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Varadkar calls for new North envoy

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and President Trump during their Oval Office meeting last year


By Ray O’Hanlon

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is in Washington, D.C. today to meet with President Trump and other political leaders as part of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.

And Mr. Varadkar has used the occasion to call for the restoration of a U.S. Special Envoy to the North peace process, though adding in the context of Brexit to any possible future appointment.

Irish American political leaders and organizations have repeatedly called for a new envoy, the most recent call being made by Congressman Brendan Boyle.

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The Irish Times was reporting today that the Irish government would welcome the appointment of a U.S. special envoy to Northern Ireland and that the taoiseach had stated this ahead of his meeting with President Trump.

Reported the Times; “Speaking on the first day of official engagements in Washington on Wednesday, Mr. Varadkar said that this week offered an opportunity to talk to U.S. political leaders about Ireland’s position on Brexit.

“The Taoiseach added that it was also an opportunity to deliver the message that Ireland is a ‘good and reliable partner for the United States that is certain about its place in the world when perhaps other countries are not and are somewhat in chaos.’”

“Certainly if the president is open to wanting a special envoy to Northern Ireland that would be very welcome. We know historically that when the United States has taken an interest in the affairs of Northern Ireland it has helped bring peace . . . so that will certainly be welcome,” Mr. Varadkar said.

The Times report pointed out that former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had indicated last year that the State Department was preparing to appoint a special envoy.

“But the idea has fallen off the political agenda in recent months despite calls from Irish-American members of Congress for the State Department to appoint an envoy.”

Varadkar’s White House visit, his second as taoiseach, was also described in advance as being an opportunity to “deepen Ireland’s strong bilateral relations with the US, and to build even stronger transatlantic relations between the US and the EU.”

The White House, in a statement, said that President Trump would be discussing with Mr. Varadkar how to further strengthen relations between the U.S. and Ireland, including enhancing economic and “people-to-people” ties, this while maintaining the progress achieved by the Good Friday Agreement.

The president, said the statement, was also looking forward to hosting the taoiseach at the annual Shamrock Bowl presentation.

That will take place in the White House East Room Thursday evening.

Prior to his White House visit Mr. Varadkar was due to have a number of meetings with business leaders, U.S. and Irish, attend the annual Ireland Funds Gala Dinner, and visit an exhibition entitled “Blazing a Trail: Irish Women in America.”

Prior to the White House gathering on Thursday Mr. Varadkar was scheduled to meet with Vice President Mike Pence, attend the Speaker’s Lunch on Capitol Hill, and meet with members of Congress, most particularly Irish American congressional leaders.

Mr. Varadkar is expected to bring up the plight of the undocumented Irish during his Oval Office meeting with President Trump who, according to reports, is lately leaning more in favor of enhanced legal immigration even as he steps up efforts to stop illegal immigration, most especially along the border with Mexico.

Also certain to prompt talk in Washington today is the decision by British legal authorities, announced today, to prosecute just one former soldier in connection to the 1972 Bloody Sunday killings in Derry.