Varadkar says Fianna Fáil support on Brexit not ‘wholehearted’

Taoiseach also heavilly criticises Sinn Féin and its leader Mary Lou McDonald in speech

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar criticised Sinn Féin and pledged to take back control of local government from the party.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has accused Fianna Fáil of failing to offer the Government "wholehearted" support in terms of its approach to Brexit.

Mr Varadkar, speaking at Fine Gael's Dublin European Parliament Convention in Clontarf on Wednesday, told party colleagues the State was as prepared as it can be for a chaotic Brexit should it come to pass at the end of the month.

“In fairness to Fianna Fáil, I recognise the role they have played in providing political stability given the uncertainty of Brexit,” he said. “It stands in stark contrast to the division and chaos at Westminster.

“Though I have to say that on occasions, Fianna Fáil’s support on Brexit has not always been wholehearted. When we secured the political agreement back in December 2017, they accused us of over-selling it. They were proven wrong.


“Its content was fully reflected in the withdrawal agreement agreed last November. Now their new narrative is that we are inadequately prepared for no-deal. The truth is no country can be fully prepared for no-deal. But we are as well prepared as any country can be.”

Mr Varadkar also said that with 26 days to go until the day when the UK is scheduled to leave the bloc, “uncertainty still persists” on the terms on which it will do so.

“One of the most striking things about what has unfolded since the UK’s decision to leave has been the remarkable solidarity and unity on the EU side,” he said. “It has been strong and resolute. Ireland’s concerns have become EU concerns.

“Our insistence on a legally binding and operable means to avoid a hard border has become an EU negotiating priority.

“While we work to find a solution we are preparing for every eventuality, to ensure that our services and businesses are insulated from the worst effects. Jobs and incomes protected. Whatever the outcome, we will be as prepared as we can be.”

Mr Varadkar separately criticised Sinn Féin and pledged to take back control of local government from the party in the elections in May.

"At the moment Sinn Féin and left-wing councillors dominate Dublin City Council and South Dublin Council," he said. "That needs to change.

“In the Dáil I have exposed Sinn Féin and the hard left TDs for talking the talk on homelessness and housing and then voting against housing in the Council chamber. Mary Lou’s response has been that, quote, ‘the process is long and arduous’.

“I agree Mary Lou, responsible politics isn’t easy. She should try it sometime.

“Sinn Féin have some track record. Having brought down a parliament in Northern Ireland, they now keep trying to bring down our one. The only people who can rely on them is the hardline Brexiteers, because whatever happens they can be relied on not to take their seats.”

Meanwhile, Fine Gael selected former Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald and former SDLP leader Mark Durkan to contest the European Parliament Elections in the Dublin constituency.

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson is an Irish Times reporter