Article published in The Daily Telegraph, 14 December 2023. © Richard Kemp
Speaking in the Dail yesterday, Leo Varadkar confirmed Father Christmas has been given permission to enter Irish air space from December 24 to 25 this year. Perhaps he thinks that will make amends for past misdemeanours, including his admission of pulling Santa’s beard off in a supermarket when he was five.
Although Varadkar thanked the Irish Department of Agriculture and Revenue Commissioners for allowing the necessary exemptions, if we assume the toy-laden sleigh will first touch down in Britain and Northern Ireland before flying on to the Republic, how can this be made to square with the Windsor Framework? In any case, the North Pole is not in the European Union, so the sweetmeats on board will presumably have to be labelled ‘not for EU’. I am sure we will not be witnessing any double standards from the Irish capital.
Even more seriously, I hope Varadkar has been coordinating the arrival of Santa with the RAF. After all, without an air force, Ireland is unable to monitor its own skies, far less police them. Under a once-secret defence pact between our countries that has been in place since the 1950s, the job of defending Ireland falls on the UK. British jets frequently have to get airborne to intercept Russian planes entering Irish airspace. The last thing we need is for the RAF to have to scramble on Christmas Eve to deal with an unidentified flying object over Dublin.
Our aerial assistance comes without any price tag despite Ireland being the second richest country in the EU by GDP per capita. Perhaps as a Christmas goodwill gesture, Varadkar could offer at least some reimbursement for the services of the boys in blue. But maybe that’s expecting too much from such a Scrooge-like figure, who once famously pronounced A Christmas Carol to be his least favourite seasonal movie, saying that Tiny Tim ‘should get a job’.