Taoiseach will call British Irish Governmental Conference if no deal on North
Varadkar: Irish Government cannot accept a return to pre- Belfast Agreement ’direct rule’
The Taoiseach said in the Dáil on Tuesday he told British prime minister Theresa May there could be no return to direct rule in NI as it existed prior to the Belfast Agreement.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will seek a meeting of the British Irish Governmental Conference in January to “plot a way forward” if Sinn Féin and the DUP fail to agree an administration for the North.
Mr Varadkar said he told British prime minister Theresa May at their meeting in Gothenburg last Friday “the Irish Government could not accept a return to direct rule as it existed prior to the Good Friday Agreement” if Sinn Féin and the DUP failed to establish an administration in the North.
The Taoiseach said in the Dáil on Tuesday he had said previously at meetings with Mrs May that there could be no return to direct rule as it existed prior to the Belfast Agreement.
He said he told Mrs May that if “Sinn Féin and the DUP fail to form an administration then the Government which I lead will expect the Good Friday Agreement to be implemented without them”.
“And yes that does mean convening the British-Irish Governmental Conference.”
He added: “If nothing is devolved then everything is devolved to the British-Irish Governmental Conference.”
Meeting in the New Year
He said he indicated to Mrs May that he would be seeking a meeting in the new year of the British Irish Governmental conference so that British and Irish Government Ministers can meet and “plot a way forward in the absence of the elected representatives in Northern Ireland being able to form an administration”.
Mr Varadkar was responding to Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty, who had called on him to press the British government to establish the conference.
Mr Doherty referred to the meeting on Tuesday morning of a Sinn Féin delegation with the British prime minister at Downing Street.
The Donegal TD said they had told Mrs May “that direct rule is not an option and she must look at the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement and particularly the establishment of an intergovernmental conference involving the Irish and British governments”.
Addressing Mr Varadkar he said: “And I would ask you Taoiseach to press this with the British prime minister. There is an urgent need for the two governments to act urgently in delivering equality.
“That is your joint responsibility under the Good Friday Agreement as is the next logical step under the Good Friday Agreement.”
He said the Sinn Féin delegation also told Mrs May “that her government must bear the greater responsibility for the failure to reach agreement on the restoration of the institutions but the Irish Government also has a role”.
He said they told her the talks with the DUP had to be meaningful or they were pointless and they said that provision of the Irish Language Act, Marriage Equality, the Bill of Rights and funding for legacy issues are British government commitments and obligations.
The Taoiseach said everyone had a role in making sure the Belfast Agreement worked. He repeated his remarks that “I’m disappointed when I hear as has been the case for weeks, Sinn Féin spokespeople setting the scene for the blame game”.
Mr Varadkar also repeated his call to Sinn Féin and the DUP to come to an agreement and form a coalition government and “do the right thing by the people of Northern Ireland”.