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Varadkar in quotes: From not trusting Fianna Fáil to paying jobless immigrants to leave

The new Taoiseach has had plenty to say on a range of issues in his 10 years as a TD.
Jun 15th 2017, 6:10 AM 24,553 14

GIF Varadkar accepting congratulations after his election as Taoiseach. Source:

LEO VARADKAR WAS elected as Taoiseach in the Dáil yesterday, taking over a Fine Gael minority government after the departure of Enda Kenny.

Amazingly, it was ten years to the day between when Varadkar entered the Dáil for the first time and when he was elected Taoiseach yesterday.

In that time, the Dublin West TD has rarely been shy about speaking his mind and has said many things on issues he will now have to approach as Taoiseach.

So here’s a collection of some of what he has said over the years on a range of issues that are likely to come up again.

On abortion


In an interview with as Health Minister in December 2014, Varadkar accepted that women’s lives are put at risk by Ireland’s abortion laws.

The truth is, it is impossible to legislate to end all human tragedies associated with pregnancy. Countries like Ireland with very conservative abortion laws potentially put the lives of women at risk because of our laws but then countries with very liberal laws, Britain for example, not only do they end the life of the unborn, they also put women at risk because women can die as a result of terminations, be injured as a result of them or even lose their fertility.

04/10/2015 HSE Seasonal Flu jab campa Varadkar during his time as Minister for Health. Source: LeonFarrell/

Later that same week, Varadkar went further and made a high-profile speech to the Dáil in which he outlined more of his personal views on the issue of abortion.

The speech was particularly noteworthy at the time because of Varadkar’s position and also because of what he said. During the course of his speech he described himself as ‘pro-life’ and also said that the Eighth Amendment was “too restrictive”.

Speaking today as Minister for Health, and also as a medical doctor, and knowing now all that I do now, it is my considered view that the eighth amendment is too restrictive. While it protects the right to life of the mother, it has no regard for her long-term health. I consider myself to be pro-life in that I accept that the unborn child is a human life with rights. I cannot, therefore, accept the view that it is a simple matter of choice. There are two lives involved in any pregnancy. For that reason, like most people in the country, I do not support abortion on request or on demand.

Garda Whistleblower Story Varadkar was appointed to Fine Gael's front bench in 2010. Source: Leon Farrell/

Speaking to Hot Press magazine four years earlier in 2010, Varadkar was asked straight-out whether he felt abortion should be legalised in Ireland. “I do not,” was his blunt answer.

He was also asked about the thousands of Irish women who travel abroad to have a termination:

I don’t think you can stop people travelling overseas. There are other things that are legal in other countries, and we don’t say to Irish people that you are a criminal for going overseas and doing things that are legal there. You have to allow people their personal freedom in that regard.

In recent years, Varadkar was criticised for refusing to answer questions about abortion in an interview with the Sunday Independent ahead of the general election in February 2016.

In the interview, he said he didn’t believe abortion was a class issue and added that he felt the right to life should be enshrined in the constitution.

It would be weird to me if the right to property was there [in the Constitution] and not the right to be alive.

On immigration

6109 Leo Varadkar Policy Document_90512574 Varadkar during Fine Gael leadership hustings in Dublin last month. Source: Leah Farrell/

In September 2008, Varadkar raised a few eyebrows by suggesting that unemployed foreign nationals on the Live Register be offered six months of benefits if they left the country.

Would there be a case for making an offer to foreign nationals on the live register to receive up to six months of benefits if they agree to repatriate to their country of origin and forego benefits? Would it not make sense economically to give them that option? It would not be forced on them but would just be an option.

On a reunited Ireland

Speaking at the Arthur Griffith commemoration in Glasnevin cemetery, Varadkar said that he thinks a united Ireland will happen.

I share the vision of An Taoiseach that foresees a united Ireland at some point in the future, and I share his belief in how it should be achieved.

In his policy paper published as he ran for the leadership of Fine Gael, Varadkar said the country must prepare itself for that possibility.

We need to prepare for the possibility that a United Ireland or shared sovereignty will occur in our lifetime. However, before we have territorial unity, we must have unity among people. Real lasting workable unity can only come about with support from both communities.

90410419_90410419 Varadkar's supporters celebrating his re-election last year. Source:

On industrial relations 

Again while running for the leadership of this party, Varadkar defended his proposal to ban ‘essential’ public workers from going on strike.

If a dispute is long and protracted, and if it goes to the Labour Court – bear in mind that the union and employer have to agree that it goes to the Labour Court – that should be the end of it.

On working with Fianna Fáil

In Fine Gael’s negotiations with Fianna Fáil that resulted in the confidence and supply arrangement last year, Varadkar is said to have been less enthusiastic about thrashing out a deal than many of his colleagues.

In the election that came before those talks, Varadkar spoke openly about his distrust of Fianna Fáil.

It’s not about the civil war, the civil war is over a long time and I don’t particularly come from a traditional Fine Gael background. It’s a mistake to think it’s still about the civil war because it’s actually about trust and we just don’t trust them (Fianna Fáil).

Read: Writers and artists will now find it a lot easier to get social welfare >

Opinion: ‘We need to be cautious about celebrating Varadkar’s political success’ >

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Rónán Duffy


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