Taoiseach Leo Varadkar says Ireland has been ‘extraordinarily helpful to British government’

Leo Varadkar also said the Irish government were “the adults in the room” during post-Brexit negotiations Credit: PA

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said Ireland has been “extraordinarily helpful to the British government” after the Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris appeared to criticise his remarks on Irish unity.

He also said members of the Irish government were “the adults in the room” during post-Brexit negotiations.

Senior ministers from the UK and Irish governments remain at odds over comments by Mr Varadkar, branded by the British as “unhelpful”.

On Monday, Mr Heaton-Harris referenced remarks made by the Taoiseach around Irish unity and the collapse of Stormont.

Mr Varadkar had expressed his belief that he would see unification within his lifetime. He also raising the potential for a “plan B” if devolved government in Northern Ireland is not restored by the autumn.

Mr Heaton-Harris said “unhelpful comments down in Dublin resonate up here amongst the unionist community” during his efforts to get the Stormont Assembly restored.

Asked on Thursday about the relationship between the two governments following the remarks, Mr Varadkar said he had not spoken to Northern Ireland Secretary since their meeting in Belfast on Monday.

However, he said deputy premier Micheal Martin “should be speaking to him today”.

Mr Varadkar added that he will be personally seeing his counterpart Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in Spain at the start of October.

“I think relations with the British government are much better than they were. They’ve been up and down since the referendum on Brexit.

“They’ve been much better than they were. As I said the other day, I think we as a government have been extraordinarily helpful to the British government.

“During my time as Taoiseach, we’ve negotiated three agreements. First, the backstop with Theresa May.

“When they couldn’t get up through Parliament, we sat down with Boris Johnson and negotiated a new agreement, which was the Protocol.

“When they couldn’t stick by that agreement, we didn’t throw our toys out of the pram, we were the adults in the room and we sat down with the British government and through the European Union came to a third agreement, which is the Windsor [Framework] and we expect that now to be implemented in good faith.”

Meanwhile, speaking separately in Dublin, Tanaiste Micheal Martin said the result of the last Stormont election should be “validated” and Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill should be First Minister.

The Stormont Assembly has been collapsed for over a year amid DUP protest action over trading arrangements following the UK’s exit from the EU.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson’s party wants to see its concerns around a trade border in the Irish Sea addressed by the UK Government.

Mr Martin said he has consistently said the outcome of the election, returning Sinn Fein as the biggest party at Stormont for the first time, should be validated.

He said the DUP “missed an opportunity” by not returning to Stormont following the Windsor Framework, which aimed to address their concerns.

“I have consistently said to all of the parties, including the DUP, that the results should be validated, i.e. Sinn Fein First Minister and the DUP should take their seats,” he said.

“They instanced the protocol, then the Windsor Framework came to resolve many issues and I think many of the issues the DUP raised were dealt with by Windsor.

“I feel it was a missed opportunity in the aftermath of the Windsor Framework not to go back into the Assembly and into the Executive.

“The problem in the north is that we have got too much of a stop/start in terms of the Assembly. In the past Sinn Fein collapsed the Assembly, I believe wrongly.”

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