varadkar's comments on Wednesday night that what the Government had achieved was "even stronger" than the agreement in principle reached last December between the UK and the EU.

But the Tánaiste said in the Dáil it was the role of the Government to explain to people in appropriate language “why this deal is no threat to nationalism or unionism in Northern Ireland or to the sovereign integrity of the United Kingdom”.

He said it was a practical compromise on all sides to allow a managed, sensible Brexit in a way that “protects core Irish interests and ensures we are not the collateral damage from an unmanaged Brexit deal that does not take into account the interests of Britain’s neighbours as well as Britain itself”.

Mr Coveney earlier warned parties in the North against arguing about a “majority versus a minority” over the Brexit withdrawal agreement.

Mr Coveney said “we need to ensure that minorities as well as majorities in Northern Ireland are reassured that any wording of a legal treaty relating to Brexit isn’t a threat to them”.

He was responding to Sinn Féin deputy leader Pearse Doherty who said the four Northern parties briefed by the Taoiseach on Thursday morning about the withdrawal agreement - Sinn Féin, the Alliance Party, the SDLP and the Green Party in the North - "represent the majority view of citizens in the North. The DUP do not."

He said “the DUP have been using the most incendiary, brash and most ostentatious rhetoric and that is not helpful.It is reckless and irresponsible.”

The Donegal TD said “this is not an orange or green issue. When we speak we speak for a majority on a cross community basis, not a narrow ill- founded basis.”

The DUP vehemently oppose the withdrawal treaty, believing it is a threat to the integrity of the UK.

Mr Coveney said they wanted to “try and protect where possible the status quo on this island where neighbours with very different backgrounds and ideas and dreams for the future of their country can actually live together, understanding that we’re protecting core interests of everyone which is what we’re trying to do here.

“For anyone to take absolutist positions here has been and continues to be unhelpful.”

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times