Northern Ireland

Leo Varadkar’s last official engagement as Taoiseach will be visit to Armagh for north-south council meeting

The Taoiseach will attend the first North-South Ministerial Council to be held since before the collapse of Executive

The Taoiseach said there is ‘some controversy’ around parts of the Bill that are ‘less clear’
Leo Varadkar Leo Varadkar will visit the north for his last official engagement as Taoiseach (Niall Carson/PA)

Leo Varadkar will attend a meeting of the North-South Ministerial Council next week, the last official engagement of his tenure as Taoiseach.

It will be the first meeting since July 2021 of the body created under the 1998 Good Friday Agreement to develop cross border co-operation at the highest political levels.

The meeting takes place in Armagh on April 8, the day before Simon Harris takes over as leader of Fine Gael and as Taoiseach.

First Minister Michelle O’Neill (left) and Deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly speaking to the media after Queen Camilla attended an event hosted by the Queen’s Reading Room to mark World Poetry Day at Hillsborough Castle in Belfast, during her two-day official visit to Northern Ireland. Picture date: Thursday March 21, 2024.
First Minister First Minister Michelle O'Neill and Deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly will hold a press conference with the Taoiseach following the NMSC meeting (Liam McBurney/PA)

All members of the Dublin Cabinet will be attending along with First Minister Michelle O’Neill and Deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly. The three leaders will hold a joint press conference following the meeting.

The Taoiseach’s visit follows the resignation of the DUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson. Mr Donaldson resigned as leader of the party as it emerged he is charged with historical sexual offences.

It is likely the impact of the resignation will be discussed at the fringes of the meeting.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson quit on Friday
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson quit as DUP leader on Friday (Liam McBurney/PA)

According to reports, the council will hear details on economic issues affecting both jurisdictions. The Irish Government has committed approximately €800 million (£680m) to various projects, including the development of the A5 and money towards the cost of revamping Casement Park.

Decisions will also be made in relation to appointments to boards, including InterTradeIreland, the North South Language Body, , the Foyle, Carlingford and Irish Lights Commission (FCILC) and the Food Safety Promotion Board (FSPB).

A man has died following a crash between a car and a lorry on the A5 in County Tyrone on Tuesday evening.
The collision happened on the Curr Road, between Omagh and Ballygawley, shortly before 19:20 GMT.
The 30-year-old driver of a white BMW was pronounced dead at the scene.
The upgrade of the A5 will be discussed at the NSMC meeting

Ministers north and south will also be asked to meet commitments made in New Decade New Approach.

An Irish government spokesperson said the recently announced €800m funding “forms a backdrop” to the meeting in Armagh.

Following the plenary session of the NSMC, meetings will be arranged involving individual Stormont and Dublin ministers.

Mr Varadkar was last in the north in February for a meeting with the two first ministers following the restoration of the Executive and Assembly.