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La francophonie

Why Ireland wants to join the Francophonie (The Irish Times)

Last Updated: 23 Mar 2018

The Irish Times Sat, Dec 2, 2017, 05:00 by Ruadhán Mac Cormaic - Photograph: Aurore Belot/AFP/Getty Images

Brexit has shone an unflattering light on Dublin’s relationship-building skills

One of the collateral casualties of Ireland’s political drama this week was a planned trip by Leo Varadkar to west Africa. On the face of it, cancelling a visit to a part of the world where Ireland has relatively few interests and virtually no diplomatic footprint came at little cost. But the fact that the trip had been scheduled at all was telling.

The Taoiseach was due to go to Mali to visit members of the Defence Forces attached to the European Union training mission there before travelling on to Côte d’Ivoire for the EU-African Union summit in the capital, Abidjan. There were good reasons for going. First, the summit offered Varadkar an opportunity to meet EU leaders at a delicate moment in the Brexit negotiations, with a decision imminent on whether talks on the Border have made sufficient progress to allow the UK’s divorce process to move to the next stage. Second, Irish officials had lined up bilateral meetings with a number of African leaders – a useful opportunity to press the flesh, reflect on tenuous historical links and then get to the point by asking them to vote for Ireland for a seat on the United Nations Security Council in 2020.