The Strategist

Republic of Ireland to support rapprochement with Northern Ireland

01/15/2020 - 09:28

On Tuesday, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar announced the date of early parliamentary elections: they will be held on February 8. The elections will largely become a vote of confidence in government policy. Among other things, the event aims to bring the two parts of Ireland closer together. An important step in this direction was taken last week: on January 11, the Parliament of Northern Ireland, which had not been functioning for three years, resumed its work. Leaders of this part of the UK emphasize that political stability paves the way for new trade agreements with Ireland, which is especially important against the backdrop of uncertainty over the upcoming Brexit.

The general election in the Republic of Ireland was supposed to take place as early as 2019, when the date of the agreement on mutual support between the main Irish parties - the ruling Fine Gael and the opposition Fianna Fáil - expired. Meanwhile, due to Brexit, the elections had to be postponed. As a result, the government pact was extended for another year.

The new election date has become one of the main domestic political intrigues in the republic. Last fall, the Irish media circulated assumptions that the elections would be held in May or summer of 2020. The fact that such options were considered was confirmed on January 12 by Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar. “For a long time I was a supporter of the elections in the summer of 2020, but now I admit that the situation has changed,” he said on the national television channel RTE.

On the one hand, the decision to hold early elections as early as possible contributed to the collapse of the government coalition. The domestic political crisis became apparent when in December 2019, parliamentarians from the opposition refused to support the initiatives of the ruling party. On the other hand, amid the crisis in the healthcare system, voter support for Leo Varadkar's party began to decline. In October 2019, Fine Gael held the lead. However, by the end of December, according to a poll conducted by Behavior and Attitudes and the Sunday Times newspaper, were equally popular (their rating is 27%).

Mr. Varadkar’s efforts to resolve two political crises in the neighboring United Kingdom can influence the rating among voters. Firstly, it is a UK deal with the EU and the adoption of the Brexit bill. Recall that the adoption of the final version of the transaction will avoid border controls between Ireland and Northern Ireland, thereby ensuring preservation of a single market. Secondly, Leo Varadkar resolved the political situation inside Northern Ireland. On January 12, Mr. Varadkar made it clear that it was precisely these successes that the ruling party was planning to bet on: “We have reached the Brexit deal, and this is a great success, we have restored the activity of the local administration in Northern Ireland.”