THE Taoiseach has confirmed the Irish government is prepared to step in if the devolved government in Northern Ireland is not restored by the autumn.
Leo Varadkar was in the North yesterday for a series of engagements, which included meetings with the main political parties.
The Northern Ireland Executive has been out of action for 18months now, since the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) refused to take its seat in the power-sharing government until its dmeands on Brexit regulations affecting the region were met.
The Stormont stalemate has continued ever since.
Speaking after separate meetings with Sinn Féin leader Michelle O’Neill, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, Alliance Party leader Naomi Long, UUP leader Doug Beattie and the SDLP MLA Matthew O’Toole, the Taosieach claimed the discussions were “productive”.
Later in the day he visited Northern Ireland's national football stadium, Windsor Park, where he met representatives of Linfield Football Club.
During that engagement, he told reporters that he did believe there “was an opportunity” to get power-sharing restored for the autumn period.
“Plan A is to make it work, and I believe it can work,” he said.
“Having met the parties this morning I’m firmly of the view that there is a realistic possibility of having the assembly, the executive, up and running, functioning,” he added, “and on a sustained basis because if they are re-established you want to make sure they last, that the financial package is adequate and that there are sustainability measures in place.
“I think that is a real possibility in the autumn period and we want to do anything we possibly can to assist that. That’s our intention.”
However, he added that should the government fail to be restored at Stormont in the coming months, the Irish government would be prepared to step in.
“If it’s the case that autumn passes and we head into the winter and we are still in a state of drift, well that’s, I think, the point at which the British and Irish governments need to sit down, agree a common strategy, work out what we can do,” he confirmed.