Leo Varadkar: No Plan B yet for Stormont return

By Aoife MooreBBC News NI Dublin reporter
EPA Leo VaradkarEPA
Leo Varadkar said he is optimistic the political stalemate in Northern Ireland can be resolved

The Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) has said he is not prepared to launch plan B for Stormont yet.

Leo Varadkar is "optimistic" that the political stalemate between the DUP and Westminster can be resolved.

The 40th British-Irish Council Summit will be held in Dublin next week.

Last week, Sinn Féin deputy leader Michelle O'Neill said the meeting would be the optimal time to discuss an alternative arrangement for governance of Northern Ireland.

Stormont has been without a functioning executive since February 2022 when Paul Givan, of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), resigned as first minister as part of the party's protest against the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The protocol is part of the Brexit deal agreed between the UK government and the EU.

In August, Mr Varadkar said if an opportunity was missed to restore the Northern Ireland Executive in the autumn, talks about alternatives would be needed.

However, speaking in Kildare on Saturday, he said: "For now, it's still planning.

"We still believe it's possible to have the executive, certainly all institutions of the Good Friday Agreement up and running, perhaps in the next few weeks, perhaps in the new year.

"There are contacts and discussions going on behind the scenes at the moment and they're making some progress."

Getty Images Road sign in front of stormontGetty Images
Northern Ireland has been without a functioning executive since February 2022

Mr Varadkar reiterated his support for an alternative arrangement, which he first mentioned last August, but wishes to see the impasse resolved.

"I've said that [I am open to it)] before, but I actually don't think that's where we're at, at the moment.

"I probably am more encouraged now than maybe I was a few weeks ago, but not by any means complacent about the difficulties that are going to arise.

"I think the British-Irish Council, next week in Dublin, there's an opportunity to further develop that, and hopefully there is a real possibility that we could get the executive up and running again, either before Christmas or in the new year."

He added that he felt it was important that any new executive is sustainable.

"It's not going to be helpful to anyone, if that just collapses six months later," he said.

"We should try and make it easier for them in my view."