Belfast Telegraph

London and Dublin could strike new Stormont plan, says Varadkar

By Michelle Devane

The Taoiseach has indicated the UK and Irish governments might table their own proposals as a way to break the powersharing deadlock at Stormont.

Leo Varadkar, who called for a redoubling of efforts to restore devolution after Easter, suggested that approach could be a means to forge a deal between the DUP and Sinn Fein.

Fourteen months after powersharing collapsed, the two parties remain at loggerheads on a range of disputes

In a wide ranging speech at an event in Washington DC to mark the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, the Taoiseach also moved to reassure unionists who have been angered by his government's approach to Brexit.

But he insisted he did not have a "hidden agenda".

Mr Varadkar said he was determined to work with the UK Government to chart a way ahead to restore Stormont.

"The next few weeks will rightly see a focus on Brexit," he said.

"I will meet Chancellor Merkel in Berlin, and then travel to the European Council in Brussels where the EU will seek to make further progress in our discussions with the UK Government.

"After that, I believe the period after Easter should see a redoubled effort on the part of both Governments and all of the parties in Northern Ireland to seek agreement on the restoration of the institutions.

"It is my view that this will require very close co-operation and leadership from the British and Irish Governments.

"It may be that again the Governments will have to table our own proposals to help the parties break the deadlock.

"That is how we made progress in the past.

"If that is the case, the Irish Government will play a full, active and balanced role in that process."

Senator George Mitchell was the keynote speaker at the event at the Library of Congress.

Issuing a direct messages to Northern Ireland unionists, Mr Varadkar said: "I know that you are concerned - perhaps worried - maybe even angry, at recent political developments.

"I recognise that recent statements and actions by Irish nationalists, including the Irish Government, about Brexit have been seen as unwelcome or intrusive.

"If that is the case, I want to make it clear that it certainly was not our intention.

"I want to repeat that we have no hidden agenda."

The Irish government's efforts to maintain a soft border, in particular its demand that Northern Ireland continues to align with many EU regulations, has angered unionists who fear it is veiled attempt to push a united Ireland agenda.

Belfast Telegraph

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