Northern Ireland

NIO: Varadkar followed 'all protocol' with visit

Leo Varadkar Image copyright European Photopress
Image caption Unionists have been critical of Leo Varardkar's approach to Brexit

The Taoiseach's (Irish prime minister) visit to Counties Armagh and Down followed "all protocol", the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) has said.

It comes after Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said Leo Varadkar's visit on Monday was "outside of normal protocol" and that it showed "poor manners".

Mr Varadkar had dismissed the claim saying the NIO had been informed.

An NIO spokesperson told the BBC that "all protocol" was followed.

It is understood that the UK government was informed of the visit on Sunday.

Among Mr Varadkar's engagements were visits to Warrenpoint Harbour and to an integrated school in Loughbrickland.

Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption Sir Jeffrey Donaldson says the taoiseach's visit north of the border was 'disrespectful'

Sir Jeffrey, however, said the visit was "another demonstration of the poor manners and disrespect which appears to be the Irish government's Brexit strategy".

"Having told unionists just over a month ago that he recognised statements and actions by the Irish government were unhelpful or intrusive, he follows this up with a visit which no local representative is informed about and none of the other normal protocol is followed," he said.

Former Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) leader Mike Nesbitt defended Mr Varadkar.

Mr Nesbitt told Good Morning Ulster that notifying the NIO seemed "perfectly reasonable".

"Government to government. That seems perfectly reasonable to me," he said.

"Where do you stop? The MP for the area isn't the only elected reps. Do you go on and inform the five MLAs? And if you inform the MLAs do you inform the local councillors?"

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