Many pregnancies shorter than powersharing crisis, says frustrated Taoiseach
The Taoiseach has expressed frustration at the length of time the powersharing crisis has lasted in Northern Ireland, pointing out that many pregnancies are shorter.
With the Democratic Unionist and Sinn Fein still at loggerheads over a return to devolved government and the spectre of Westminster direct rule looming ever larger, Leo Varadkar urged the region's political leaders to "do what's best for the people" and get back into government.
Powersharing imploded in January when the late Sinn Fein deputy first minister Martin McGuinness resigned amid a row over the DUP's handling of a botched renewable heat energy scheme.
That stand-off opened up more deep-seated divisions between the parties.
Months of talks aimed at restoring powersharing have failed, with proposed legislation to protect Irish language speakers now the main obstacle.
Mr Varadkar voiced his concerns about the impasse as he attended the European Council summit in Brussels.
"The Northern Ireland parties are now up to nine months - you can bear a child in less time," he said afterwards.
With four UK government deadlines for a deal have already fallen by the wayside, Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire has now identified October 30 as the latest cut-off point for a deal.
The Taoiseach warned that Stormont's budget was running out and the stand-off was badly impacting public services.
"There are big decisions to be made in relation to Brexit which involves them and affects them," he added.
"If I was an elected politician in Northern Ireland I would really want to be in an executive and an assembly as soon as possible so I could influence those decisions.
"No one can force the DUP and Sinn Fein to share power.
"If the guiding principle is doing what's best for the people of Northern Ireland, the citizens, Catholic, Protestant and no religion or other religion, you would form a government."
Back in Northern Ireland, DUP leader and former first minister Arlene Foster told a business event in Ballyclare said it was "disappointing" the region was still without a ruling executive.
"A mere 18 months ago Martin McGuinness and I were issuing statements that the 2016-2021 term was about getting down to business," she said.
"It was to be the term of greatest delivery by an executive - on health, education and jobs.
"It is time to get back to that vision and commitment. Northern Ireland needs to see that stability restored. Northern Ireland needs a working executive that lasts."
The issue of Brexit was the main focus when Sinn Fein's Stormont leader Michelle O'Neill met the UK Government's International Trade Secretary Liam Fox on Friday.
"We made it clear to him in no uncertain terms that the Tory Brexit agenda would have disastrous consequences for the Good Friday Agreement and for Ireland, north and south, in terms of citizens' rights, trade, our economy and the issue of the border," she said afterwards.
"In today's meeting we told Liam Fox it is clear that he and his fellow Brexiteers in the Tory cabinet simply regard the north and its people as collateral damage in the Brexit process."