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Dublin: 13 °C Thursday 27 June, 2019
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Hello and welcome to today’s Leaders’ Questions liveblog.

Leo Varadkar is filling in for Taoiseach Enda Kenny this afternoon.

Follow all the updates here…

First up is Fianna Fáil’s Robert Troy, who brings up Brexit.

He wants to know what the Government is doing to protect businesses from the “detrimental” effect of the vote and asks if a fund will be set up to help “shield” companies, particularly those who are dependent on exports.

r troy

Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar replies by saying the Government recognises the potential threat to businesses and farmers, and is planning ahead.

He says Enda Kenny will travel to Northern Ireland to discuss Brexit on 3 November.

He adds that an all-Ireland civic forum to discuss the implications of Brexit, especially for border counties, will be set up.

leo

Sinn Féin’s deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald has the floor now, bringing up the “outrageous” salaries of TDs and ministers.

She asks Varadkar if he will give a commitment that the Government will “act properly and legislate to stop unfair pay increases for political representatives”, while people on social welfare struggle to get by.

mary

Varadkar responds by saying TDs have had no pay increase since 2008.

He says they will receive partial restoration of some of the pay cut from their salaries during the recession.

He notes that ministers’ pay was cut by 35% and has not been restored, the Taoiseach’s salary has been cut by 40% and not restored, while junior ministers’ salaries were cut by 25% and not restored.

Varadkar goes on to criticise Sinn Féin’s approach to welfare in Northern Ireland, where social welfare payments are less than in the Republic.

“Sinn Féin is terrified of the facts and really hate the truth being told in this chamber,” he says.

McDonald is not impressed, shaking her head.

lowry

Independent TD Michael Lowry moves things on to a new topic, bringing up parking and accommodation issues in Templemore as more garda recruits attend the training college in Co Tipperary.

In reply, Varadkar mentions the increased investment in Garda resources, saying, as an example, more than 500 new vehicles will be bought this year, compared to 50 new vehicles in 2010.

He notes that 800 new gardaí are to be recruited in 2017, and the Government is committed to reaching its target of 15,000 gardaí by 2021.

He says an OPW programme of works to improve accommodation at Templemore is “well advanced”, and gardaí and the OPW are analysing the need for additional facilities.

Lowry brings up Templemore Golf Club, saying he hopes the approach to expanding and developing the training facilities at Templemore don’t encroach on the club, which has 300 members and is “used extensively” by members of the community.

Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl then jokes, “Maybe you might invite the minister to play a round?”

Varadkar says he’ll raise Lowry’s concerns with Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald.

Moving on, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan brings up paternity leave and support for families.

He asks Varadkar if he would do anything differently to the current approach if he was in Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone’s place.

eamon

Varadkar says the Government has brought in subsidies to the cost of childcare and introduced a second year of free pre-school, saving parents, on average, €4,000 per child per year.

He adds that the uptake of paid paternity leave has been “really encouraging”.

Ryan isn’t impressed, telling Varadkar: “You gave me no answer as to what you would fundamentally do differently.”

He claims the Government’s approach “absolutely discriminates at scale” against parents who stay at home.

And that’s a wrap for Leaders’ Questions today. You can tune in to the rest of the Dáil’s proceedings here.

Join us again next week.

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Órla Ryan

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