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'We don't make unpopular decisions just for the craic' - Leo

Speaking about his ambitions, Varadkar said he has a vision for the party and the country.

MINISTER FOR SOCIAL Protection Leo Varadkar has said the government does not make “unpopular” decisions for the sake of it or “because we think it is great craic”.

Speaking at a careers fair in Dublin today, Varadkar said being in government means making tough and sometimes unpopular decisions.

Fine Gael ministers and his independent colleagues in government understand that, he said.

I don’t think they [the independents] need to accept that. I think they already do, as we do, that government have to make unpopular decisions, because they are the right decisions to make.
We don’t make unpopular decisions for the sake of it, or because we think it’s great craic. We make unpopular decisions because they are the right things to do in the long-term.

Irish general election Taoiseach Enda Kenny and the Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar. Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images

Ahead of the Fine Gael parliamentary party think-in next week, reporters also asked Varadkar about his ambitions to be party leader.

He responded:

I can only give the same answer I always give you – there is no vacancy and if and when a vacancy arises I will make that decision.

However, when pressed on the issue, he spoke candidly about his “vision” for the future.

There is no vacancy at the moment. If and when a vacancy arises, or rather when a vacancy arises, I will assess my position at that point.
I have a particular vision as to what I would like to do with the party and where I think the country should go and I would have to see at that point in time whether there is sufficient support for that – but now is not the time for that. My focus now is my job in Social Protection…

Lack of unity 

The current Cabinet has been criticised for their lack of unity on issues such as the Apple tax appeal and, leading up to the summer break, the proposed abortion legislation.

31/8/2016. Special Cabinet Meetings Over Apple Debates Independent Alliance Ministers Finian McGrath and Shane Ross. Source: Eamonn Farrell

Varadkar acknowledged those issues today, but said the difficulties faced in those situations only “helped us to learn”.

He said overcoming such problems made him confident the upcoming Budget will be passed by Cabinet.

I think we will get the Budget through. You know, this coalition has been a learning curve for everyone, not just for independent ministers, but also for Fine Gael.
We are very much dealing with independents in government for the first time in a very long time and in addition to that, the fact [that] we have a minority situation in the Dáil…

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Speaking about last week’s split in Cabinet in relation to the Apple tax appeal, he denied it was proof that ministers were at loggerheads.

It was a delay of a couple of days… I don’t think it was necessarily a bad thing.

The minister said the delay allowed ministers to reflect on their decision.

In the end, the decision to appeal the European Commission’s ruling on Apple’s tax in Ireland was fully backed by all Cabinet members. That motion to appeal is due to be debated in the Dáil tomorrow.

Budget talk

With Budget talks expected to take up a lot of attention over the next couple of weeks, Varadkar was quick to acknowledge the importance of his independent Cabinet colleagues.

As Fine Gael ministers, we need to understand too that the independent side are part of the government and they need to be consulted on key decisions. We certainly can’t take them or the Dáil for granted.

Read: What next for the Social Democrats?>

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