Leo varadkar

Lefties don’t know anything about farming

The artists and hippies are re-wilding their land, which is to say doing nothing at all to it and watching it fill up with brambles. The builder boyfriend and I are un-wilding our land, which is to say pulling out every bramble we can find and cutting back the overhanging tree branches. ‘Seven hundred trees,’ she said, sipping her fresh mint tea, her artisanal walking crook propped against the wall We have nothing in common with the hippy English blow-ins who come to West Cork, of course. However, I have made friends with a few of the local lefties, including a very nice lady who lives down the lane whom

It’s pointless arguing with an Irishman

‘Why are those pipes sticking out of the wall like that?’ said the bathroom fitter, surveying the work the plumber had done. He stood musing over the way the tubing poked through a stud wall at an upwards angle so you couldn’t attach it to a sink unless you bent it round and then he said: ‘Hmm, they do sometimes do that here. I’m sure it will be fine.’ The bathroom fitter is English, the plumber Irish. Who’s to say which one of them is right when it comes to the exact angle that new pipes ought to come through a wall? There was a kind of majesty in how

Barbie Kardashian and Ireland’s trans madness

Why are politicians so incapable of answering basic questions about biology? Yesterday it was Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s turn. A journalist asked him a yes or no question: ‘Do you believe that Barbie Kardashian is a woman?’ Barbie Kardashian, whose birth name was Gabrielle Alejandro Gentile, is a violent man who identifies as a woman. Last week he was sentenced to five-and-a-half years in jail – a women’s jail – for threatening to torture, rape and murder his own mother. He is, as the journalist who cornered Varadkar put it, ‘a violent biological male with a penis’. So what was Varadkar’s answer to this easiest of questions? This was a straightforward query

Varadkar resigns

Leo Varadkar, the Irish Taoiseach, has tendered his resignation. After gambling his political career on an election in which he hoped Brexit would be the defining factor, the Irish voters decided they cared about pretty much anything but. In fact, just one per cent of Irish voters cited Brexit as a decisive factor for them in this month’s general election. Instead, voters focused on issues that might actually affect their lives such as housing and healthcare. The result was that Varadkar’s Fine Gael party was knocked into third place, behind Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein. The gamble clearly failed. Ireland’s new parliament, the 33rd Dail, met for the first time

Why Varadkar’s Brexit bashing is falling flat

Leo Varadkar did not pull any punches in his interview with BBC Political Editor Laura Kuennsberg on Monday. Embroiled in a general election campaign, with less than two weeks to go until polling day, the incumbent Taoiseach told Kuennsberg that Britain is underestimating the difficulties that lie ahead as phase two of Brexit gets underway: ‘I think the reality of the situation is that the European Union is a union of 27 member states, the UK is only one country, and we have a population and a market of 450 million people. The UK is about 60 [million]. So if these were two teams up against each other playing football,

Can Leo Varadkar survive the upcoming Irish election?

Yesterday, the Irish government announced that there will be a General Election on Saturday, February 8. Curiously, the path to it was cleared by Boris Johnson’s decisive electoral win last month. Up to now, there has been no desire on the part of either the government or the main opposition parties to hold an election because of the uncertainty surrounding Brexit. Partisan politics were largely set aside, all the parties donned the ‘green jersey’ and teamed up with Brussels to try and ensure either the softest possible Brexit, or no Brexit at all. The united front disguised the fact that, Brexit-aside, the Leo Varadkar-led Government has been a lame duck

The last Brexit heave

The past few months have been characterised by high drama which, for all the excitement, has resolved nothing. We are back in a familiar cycle: posturing, bluster and a last-minute burst of Brexit talks. It’s possible that Boris Johnson will emerge with a deal and declare triumph by 31 October: he has always regarded this as possible, even likely, no matter how high the odds are stacked against it. But it’s just as likely that this will all end in failure. If Britain does end up leaving the EU without a deal, the moment when such an outcome became inevitable will be traced back to Tuesday’s telephone call between Boris

Katy Balls

Johnson and Varadkar: It’s not over yet

Is all hope lost that a Brexit deal can be agreed before 31 October? That’s been the mood music coming from both the UK and Brussels in recent days. However, Boris Johnson and Leo Varadkar have this afternoon made a joint statement making clear that they haven’t given up on agreeing a deal just yet. After holding two hours of talks in a Cheshire countryside bolthole, Johnson and Varadkar released a joint statement in which they said that they could both ‘see a pathway to a possible deal’: ‘The Prime Minister and Taoiseach have had a detailed and constructive discussion. Both continue to believe that a deal is in everybody’s

For the first time since 1171, Ireland has more power than England

Watching Boris Johnson in Dublin, where he came to ask Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to get him out of a hole, I am struck again by how disorienting Brexit has been. Everything we are used to in Anglo-Irish relations has been reversed. For the first time since Henry II invaded in 1171, Ireland has more power than England. Ireland has always been the weaker party: smaller, poorer, less influential in the wider world. Most Brexiters, if they thought about the Irish aspect of their project at all, relied on an eternal truth: Dublin would simply have to play by London’s rules. It is hard to blame them — a habit of

Is Leo Varadkar climbing down over Brexit?

Leo Varadkar certainly talks tough when it comes to Brexit, but is the Irish PM preparing to back down? Mr S. only asks because the Taoiseach conceded this morning that he is ‘willing to compromise’ over Brexit. This marks something of a change from his earlier comments in which he has repeatedly dismissed alternatives to the backstop, or regulatory alignment across the Irish border. Here is what Varadkar said on RTE today:  ‘The objective is to avoid the emergence of a hard border between north and south as a result of Brexit. What I care about is achieving those objectives and I am willing to compromise providing those objectives are

Varadkar’s gamble

‘The government has relished wearing the green jersey on Brexit and standing up to the British with the help of the European Union — and been aware of the political benefits of doing so,’ thundered Pat Leahy in the Irish Times last week. ‘But now the pitfalls begin to emerge from the fog.’ Leo Varadkar gambled on the British government either cancelling Brexit or getting roped in by the backstop to accept Brexit in name only. The Taoiseach lost that gamble — and his strategy now lies in tatters. Since mid-2017, when Varadkar took office, teaming up with Brussels to take a maximalist, ultra-legalistic approach to the Irish border, his

Derailing Brexit isn’t Leo Varadkar’s only aim

I agree with much of Liam Halligan’s analysis of the Irish government’s approach to Brexit (‘Good Friday disagreement’, 20 April). However, I think he omits an important point. Leo Varadkar is not merely attempting to derail Brexit; he is also hoping to achieve a united Ireland. For decades politicians, officials and journalists in the south have privately peddled the line to gullible counterparts in Britain that the Dublin establishment has been ambiguous about whether it really wanted the North with all of its myriad problems, but this is and always has been a lie. The Good Friday Agreement was clearly perceived behind closed doors in Dublin as a key transition

Good Friday disagreement

The relationship between the UK and the Republic of Ireland has ‘reached a hunger-strike low’, says a new study by an academic from Trinity College, Dublin. ‘Relations have not been as tense since the early 1980s and political rhetoric that had vanished by the 1990s has re-emerged,’ the paper grimly concludes. The fragility of relations between Britain and Ireland is hard-wired into me. Having grown up ‘London-Irish’ in the 1970s and 1980s, all I ever wanted was for the two countries that define my ethnicity to get on. The Maze Prison hunger strikes of 1981 and subsequent Republican bombings in London and Brighton — where, lest we forget, the British

Bonne chance, Ireland

Seventy years ago this month, a prime minister led a divided nation towards the exit from what was then one of the world’s most important organisations. On that occasion, Ireland was the country wanting to leave and there was no backstop to hold things up. Despite the pleas of the other member states, the Irish walked out of the Commonwealth. I was reminded of that moment this week as the budding bromance between the Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and France’s President Emmanuel Macron unfolded. Relations have never been better, Mr Varadkar cooed to nods from M. Macron. As well he might. For Varadkar has just returned his nation to the

Letters | 3 January 2019

Lords reform Sir: How astonishing that the historian Robert Tombs (‘Beyond Brexit’, 15 December) should think that the Lords might ‘at last be seriously reformed’ after more than a century of schemes that foundered in the Commons. MPs have an unthreatening upper house; they will never agree on substantial changes that would increase its power. They will leave the Lords to implement its own sensible plans to cut its numbers to 600 by bringing party strengths into line with those in the Commons over the next few years. Those interested in radical Lords reform should study the detailed proposals for a federal constitution drawn up by an all-party group chaired

Irish troubles

How did we get into this Brexit mess? Why is it proving so difficult to leave the EU? Was it Theresa May’s botched 2017 election, which vaporised her Commons majority? Or perhaps her general incompetence and lack of vision? How about the fierce determination of Europhile civil servants to save stupid Leave voters from themselves, cooking up a half-in-half-out withdrawal guaranteed to split the Tories? Maybe it was the cynical ambivalence of HM’s Opposition, with Labour simultaneously backing both Brexit and a second referendum, having always intended to cause chaos and spark a general election by voting down the UK’s exit, contradicting its own manifesto? Then there’s the relentless big

Crossing the line

When I negotiated the Good Friday Agreement nearly 20 years ago, no one foresaw a day when the -United Kingdom would be leaving the European Union. It was impossible to imagine how the issue of the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, from which the barriers were removed as part of the agreement, would again become an issue of such political importance. We have the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, threatening to veto the Brexit negotiations unless Theresa May gives a formal written guarantee that there will be no hard -border, and we keep hearing the argument that a departure of the UK from the single market and the customs

The Irish gamble

Never has a European Council been so important to a British prime minister as this December’s is to Theresa May. In No. 10 there has long been a belief that if she can get ‘sufficient progress’ in the Brexit talks to move on to trade and the transition, it will provide her with a political adrenalin shot. This is why a reshuffle has been pencilled in for afterwards. But if she fails to achieve her aim at the December council, her premiership will be further destabilised. The trouble is that when it comes to Brexit, the Prime Minister tends to postpone talking to her cabinet until as late as possible.

Portrait of the week | 8 June 2017

Home Eight people were killed and 48 taken to hospital when three men, in a hire van travelling south shortly after 10 p.m. on Saturday, ran into pedestrians on London Bridge, then jumped out with knives and attacked people in pubs and restaurants around Borough Market. A policeman tackled one of the knifemen with a truncheon and was wounded. At 10.16 p.m., police firing 46 shots killed the men, who were wearing fake explosive vests with visible canisters. A bystander was wounded in the head by a police bullet. Police led people to safety and cleared a wide area. The Islamic State said it was behind the attack. Police named

Brexit, Ireland and the Trump question

We all have our roles.  In the world order which we inhabit, Ireland has one chief international responsibility: each St Patrick’s Day, its Taoiseach (prime minister) sets off to the Oval Office bearing a bowl of shamrocks. Ireland’s current Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, has been in the job since March 2011.  In Ireland’s last elections, last February, he fell 29 seats short of an overall majority.  From then, he started to face calls to resign.  In February 2017, a scandal broke involving a whistleblower in the Gardaí, Ireland’s police.  Kenny survived a confidence vote in February, but barely.  Later that month, he addressed his parliamentary party, saying he would make the