‘Window of opportunity’ will open after elections to restore Stormont, Varadkar says

Leo Varadkar met British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during fourth Council of Europe summit in Iceland

A new window of opportunity to restore power-sharing in Northern Ireland will open up this summer following this week’s local elections, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.

Local elections are taking place in Northern Ireland this week, with hundreds of councillors set to be elected across 11 council areas.

Mr Varadkar spoke with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at the fourth Council of Europe summit taking place in Iceland.

“We spoke about a number of different matters. Obviously, mainly pertaining to the reason why we’re here, which is the Council of Europe and Ukraine, and the rule of law, human rights and democracy. But I had a chance obviously to touch base about the situation in Northern Ireland and we’re going to follow up on that now.”


Asked if the Northern Ireland Assembly will be restored after the local elections in the North tomorrow, Mr Varadkar said he hoped this would be the case.

“The local elections are going to happen and the results will be counted and people will have their say as to who runs the different local councils in Northern Ireland. There has been a bit of a hiatus because of that. And potentially there is a window of opportunity between now and the summer break.”

“I think what I’d like to see is all of the five major parties come together and form an Executive, it wouldn’t really be helpful for me to berate any particular party,” he said, after being asked if the DUP should respect the will of the people of Northern Ireland.

Mr Varadkar said it “could be counterproductive” to berate any one party.

“But what I do want to say is that we have an agreement now, which is the Westminster framework. As Taoiseach I’ve been involved in negotiating three agreements between the UK and the EU to make sure that the post-Brexit arrangements don’t give us a hard border north and south, and don’t adversely affect our economy and that of Northern Ireland.

“We have a revised agreement. It is the Windsor Framework. That’s not going to be changed now. We’re pressing ahead with its implementation, in good faith. And there are a lot of problems and challenges that people are experiencing in Northern Ireland -- a housing crisis, a cost of living crisis, a budget crisis and a health crisis, due to people’s need to have their elected politicians working on their behalf.

“We want to do two things to encourage the five parties to come together to form that Executive, but also to help out, and I’ve been asked many times, can we make contributions to important infrastructure projects, like for example, the A5? Are there things we can do to the Shared Island fund? And the answer is Yes.

“Above all, we want to work with the British Government and help the five parties to make a success of the Executive if it comes together again, because while the Good Friday Agreement has brought us peace in our island, and really has transformed things for the better, North and South, for too long we’ve had devolved government on and off -- and it hasn’t really delivered for the people of Northern Ireland. And I think that’s what has to change.”

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times