Varad­kar gov­ern­ment faces col­lapse as ten­sions in Ire­land rise

The Sunday Telegraph - - World news - By James Roth­well BREXIT COR­RE­SPON­DENT

HE WAS swept to power on a wave of op­ti­mism as Ire­land’s first openly gay prime min­is­ter and a po­tent sym­bol of so­cial changes coursing through the Catholic coun­try.

But af­ter barely six months, Leo Varad­kar is fac­ing the col­lapse of his gov­ern­ment as a do­mes­tic po­lit­i­cal cri­sis and An­glo-Ir­ish ten­sions reached break­ing point this week.

The 38-year-old Taoiseach could be forced to call a snap elec­tion af­ter a no­con­fi­dence mo­tion was tabled against Frances Fitzger­ald, his deputy.

Ms Fitzger­ald is ac­cused of mis­han­dling a po­lice cor­rup­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tion in a mo­tion sup­ported by the main op­po­si­tion party, Fianna Fáil.

The move is con­tro­ver­sial as Fianna Fáil is prop­ping up Mr Varad­kar’s frag­ile Fine Gael party in a con­fi­dence and sup­ply deal. It had agreed to ab­stain on no con­fi­dence votes against min­is­ters.

Ex­perts warn that the po­lit­i­cal tur­moil could se­verely weaken Mr Varad­kar’s hand in the Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions and dis­tract him from prevent­ing a hard bor­der be­tween North­ern Ire­land and the Repub­lic of Ire­land.

Ear­lier this month, he threat­ened to veto trade talks be­tween the EU and the UK un­less Theresa May gave a writ­ten guar­an­tee that would amount to keep­ing North­ern Ire­land un­der EU reg­u­la­tions. This would force Mrs May to cross a red line, as she has pledged that the UK will leave the EU’s sin­gle mar­ket and cus­toms union as a whole.

Though the no con­fi­dence vote risks bring­ing down his gov­ern­ment, Mr Varad­kar has come out fight­ing and of­fered his full sup­port to Ms Fitzger­ald, who, ac­cord­ing to se­nior of­fi­cials, will not be al­lowed to stand down even if she of­fers her res­ig­na­tion.

This bullish rhetoric has won him plau­dits, but crit­ics warn that the same un­com­pro­mis­ing style is start­ing to force the Taoiseach into a cor­ner.

“He’s got into very strong rhetoric on Brexit, but now there doesn’t seem to be any way out,” Ray Bas­sett, a for­mer am­bas­sador, told The Sun­day Tele­graph.

But John Garry, a pro­fes­sor in po­lit­i­cal be­hav­iour at Queen’s Uni­ver­sity Belfast, pre­dicted Fianna Fáil’s move could back­fire. “Leo and Micheal Martin [leader of Fianna Fáil] are prac­tic­ing the art of not blink­ing. Martin may well re­gret push­ing this is­sue to the brink if vot­ers’ are dis­tracted from their Christ­mas shop­ping by can­vass­ing politi­cians,” he said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.