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Northern Ireland deal brokered by Trump wouldn't work, says Taoiseach Varadkar

Varadkar aspires to united Ireland with cross-community support.

By Cormac McQuinn

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has dismissed the prospect of Donald Trump's reputed deal-making prowess being of use to break the Stormont deadlock.

The Executive collapsed in January last year and talks between the DUP and Sinn Fein have failed to see it restored.

Intervention by the United States in the peace process has proved useful in the past, particularly during the Clinton administration in the 1990s.

But Mr Varadkar has cast doubt on Mr Trump's ability to help solve the current impasse, despite the US president's much boasted reputation for deal-making, as set out in his own book, The Art of the Deal.

The Taoiseach said: "I have read The Art Of The Deal and the basic concept behind that is 'a good deal is when I win and you lose'.

"That's not the kind of deal that is going to work in Northern Ireland."

"So, while President Trump has many enormous talents and abilities, I don't think bringing about peace in Northern Ireland would be his skillset.

"But certainly we are always open to assistance from the US," Mr Varadkar said.

He added that one item he would like to discuss when he visits the White House in March is the appointment of a full-time US ambassador to Ireland, if one hasn't been appointed by then.

The British and Irish governments are planning fresh efforts to reinstate the Assembly this year.

January 16 will mark exactly a year since an Assembly election was called after the late Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness resigned in protest over the Renewable Heat Incentive scandal.

Mr Varadkar has said that his government doesn't support direct rule from London, but said there are two options in the absence of a deal between Sinn Fein and the DUP - fresh elections or the convening of the British-Irish Inter-governmental Conference (BIIGC).

The Good Friday Agreement provides for matters that are not devolved to be dealt with by this conference.

Mr Varadkar has said that the Irish government expects to have "real and meaningful involvement" if talks to save powersharing fail.

However, DUP leader Arlene Foster has dismissed the BIIGC as a "talking shop".

Mr Varadkar also said he aspires to a united Ireland by consent and with cross-community support.

He said he followed the idea of former SDLP leader John Hume of an "agreed Ireland".

Mr Varadkar said: "In terms of a united Ireland, our constitution is clear on this.

"Our constitution aspires to there being a united Ireland. I share that aspiration. But only on the basis that it is done by consent, and when it does come about I would like to see it command a degree of cross-community support. And that's the way I would envision it."

He added: "I very much follow the school of thought of the great John Hume, who talked less about a united Ireland and more about an agreed Ireland and a set of relationships that we can all be happy with. That's the way it should be."

The Taoiseach's comments are likely to further strain his already difficult relationship with unionists in Northern Ireland.

In November, DUP leader Arlene Foster accused Irish Foreign Affairs Minister and Mr Varadkar's deputy, Simon Coveney, of "aggressive" behaviour after he spoke of his desire for a united Ireland.

Mr Coveney told a parliamentary committee that he wanted to see a united Ireland in his political lifetime.

"I am a constitutional nationalist, I would like to see a united Ireland in my lifetime," he said.

"If possible, in my political lifetime."

Mr Coveney added that any moves toward Irish unification should be careful, should learn from the past and ensure more steps are taken to protect and include a unionist minority.

Following his comments, Mrs Foster said: "Why then did Simon use this moment in time to talk about his aspiration for a united Ireland in his political lifetime? I think that's quite aggressive."

Uncertainty around Brexit has seen relations between Dublin and London and the DUP deteriorate in recent months.

In December, Mr Varadkar admitted relations with Britain were "strained" because of disputes between governments on what kind of arrangement should be made for Northern Ireland after Brexit.

The DUP has criticised Mr Varadkar's Fine Gael party, saying that multiple references to the possibility of a united Ireland in current Irish politicians' lifetimes were unhelpful.

Belfast Telegraph

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