Priest gives Irish PM holy water ahead of Brexit talks with Boris Johnson

The Irish prime minister was on holy ground – not far from the national shrine, the site of a reported apparition.

He had just reopened the refurbished runway at Ireland West Airport when a Catholic priest jokingly handed him a bottle of holy water.

Father Richard Gibbons said: “Taoiseach, I know that you’re going to New York next week and meeting Boris Johnson, a small little bit of added protection.”

Leo Varadkar asked: “Do I throw it over him?”

It was an off-the-cuff, light-hearted remark but may provide the most accurate analysis of the current state of negotiations: in need of divine intervention.

On Thursday, the European Commission confirmed receipt of “a series of confidential technical non-papers which reflect the ideas the UK has been putting forward.”

Later that day, during an interview with Sophy Ridge to be broadcast in full on Sky News on Sunday, commission president Jean-Claude Juncker suggested a deal could be reached by 31 October.

On Friday evening, Irish state broadcaster RTE reported that the UK had proposed “a selective approach to an all-Ireland agri-food zone, which would only have sporadic alignment with EU rules north and south.”

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The network’s highly respected Europe editor Tony Connolly quoted an EU official as saying: “What they’re putting forward doesn’t even meet any of the three objectives in the backstop.”

Asked about Mr Juncker’s apparent optimism, Leo Varadkar said his government was “absolutely open” to any proposals from the British government that would achieve everything the backstop achieved.

“We haven’t seen any proposals like that yet,” he told Sky News.

But his answer to a question about the exchange of holy water may have been more telling than any of this week’s official statements or unofficial commentary.

“I do believe in miracles,” he said, “I’m not sure we’ll have one when it comes to Brexit.”

2019-09-21T21:43:09+01:00By |

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