Leo Varadkar: DUP do not represent all in North

The Taoiseach has warned unionists that they do not speak for or represent all the people of Northern Ireland in Brexit talks.

Leo Varadkar moved to strongly dismiss any notion of the DUP being the only party that should have a say in Brexit negotiations, suggesting all parties should be given negotiation documents.

Mr Varadkar told the Dáil that British prime minister Theresa May is now managing “difficult issues” but is acting in good faith and wants to come to an agreement.

His comments came after DUP leader Arlene Foster accused the Irish Government of holding back the text of Monday’s failed agreement on the border, a claim which was denied.

He said that there are “many voices” in Northern Ireland and even some unionists had been very much behind the proposals put forward.

“We should listen to all parties in Northern Ireland and not accept the idea, which seems to be gaining prevalence in some parts of London and perhaps other places, that there is only one party in Northern Ireland which speaks for everybody there,” Mr Varadkar said.

He told the Dáil that the Government wants to move to phase two of talks, but he would be willing to wait until the new year if a solid deal cannot be agreed upon before next week’s European Council meeting in Brussels.

The Taoiseach said he will not begin any negotiations with the DUP on Brexit claiming it is now up to the UK government.

“We are not negotiating with a political party in the North, in Britain or anywhere else. This is a structured negotiation — on the one side, the EU taskforce led by Mr Michel Barnier and into which we have a very strong input, and, on the other side, the UK government. This is how this will be concluded.”

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan asked whether it would have been better to have stayed quiet on Monday until the deal was fully signed off.

Mr Ryan said: “I was involved in negotiating the creation of an all-island electricity market with Ms Arlene Foster and Mr Nigel Dodds. I mention this because of the lessons that were learned. We got the market over the line by saying nothing in public, by building trust and by doing the work behind the scenes.”

However, the Taoiseach claimed that while a press conference had been organised and then rearranged he had maintained a “studied silence” throughout Monday and only spoke out when “things had gone awry in Brussels”.

Deputy Eoin Ó Broin said Sinn Féin was not in favour of any “back-sliding” to placate the DUP over the border Brexit concerns.

“Given our experience with the DUP in their unreasonableness in implementing existing agreements, I think the Government would need to be very, very, careful to give any indication they will entertain the DUP on such serious issues.”

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