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Leo Varadkar’s final event as Taoiseach will be in Northern Ireland next week



Mr Varadkar will attend a meeting of the North-South Ministerial Council in Armagh in exactly a week’s time. He has also hailed today, Easter Monday, as marking the 75th Anniversary of the declaration of the Republic of Ireland.

The NSMC is a body created under the Good Friday Agreement to foster better relations between the two parts of the island.

Yet this will be the first meeting of the body in nearly three years after Jeffrey Donaldson of the DUP made the decision to collapse the Northern institutions in protest at a protocol dealing with the UK’s exit from the European Union.

That party, as part of its deal to enable the resumption of Stormont, has meanwhile achieved the creation of a separate East-West Council between Northern Ireland and the island known as Great Britain. The EWC had its first meeting last week.

The resumption of the North-South Ministerial Council takes in Armagh on Monday, 8 April — after the Government announced in February a commitment to spend €800 million in the North.

The Government will have put in €1 billion up to the end of this decade to support projects large and small, which are focused on bringing people together. They include the long-awaited upgrade to the A5 road, which connects Donegal to Dublin.

There will also be health and community initiatives, and investment in a bridge at Narrow Water, outside Warrenpoint, to link counties Down and Louth.

The Republic will also largely build Casement Park in West Belfast. The GAA venue needs total reconstruction to support the joint British and Irish hosting of the 2028 European Championships. Five international soccer matches will be played there, comparable to the six to be seen in the Aviva.

All Cabinet members are expected to attend the NSMC event, even though Simon Harris takes over as Head of Government the next day.

There will be a joint press conference at its conclusion featuring Mr Varadkar, First Minister Michelle O’Neill and Deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly, expected to feature tributes to the departing Taoiseach.

A report on economic and financial matters involving both jurisdictions is expected, including how north-south cooperation can be enhanced.

A number decisions on the governance of the North South Implementation Bodies will also be made. These include appointments to fill current vacancies on their boards, and to formally approve the appointment of interim CEOs.

The Council will also be invited to request relevant Ministers, North and South, to take forward commitments made in another Northern Ireland political deal called New Decade New Approach.

A Government spokesman denied the funding from the South was a requirement for restoration, but said the significant contribution “forms a backdrop” to the Armagh meeting.

A series of NSMC Ministerial-level meetings are then expected ‘as a matter of priority’ between members of the Government and their Northern counterparts.

The Taoiseach was last in the North when he visited Belfast on 5 February for first meeting of the new Northern Ireland Executive. He had a meeting with First Minister O’Neill and deputy First Minister Little-Pengelly.

Both then confirmed their commitment to the restoration of the NSMC and emphasised that good communication between Ministers and Departments North and South was essential to successful cooperation.

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