Tánaiste: 'Inaccurate, divisive' Telegraph opinion piece on Brexit 'best ignored'

Tánaiste: 'Inaccurate, divisive' Telegraph opinion piece on Brexit 'best ignored'

The Tánaiste Simon Coveney has said an opinion piece published yesterday in the UK’s Daily Telegraph is “inaccurate, divisive”.

Journalist Bruce Arnold wrote in the article that the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Mr Coveney are “uncertain fools” acting like “wilful children” destroying relations between Ireland and England.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs said the coverage is “best ignored” as it is “aimed at unsettling people”.

It comes after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson travelled to the North yesterday for meetings with the five main parties over Brexit.

There, Sinn Féin President Mary Lou Mcdonald told Mr Johnson that a failure to hold a border poll in the event of a no-deal Brexit is “unthinkable”, while DUP leader Arlene Foster said that British Prime Minister has no intention of holding a border poll.

In yesterday's Telegraph piece, Mr Arnold wrote it is “tough right now, being a proud and loyal British subject who has lived in, and loved, Ireland for more than 60 years”.

“What bothers me most is that the political leadership of Ireland is happy to be the cheerleader for these [EU] tormentors.

"Yet their cheerleading operates in terms that make no sense at all. Varadkar and Coveney are increasingly uncertain fools. Their desire to be players in a game they don’t understand is causing their clothing to unravel and their minds to lose their way.

"These uncertain fools have now led Ireland to be engulfed in a crisis as Boris Johnson, the new Prime Minister, seeks to lead Britain out of the EU either before or after an election."

Mr Coveney reacted on Twitter, saying: "Ireland’s position on Brexit has been fair, consistent and honest, and it will remain so, despite provocation."

The Taoiseach echoed Mr Coveney's sentiments on the article, saying: "I think any heightened rhetoric isn't coming from us so there is a certain irony in being accused of that when I really think that the rhetoric and language that has come from the Irish government has been very measured and very consistent over the last couple of years.

"In terms of what we're seeing now in the British press that's not the first time we've seen that, we saw evidence of that a few years ago, as well, when we were at a sensitive point of negotiations.

"Really my attitude to that is that when people start to criticise you personally or attack your character, it's because they don't really want to engage with you on the substance of the issues.

The Taoiseach said Ireland should be "afraid" of a no-deal Brexit.

Ms Foster accused him of "project fear mark two" over raising the prospect of a united Ireland if no deal is reached on the UK leaving the EU.

Britain's Chancellor is providing an extra £2bn to prepare for no-deal, with the money to be used for stockpiling medicines and hiring more border officials.

Asked about Ms Foster's comments, Mr Varadkar said no-deal is something we should fear.

He said: "In terms of fear, I think we should be afraid of a no-deal Brexit, it would have very serious impacts on the economy, North and South and in Britain, it could have security implications as well, and it could have constitution implications, so it's something we have to prepare for nonetheless.

"It is something we should be afraid of, I believe."

He went on to explain that has never refused a meeting request from the DUP.

Mr Varadkar said: "I've never refused a phone call from Arlene either and she has my number so I wouldn't accept that criticism at all, what I would point out though is that when it comes to negotiations on Brexit they happen between the European Union, including Ireland, on the one hand and the UK government on the other.

"No political party is involved in these negotiations, they are inter-governmental by nature and I've spoken to the new Prime Minister by phone and I invited him to come to Dublin to talk about these matters some more without any preconditions so that's really an invitation for him to decide on."

He ended by saying it "remains to be seen" whether Boris Johnson can be impartial on the North after the British Prime Minister's dinner with the DUP ahead of his meetings with the rest of the North's political parties.

The Taoiseach said: "He's only just started in the job and I think we need to give him fair wind and a decent chance, we shouldn't also ignore what's there in the Good Friday Agreement and I hear a lot of talk about the Good Friday Agreement in recent weeks and months.

"I often wonder if some of the people who quote the Good Friday Agreement have actually read it, and the Good Friday Agreement is very explicit that the sovereign government, the UK government must be rigorously impartial in how it administers Northern Ireland and we all need to respect the fact that the aspirations of both unionist people and nationalist people are equal."

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