Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (centre) flanked by Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe (left) and Minister for Transport Shane Ross at the New Broombridge Luas Tram – Cross City Station as Luas Cross city brought the Green line and the red line together for the first time.
From left: Helen McEntee, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney
“Today is a very significant day for Ireland and the EU. After long & intensive negotiations we have reached a satisfactory conclusion on the Irish issues including the border…
…We have achieved all we set out to achieve in Phase 1. This is not the end but it is the end of the beginning. The Good Friday Agreement is fully protected & the Common Travel Area will continue. The UK is committed to avoiding a hard border.”
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is to make a make a a “positive statement to the country to provide reassurance on Brexit” within the next hour, according to the Tánaiste.
Simon Coveney said that an agreement on the wording around the issue of a border on the island of Ireland is very close.
He said that progress was made this morning and the discussions are moving in the right direction. Mr Coveney added that he hopes there will be an agreement on a “balanced wording” in the next hour.
Mr Varadkar is to make a public statement on Phase 1 of the Brexit negotiations at 2.30pm.
…The Tánaiste said he believes the border between Ireland and the UK will not change from how it appears today.
“I suspect it will look very like what it looks like today which is to remain largely an invisible border, with no barriers to movement and trade and the normality on the island of Ireland, as we’ve grown to appreciate over the last 20 years,” he said.
“The British government appears to have bowed to the Republic of Ireland’s demand that Northern Ireland will stay aligned with key EU laws and regulations after Brexit so as to ensure that a hard border does not return to the island.
“According to sources, MEPs were told by the chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, that Theresa May had conceded after days of intense talks that the province would be treated as a special case.”
A draft of the text of a 15-page joint statement between the European commission and the British government is said to include a commitment in paragraph 48 that “in the absence of agreed solutions the UK will ensure that there continues to be continued regulatory alignment” with the internal market and customs union.
Huge ramifications for London if Theresa May has conceded that it’s possible for part of the UK to remain within the single market & customs union after Brexit. Londoners overwhelmingly voted to remain in the EU and a similar deal here could protect tens of thousands of jobs.
If it’s not some kind of Norway status for whole UK, it must mean some kind of special deal for NI. Has to be one or the other. And if latter, why not also for Scotland, London & Wales (if it wants it)? https://t.co/xh7Ef06uNv
From left: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Heather Humphries, new Minister for Business, Enterprise & Innovation, Josepha Madigan, new Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and new Tanáiste Simon Coveney, who also remains as Minister for Foreign Affairs
From top: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar; Sgt Maurice McCabe
On January 8, 2018, the Disclosures Tribunal, overseen by Supreme Court judge Peter Charleton, will resume.
The tribunal is mainly investigating allegations of a smear campaign against Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe.
It had been expected to hear allegations of former head of the Garda Press Office Dave Taylor – who has claimed that he was instructed to negatively brief journalists about Sgt McCabe.
But Justice Charleton released a statement last Friday to say the tribunal’s next module will focus on the former Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan’s legal strategy at the O’Higgins Commission.
Broadsheet has learned Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will appear as a witness and give evidence.
As Minister for Transport, Mr Varadkar defended Sgt McCabe’s actions as ‘distinguished’.
He told a road safety conference in March, 2014:
“I think it is very important to bear in mind that the Garda whistleblowers only released information about people after they tried to use the correct procedures and those procedures failed them and when they did release the information, they did it through Oireachtas members which is provided for under the Garda Act of 2005.”
Mr Vardkar thanked Sgt McCabe and fellow Garda whistleblower, John Wilson:
“…on my own behalf and on behalf of the thousands of families who have had to endure the pain and loss that flows from the death of a loved one on the road.”
A Government press officer said he could not confirm if Mr Varadkar would appear as a witness. He said: “This is a matter for the tribunal.”
A spokesman for the Disclosures Tribunal said:
“I can’t confirm one way or the other whether Mr Varadkar or anybody else is going to be a witness at the tribunal in the next module. So you will have to wait for a witness list to go up [on the tribunal’s website].
“The work, as such, of the tribunal would be confidential. So until the witness list goes up, you wouldn’t be able to say whether anybody is going to be a witness at the next module or who would be a witness at the next module.”
Readers may recall how in May 2016, it emerged that, at the privately held O’Higgins Commission of Investigation, held during 2015, the then Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan employed a legal strategy which attacked the credibility and motivation of Sgt McCabe.
In February 2017, just prior to the establishment of the Disclosures Tribunal and when there was talk of setting up a second commission of inquiry involving Sgt McCabe, he and his wife Lorraine McCabe made a statement.
“Today, we have heard one Minister, Simon Harris, state that we are entitled to “truth and justice”.
“We wish to make it clear that we are definitely not agreeable to that entitlement being wholly postponed so that another Commission of Inquiry can conduct a secret investigation behind closed doors and make a report, into which we have no input as of right, in nine or eighteen months’ time.
“We are entitled to the truth today – justice can follow in its wake.
“… the public has little or no appreciation of what was done, and attempted to be done, to Maurice in the course of its hearings.”
Last week it emerged that an email of May 15, 2015 circulated to the former Minister for Justice and other justice officials which should have been sent to the Disclosures Tribunal wasn’t sent.
Sgt McCabe told Mr Varadkar in a phonecall that evening that the sequence of events alleged in the email did not happen and that the transcripts of the O’Higgins Commission of Investigation will prove this.
Following a call by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, for the Department of Justice to do another search for documents relevant to the tribunal, further emails were found and subsequently sent to the Disclosures Tribunal.
The email thread showed, among other things, how, on Saturday, July 4, 2015, the former Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan phoned the Department of Justice Secretary General Office Assistant Secretary Ken O’Leary to tell him a press query about the stance taken by An Garda Siochana against Sgt McCabe at the O’Higgins Commission of Investigation had been sent to the Garda Press Office.
The garda weren’t commenting on the matter.
Mr O’Leary subsequently advised the then Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald on what to say, if she was asked about the matter during a scheduled interview on RTE’s This Week on Sunday, July 5.
In the end, Ms Fitzgerald wasn’t asked about it.
Amid these revelations, the Tanaiste and former Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has resigned.
Of her resignation, Mr Varadkar told the Dail he accepted her resignation with regret and that “It is my strong view that a good woman is leaving office without getting a full and fair hearing”.
The Secretary General of the Department of Justice Noel Waters yesterday announced that he’s resigning with immediate effect as opposed to next February – which he announced last week on the same day the May 15, 2015 email surfaced.
Meanwhile, questions remain over the current Minster for Justice Charlie Flanagan’s handling of related matters.
Readers will also recall how, on March 20, 2014, when Mr Varadkar called Sgt McCabe and Garda Wilson “distinguished”, he also called on the then Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan to withdraw his “disgusting” remark in relation to the two men.
Mr Callinan made that remark at a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee in January 2014.
Micheal Martin calls for Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan to make a statement to the Dáil to apologise for the Dep of Justice’s failure to answer questions fully. Mr Varadkar says this will happen #iestaff
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar repeats to Mary Lou McDonald that he is opening “an external inquiry” into the Dep of Justice as to why officials failed to send on the latest e-mails from Monday to the Charleton tribunal #iestaff
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar “should know better” than to “play around” with Northern Ireland over Brexit, the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party says.
Arlene Foster accused Mr Varadkar of being “reckless” as Brexit talks enter a “critical phase”.
She was speaking after meeting Theresa May at Downing Street.
The Irish government says any hard border with Northern Ireland should be off the table.
…Speaking to BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg, Mrs Foster said: “Some people are taking their moment in the sun, to try and get the maximum in relation to the negotiations – and I understand that but you shouldn’t play about with Northern Ireland particularly at a time when we’re trying to bring about devolved government again.”