I regret calling Varadkar a 'nutcase', says Sammy Wilson


A Democratic Unionist MP has rolled back on controversial comments in which he branded the Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar a "nutcase".

East Antrim representative Sammy Wilson has expressed regret for his choice of language when referencing the Irish premier's stance on Brexit.

He said: "Leo Varadkar's approach may make him popular in Brussels but it will eventually destroy Ireland.

"Upon reflection, I should have said Leo Varadkar's EU policies defy logic rather than the language I used. I regret my choice of language."

Mr Wilson, a veteran politician well known for being outspoken, also branded the Irish premier arrogant, naive and inexperienced during an interview with website Politico.

He said there had been a change of tone since Mr Varadkar took office last June and criticised the Taoiseach for siding with EU negotiators.

In an address to the European Parliament on Wednesday,  Mr Varadkar said the UK could not "backslide" on commitments made on the Irish border.

"It was always our view at the very start of this process that the biggest ally we would have when it came to negotiating with the European Union was Dublin, and indeed that always was the impression we got when Enda Kenny (the former Irish prime minister) was in power, but since this nutcase Varadkar has taken over that things have all changed," Mr Wilson said.

Leo Varadkar was criticised for his stance on Brexiit (Niall Carson/PA)
Leo Varadkar was criticised for his stance on Brexit (Niall Carson/PA)

Tanaiste Simon Coveney was asked for his reaction to Mr Wilson's remark during the announcement of fresh powersharing talks at Stormont.

While Mr Coveney declined to be drawn on the specific "nutcase" comment he did stress the need for a constructive relationship between his government and the DUP.

"I have been quoted publicly that we need to have a good working relationship with the DUP," he said.

"As an Irish government we need to have a good relationship with the largest political party in Northern Ireland.

"We need to respect the difference of views on many things but also we need to work in a pragmatic way to improve people's lives on the island of Ireland as a whole and I think we have shown in the past that we can do that.

Simon Coveney said different views needed to be respected (Brian Lawless/PA)
Simon Coveney said different views needed to be respected (Brian Lawless/PA)

"In many areas of practical co-operation, in terms of north south cooperation, I have heard (DUP leader) Arlene Foster make very constructive comments in relation to looking for practical solutions to some of the challenges that the island of Ireland, indeed Ireland and Britain, face.

"So our focus is on trying to be constructive and I look forward to having the opportunity to have a bilateral discussion with the DUP next week."

Meanwhile, Simon Hamilton, a former Stormont Economy Minister and DUP colleague of Mr Wilson said: "Sammy is never shy about telling you what he thinks.

"On this occasion he used language which he accepts was wrong and he regrets the language that was used and I think he has already expressed publicly his regret at using the language that he did.

"We look forward to engaging with the Irish government as part of these talks on issues that are pertinent and relevant to Irish government."