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Irish culture minister ‘hopeful’ hard Brexit can still be avoided

By Cate McCurry

The Irish culture minister has said she remains hopeful a deal can be struck between the UK Government and the European Union.

Josepha Madigan said it is difficult to anticipate what will happen when MPs vote on the Withdrawal Agreement at Westminster next week.

Theresa May will increase her efforts this week to win over her Brexit critics and seek fresh guarantees from Brussels ahead of the crunch vote.

Ms Madigan said that the Prime Minister's main priority is to secure enough support for her deal.

"I think from listening to her comments she is certainly going to endeavour to do that and that's her main priority at the moment but I think we have to allow the UK Parliament to do it themselves," she said.

"I don't think it's going to be helpful for me to comment on how they should do that but obviously we are hopeful that they will."

The culture minister added she "didn't know" if there will be a hard Brexit.

"I would remain hopeful that a deal can be struck and we hope that Theresa May will get this deal through her Parliament and there will be a Withdrawal Agreement and then a future relationship can be ironed out and there will be no hard border.

"I think at this stage it will be premature to try and say anything other than that."

She added that the Irish government has contingency plans in place for a no-deal Brexit while ministers will be updating Cabinet every two weeks on their preparation for a chaotic Brexit.

Meanwhile, the minister also defended her comments after she advised aspiring female politicians who want to run for office to "get a good husband" if they do. She told the Irish Independent: "Get good childcare, get a good husband, have the confidence and don't over-think it."

However, Fianna Fail TD Anne Rabbitte - a widow and mother of three - responded to the remarks saying women don't need a husband to succeed in politics and it's "fire in the belly" that makes the difference.

She said she has the support of family, friends and staff in pursuing her political career.

Ms Madigan defended her remarks saying she was paying tribute to her husband.

"When you're a politician whatever family support you have is going to be crucial," she said.

"When you have school runs and extra-curricular activities and if you are based at Leinster House, I would have found it very difficult in the absence of his support and that was the point I am making.

"You need a support system and I think every politician would say that. It doesn't necessarily have to be a husband, it can be a partner, or wife, or mother or father or neighbours. I think you need the support, particularly if you have dependants living with you."

Meanwhile, Irish health minister Simon Harris said every politician needs support networks of family and friends and that he himself has a "very good wife".

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