France, the UK and the US are all “arguably” colonial powers, Ireland’s Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has claimed.
The Irish leader made the comment during a leaked conversation with Russian comedians Vovan and Lexus, noted for their prank telephone calls to prominent individuals, often senior Western names.
During their call with Varadkar, the pair attempted to conflate Russia’s territorial claim on parts of Ukraine with Ireland’s historic claim to Northern Ireland.
That was largely rejected by Varadkar, who stated that the situation North of the Irish border had to be dealt with through politics, not firearms.
Upon further questioning by the pranksters, the he did appear to target Western allies, comparing the actions of France, America and Britain to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Stating that he believed “all nations have the right … to choose their own government”, he insisted it would be “absolutely right” to say that France, the UK and US “have been colonial powers”.
“And arguably still are,” he added.
He did emphasise that the actions of those countries could not be used to justify Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine.
“What my mother used to say to me is, ‘two wrongs don’t make a right’,” Varadkar said.
“So just because the British Empire, or the French Empire, or Napoleon, or Hitler did things that were wrong, it doesn’t make it okay for [Russian President Vladimir] Putin to do things that are wrong, or for Russia to do so.”
Responding to a request for comment, Ireland’s Department of the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) refused to answer questions regarding Varadkar’s statements.
It said Irish officials had initially believed the call was being made by an African Union official but officials had become suspicious during the “virtual” meeting.
The department also claimed part of the audio had been doctored, with the Russian-sounding voices of the jokers being edited in later by the pair.
The Irish officials did not suggest any statements made by Varadkar had been edited.
US tech billionaire Elon Musk’s X social media platform has accused Ireland’s justice minister Helen McEntee of making “inaccurate” statements in the Irish Parliament regarding recent online censorship requests. https://t.co/RMAz7WFUYD
— Brussels Signal (@brusselssignal) December 5, 2023
Another issue raised during the conversation was that of Ukraine’s accession to the European Union, with Varadkar expressing doubt as to whether the country would be able to join the bloc anytime soon.
“We’ve accepted them as candidates to join the EU, but those talks tend to take a long time,” he said.
He added that Ukraine would have to meet “certain standards” in terms of democracy, economy and rule-of-law before being allowed to join, warning that the process could take “decades” to complete.
“You know, it took Ireland 15 or 20 years to join from the time we began discussions,” he told the pranksters. “Similar for Poland and the countries of central Europe.”
“So I think them [Ukraine] joining soon is not very likely.”
Varadkar’s comments stand in contrast to those made publicly by some other European leaders.
European Council President Charles Michel claimed the country could join before the end of 2030.
“I believe we must be ready – on both sides – by 2030 to enlarge,” he said in August, although he admitted the process would be “difficult”.
After telling a local radio station in Ireland that 70 per cent of the country's laws come from Brussels, @SeanKellyMEP tells us he believes there is an adequate "balance between national sovereignty and mechanisms for collective action via EU law". https://t.co/2TgEQYRxVe
— Brussels Signal (@brusselssignal) December 12, 2023