Leo Varadkar has "never seen relations as bad" with UK ministers as they are now 1 month ago

Leo Varadkar has "never seen relations as bad" with UK ministers as they are now

Varadkar says the UK government "has not been even-handed" in its treatment of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has declared that relationships between Irish and UK ministers have never been as poor as they are now, at least as far as his own "political lifetime" is concerned.

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Speaking on The View on BBC Northern Ireland on Thursday night (30 June), the Tánaiste said the UK government "has not been even-handed" in its treatment of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Varadkar was asked directly by host Mark Carruthers for his assessment on the state of the relationship between Ireland and UK governmental counterparts.

Carruthers pointed to a quote from Simon Coveney noting that relations are "at a new low" and a separate quote from Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis who said he has "a great relationship" with both Coveney and Varadkar. "Which is it?" asked Carruthers.

"Well, I think, once again, a square is being called a circle there," Varadkar replied. "In my political lifetime, I've never seen relations as bad."

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"The thing that does bother me the most, actually, is that the people of Northern Ireland aren't being listened to by their sovereign government in Westminster," Varadkar added.

"A letter was written – 52 MLAs out of 90 signed it. It's almost as if British ministers didn't read it or didn't care. They set out very clearly that they did not want the Protocol revoked and they did not accept this argument that the Protocol undermined the Good Friday Agreement.

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"52 out of 90 MLAs, and the British government treats the views of the majority of the elected representatives of Northern Ireland as irrelevant. That's a fundamental problem."

Asked if the UK government has prioritised the concerns of unionists on the Protocol above all else, Varadkar responded:

"I think it's a government that's not been even-handed, and in the past commitments were given by UK governments that it would be even-handed in its approach to Northern Ireland and I don't think that's the case when it comes to this government.

"They're siding with one of the three blocks, if you like, of opinion that now exists in Northern Ireland."

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Elsewhere on the programme, the Tánaiste weighed in on the recent Gardaí investigation he faced under the Corruption Act, noting the matter has been concluded.

"The allegations that remain against me of any form of criminality are false," he said. "The matter is now with our DPP. I don't want to say anything beyond that for understandable reasons [of] if I do, it will be seen as me putting pressure on the DPP's office and that would not be appropriate."

Varadkar, however, did note that the investigation was "not ideal" for someone in his position of power to face.

"It's never nice to be subject to false allegations," he said. "But they are false. The Gardaí carried out a very thorough investigation – at the end of that investigation, [they] did not recommend prosecution. The matter is now with the DPP and I await that outcome patiently."

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