The Taoiseach has strongly denied claims by David Davis that Sinn Féin is “strongly influencing” the Government in Brexit talks.
The British Brexit secretary said Sinn Féin has pushed Leo Varadkar’s Government to adopt a harder stance in negotiations which he had not foreseen.
Mr Varadkar dismissed this, noting that while the Government listens to the views of Sinn Féin, “ultimately it is the second party in the North and the third party in the Republic”.
“So I don’t think it has more influence on the Irish Government than the Liberal Democrats and the SNP have on the policy of the British government,” he said. “We are certainly not taking directions from them, any more than Theresa May is from Alec Salmond or First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.”
Mr Davis claimed that since Mr Varadkar became Taoiseach, Sinn Féin gained “quite a strong influence”.
“Well, you had a change of leader or a change in Taoiseach,” he said. “They’ve [Sinn Féin] been playing a strong political role which they haven’t done historically, that I hadn’t foreseen.”
Mr Varadkar called the remarks “a bit strange”.
Speaking in Belfast yesterday, Sinn Féin TD Gerry Adams said Mr Varadkar has brought a “better approach” to Brexit talks .
“I appreciate, and Mary Lou McDonald, our leader, appreciates, the fact that the Taoiseach has been forthright in terms of there being no return to a hard economic border, that he has been forthright in terms of no return to British direct rule, that he has called and asked for them to be a reconvening of the inter-governmental conference,” he said.
The row came after former Northern Ireland first minister David Trimble said the change of Taoiseach has been negative. He told RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke: “I don’t think it’s been a change for the better.”
He added that Brexit talks could be finalised in “half an hour”.
“The Taoiseach, the prime minister, and somebody from Brussels who is in a position to take decisions, if those three people sat down around a table I suspect it wouldn’t take them more than half an hour to sort things out,” said Mr Trimble.
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