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Friday 29 September 2023 Dublin: 11°C
Sam Boal
# keynote speech
Varadkar praises Martin for 'common sense' leadership as Taoiseach
Leo Varadkar is due to become Taoiseach on Saturday 17 December.

TÁNAISTE LEO VARADKAR has paid tribute to Taoiseach Micheál Martin, saying that he lead the country through the pandemic and the war in Ukraine with “common sense” and “decency”.

Addressing the Fine Gael Ard Fheis at the Technological University of the Shannon in Athlone this evening, Varadkar acknowledged that Martin had lead the country well during his two and a half years as Taoiseach.

He thanked him for his work during his keynote speech.

“We’ve shown that we can work with the Green Party, the Labour Party, with Independents, and even with our historic opponents, Fianna Fáil. We can make a coalition work and we can make it last,” Varadkar said.

“Let’s acknowledge tonight that our Taoiseach Micheál Martin has been a good one. Through difficult circumstances, including the later stages of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, he has been a voice for decency, kindness and for common sense. We thank him,” Varadkar said.

Varadkar himself is due to become Taoiseach on 17 December, with a wider Cabinet reshuffle expected alongside the rotation.

492Fine Gael Ard Fheis Tánaiste and Leader of Fine Gael Leo Varadkar on his way to giving his main speech to delegates at the Fine Gael Ard Fheis in Athlone

It’s also expected that Fianna Fáil’s Michael McGrath will become Finance Minister, while Paschal Donohoe will be rotated into the Department of Public Expenditure.

While Varadkar praised his coalition partners, he was critical of the opposition and particularly of Sinn Féin, calling them “ultra-nationalist”, “populist” and radical left”.

“Fine Gael’s tradition and policies are different to those of Fianna Fáil. But our parties have the maturity to find agreement, to build a consensus with our colleagues in the Green Party and to work together in the service of our country.

“But we can’t work with everyone, and anyone.

“Coming into this campus today, someone asked me would I ever consider going into coalition with Sinn Féin?

“I gave them a clear and unambiguous answer from all of us – No, no way, not a chance.”

He labelled the next General Election as the “most important in a generation” and that Sinn Féin needed to be stopped.

The speech, which was delivered at the first in-person Fine Gael Ard Fheis since before the pandemic, also touched on Ireland’s support for Ukraine.

“The unprovoked war has brought terrible death and devastation to Ukraine, and our response has been unambiguous,” Varadkar said.

“We stand with Ukraine.”

He also spoke about ongoing issues with anti-social behaviour, saying that “far too many” people feel unsafe on the street and in their homes.

“Tonight… we are sending a message to the criminal underworld.

“We will do whatever is necessary to protect our homes and our communities and we will take the fight to you head on.”

The speech, which was broadcast live on RTÉ, comes at the end of the one-day Ard Fheis where delegates rejected motions around providing anti-tank missiles to Ukraine and approved calls for the Government to remove the triple-lock for military missions.

Justice Minister Helen McEntee welcomed Varadkar to the stage in Athlone, saying he is set to “again lead our country with determination and vision”.

Tadgh McNally will be following all the latest events at the Fine Gael Ard Fheis in Athlone. Get all the updates by following @TadghMcN and @thejournal_ie on Twitter.

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