Jack Quann
Jack Quann

08.35 28 Feb 2019


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The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said Ireland would need hundreds of millions of euro in funds in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Mr Varadkar said while infrastructure plans are important - such as the national broadband plan - a hard Brexit has to take priority.

He told Newstalk Breakfast: "One thing we do have to take into account is Brexit.

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"If we're in a no-deal scenario in a couple of weeks time, we'll be looking to find hundreds of millions of euros to bail out the beef industry, to save jobs in agri-food, to save jobs in small exporters around the country.

"That'll be the money we're looking for, rather than the money for additional infrastructure".

On the Brexit process itself, he said: "I think an extension would always be better than no deal, but a deal would be better than an extension".

On any potential second referendum, he said: "That's not my business - and I know how sensitive some British politicians and the British media can be.

"So there's nothing they would like more than for me to call for a second referendum so they can then jump all over that - so I'm not going to walk into that one".

"There are elements and parts of the British establishment that don't like an Irish Government or an Irish Taoiseach standing up for Ireland.

"They don't understand why we're not leaving too, they don't understand why we won't - to use their language - fall in line.

"They don't understand why we're not helping them out, rather than being committed to the European Union."

"We made a decision as a country 100 years ago to be independent, we made a decision in recent decades to join the European Union and we made a very big decision - although maybe we didn't realise it at the time - when we voted for the Maastricht Treaty that we were going to join the Eurozone without the United Kingdom.

"So we made a decision that our place is at the heart of the European Union, which we helped to build, and that means we're going to travel a different road to the United Kingdom - but I think it's going to be a better road".

In a wide-ranging interview, Mr Varadkar also spoke about religious symbols in the public sector.

Church-run hospitals are being told to remove crucifixes if a patient asks.

A new Government report has examined the relationship between the State and hospitals ran by religious orders.

It has told the hospitals that they should be conscious of the impact that decor can have on a patient.

The review concluded that the life and well-being of patients must take precedence over religious ethos.

On this, Mr Varadkar said: "We should have regard to the fact that in modern Ireland there's now a diversity of views on religion and so on.

"It's not a campaign from the Government or anyone to go around removing cribs or crucifixes or statues of Our Lady - that's not what's going to happen.

"But it is a message to charities and voluntary bodies that do run hospitals and schools just to have regard to these things.

"It is the 21st century, things have changed, a lot of patients, a lot of kids aren't religious, maybe aren't Roman Catholic.

"And the ethos of an institution that's publicly funded should reflect the public, not just any one section of the public."

On the national broadband plan, Mr Varadkar said he hopes a decision is made by Easter.

"We will have to consider all those things - the cost, the deliverability and potential alternatives - and that's what we're doing at the moment, actually.

"We hope to make a decision, or at least recommend a decision to the Oireachtas and to the Government by Easter".

"When I think about what the country's going to look like in 20 years time, or even 10 years time, it's going to be home working.

"People working for multinationals - like Microsoft or Google and Apple - but not in their headquarters, in Clane, in Buttevant.

"Apple do a lot of this already in fact, but that's really going to explode in the next couple of years".

"My view is that if we don't make broadband available to all parts of the country... then we're going to leave hundreds of thousands of people behind.

"It'd be almost like not doing rural electrification - so I'm a big supporter of this, but we do need to get it right".

"We actually have looked at Plans B, C and D - and that work is not complete yet".

On the spiralling costs at the national children's hospital project, Mr Varadkar said: "We have to learn from the mistakes that were made there, and I take responsibility for those mistakes as head of Government".

"It's scandalous that the Government - or rather the Government's agents - got the estimate of the cost of this project so wrong".

"Our agent certainly made some big mistakes in calculating what this project was going to cost.

"However it is important to say that this isn't taxpayer's money wasted - the money isn't even spent in fact".

"But there's one thing I'm absolutely sure of, and we should never forget this: we shouldn't ever forget the value of this project.

"This is going to transform paediatric healthcare in Ireland".

"When this is commissioned in 2023, nobody will be sorry that we made this investment - a little bit like the new terminal at Dublin Airport.

"It's going to be a bad news story until the day it opens and everyone after that will wonder why we didn't build it quicker".

Referring the national broadband plan, he added: "Before we sign the dotted line on this very expensive project, we need to make sure that we're making the right decision."

Varadkar: Hundreds of millions of euro would be needed in no-deal Brexit scenario

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Brexit Hard Brexit Leo Varadkar National Broadband Plan Newstalk Breakfast Religious Symbols

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