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Varadkar responds to Kate O'Connell's comments wishing her the best 'in the rest of her life'

O’Connell described Varadkar’s decision to stand down as the “end of a dark enough chapter in my life”.

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has responded to comments made by former Dublin Bay South TD Kate O’Connell who described his decision to stand down as the “end of a dark enough chapter in my life”.

O’Connell told The Journal that Varadkar was a “barrier to re-entry” into Fine Gael.

When asked about the former TD’s comments, the Taoiseach said:

I wish only the best to Kate O’Connell in the rest of her life.

O’Connell said she was “surprised” when she heard Varadkar was departing as Taoiseach, but felt that ”there was an opportunity there”.

It is no secret that there is no love lost between O’Connell and Varadkar over the years. 

During the Fine Gael leadership contest in 2017, she sparked controversy when she described Varadkar’s backers as “choirboys” who were “singing for their supper”.

O’Connell had supported Minister Simon Coveney in the race. O’Connell, who is a pharmacist, lost her seat in 2020.

She was not supported by the Fine Gael national executive for a Seanad seat after losing her seat as a TD. She was also not selected to run in the Dublin-Bay South by-election when Eoghan Murphy stepped down.

257Fine Gael Ard Fheis_90702790 Fine Gael leader Simon Harris hugs Katie O'Connell at the start of the FG Ard Fheis. Sasko Lazarov Sasko Lazarov

O’Connell has indicated that she is open to running again in the next general election, but said it is a decision for the next Taoiseach as to whether she is added to the ticket.

Cllr James Geoghegan, who unsuccessfully ran in the byelection to succeed Murphy in 2021, has been selected to contest the general election in Dublin Bay South, where Fine Gael currently has no TD.

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe defended Varadkar’s leadership over the weekend when O’Connell’s comments about it being a “dark chapter” were put to him.

He said that Fine Gael’s history under the Taoiseach “will be a chapter in which we’ll be able to make a case for the work of Leo leading our country through a pandemic, leading our country through Brexit, leading our country through the economic effects of a war and a surge in migration”.

He said Varadkar’s leadership as “a really bright phase in Fine Gael and a period in which Leo played a leadership role that befits the office of the Taoiseach in responding to some of the greatest challenges Ireland has ever faced”.

Today marks the final day for Varadkar as Taoiseach as he plans to travel to Áras an Uachtaráin this evening to tender his resignation.

When asked if he was pleased with the reception he received the Fine Gael Ard Fheis and whether it makes him feel better about his choice to step down or question it, Varadkar said:

“I made my decision and it’s made now. But you know, I’m not I’m not leaving Fine Gael. I’m very committed to the party. It’s my second family. 

“If anything over the next two months, I’ll be out and about with candidates really frequently in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to do if I was spending half my time in Brussels or in the Dáil chamber.”