Taoiseach’s visit to Hungary

Sir, – Like Brendan Howlin, I would be horrified at the idea of giving support to an authoritarian, anti-democratic and illiberal politician such as Victor Orbán ("Leo Varadkar was wrong to visit Orbán", Opinion & Analysis, January 12th).

However, seemingly unlike Brendan Howlin, I am aware that the same Mr Orbán is the properly elected prime minister of an EU state. As is Leo Varadkar. Perhaps our Taoiseach’s visit to Hungary should be seen in the context of an effort to avoid allowing the Hungarian government to become marginalised in Europe, and therefore even more extreme; to exert the kind of moderating influence that a friendly independent nation can provide; and all conveyed by a leader who is confident and assured in his actions.

In the long run, that is the kind of activity that might say quite a lot about Ireland, and its much lauded (at least at home) neutrality. – Yours, etc,



Windy Arbour,

Dublin 14.

A chara, – Brendan Howlin is correct to express concern about the attitude to human rights of certain right-wing European leaders, including the Hungarian prime minister.

The Labour leader’s stand would have had more credibility had he expressed similar concerns when some of his party colleagues and former colleagues were effusive in their praise of left-wing demagogues with appalling human rights records, such as Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro in recent years.

Surely, however, it is only through directly engaging and challenging those views and addressing the underlying reasons as to why they gain traction, can we hope to make progress? The experience of our own peace process taught us that. The rise of the far right across Europe is worrying but it will not be addressed by ignoring it, nor by not trying to address the reasons that give rise to the credibility of its extreme policies. – Is mise,


Fianna Fáil,


Co Wexford.