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Dublin: 9 °C Wednesday 21 March, 2018


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IT’S THE morning after the day before and Leo Varadkar was back taking Leaders’ Questions.

Ireland was on a brink of an election yesterday, until the Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald stepped aside.

The Taoiseach was today asked about a GSOC investigation, garda overtime, homelessness and Brexit.

Ireland has avoided an election – and it’s back to business as usual in the Dáil today.

Micheál Martin is raising the issue of the ban on overtime in the gardaí.

The Taoiseach says he is also very concerned about it – stating that traffic is very busy and there tends to be a spike in burglaries.

He wants to reassure the House that there is funding for the month of December. He says there will be a supplementary estimate for the gardaí.

The Taoiseach says any overtime that is done in December will come out of the 2018 budget and he says he would have assumed the gardaí knew this.

Martin says there needs to be a better explanation as to how an assistant commissioner could make this call and introduce this ban.

Varadkar says it is important to reassure the public that there will be sufficient policing for the month of December and says there will be 200 new gardaí qualified soon.

He says that garda management need to be responsible in managing their budget in such a way so the funds don’t run out.

He says the supplementary budget being passed tomorrow will cover the overtime up to November. The December overtime will be covered in the €100 million 2018 budget.

Gerry Adams says he is very disappointed in how Varadkar handled the debacle in the justice department, stating that he is following in Enda Kenny’s footsteps.

Adams says he has written to Kenny four times, and former minister Fitzgerald eight times, and he has sent letters to Varadkar also about the case of Adrian Crevan Mackin.

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He says he is just being told there is an ongoing investigation.

Varadkar says he won’t follow in Sinn Féin’s footsteps where people are executed without trial.

He says allegations need to be taken seriously before we rush to judgement.

The Taoiseach says GSOC is responsible for dealing with issues like this.

He says he will not supercede the investigation being carried out by GSOC. “We are still awaiting the report,” he adds.

He says the Dáil needs to allow it to do its work.

Forget about me and taking a pot shot at Sinn Féin, says Adams. He asks if he has read the file he sent to the Taoiseach. “Yeah, yeah,” says Varadkar.

Varadkar says the Minister for Justice is happy to meet Adams about the case.

Howlin says the Taoiseach will need to “stand firm and not blink”.

He says he wants other parties to be briefed ahead of the important EU Council meeting in mid December.

Howlin wants to know if the Taoiseach will use his veto if he is not satisfied and halt the Brexit talks to move to phase two.

“We are not at the decision point at the moment,” he says, adding that the situation is “rapidly evolving”.

“It is not the case that the financial package is agreed,” he adds.

“Progress is being made,” says the Taoiseach, but he adds it is sufficient at this stage.

There will be no need to use or threaten a veto as we have support of other EU leaders, adds Varadkar.

He says he will brief the other party leaders on the progress being made and there will be a debate on the issue next week ahead of the important Brexit meeting.

The Taoiseach is now being asked about homelessness and Threshold’s recent report which said it had over 70,000 calls last year.

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The Taoiseach says he is “deeply saddened” to hear the news of homeless deaths. He offered his condolences to their families.

He says they progress is being made on the issue.

Joan Collins says there needs to be affordable homes built.

Varadkar says it doesn’t need to be an either or situation, stating that the Housing Assistance Payment is working for many people.

He says he doesn’t want to go back to the time of huge housing estates, as he says they can foster anti-social beahaviour.

Simon Coveney steps up to say that the leaking of a private department Brexit document should not have happened. He says an investigation within the department is taking place as to how this happened and this has been conveyed to the UK government.

That’s it for Leaders’ Questions today. Leo Varadkar managed to escape relatively unscathed today.

As one TD privately said today – “time will allow it all to move on.”


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