Northern Ireland news

Leo Varadkar: We have portraits of British monarchs and we haven't taken them down

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he is not offended by portraits of British monarchs hanging in Dublin Castle, as he reacted to a controversy over the removal of the Queen's painting from Stormont House in Belfast.

Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith last week ordered a review of the decision to take down royal portraits from the walls of the Northern Ireland Office building on the Stormont estate.

Mr Varadkar, who on Tuesday toured the Queen's official residence in Northern Ireland at Hillsborough Castle, Co Down, said: "In relation the portraits, that is absolutely a matter for the Northern Ireland Office, not one for me to make any decisions on.

"The only thing I would say is that in Dublin Castle we do have portraits of British monarchs and we haven't taken them down and they certainly don't offend me."

DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson, who greeted Mr Varadkar as he arrived at Hillsborough Castle, welcomed his remarks on the portrait issue.

"I think what the Taoiseach said represents the common sense approach that I believe most people in Northern Ireland feel, that there is no need to go tearing down portraits off a wall," he said.

"I think it's a tiny minority who make an issue out of this and we really need to get to a more sensible place."

Last month, Lord Maginnis, the former Ulster Unionist MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, said a senior civil servant was handed £10,000 in compensation because he was offended at having to walk past the painting.

The peer named the civil servant and said he now works for the Parades Commission.

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