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that's the joke

'I'm happy to clarify': Varadkar says he was just joking about Trump and Doonbeg

Varadkar came under fire from opposition politicians yesterday after he told a story about Trump contacting him in 2014.

AN TAOISEACH LEO Varadkar has said he was just making a joke when he talked about intervening in a planning application for US president Donald Trump.

“It was all entirely within procedure, all entirely above board,” Varadkar said.

“I’m happy to clarify that.”

Varadkar was speaking this evening in New York City at the turning of the sod of a new Irish arts centre.

Varadkar came under fire from opposition politicians yesterday after he told a story about Trump contacting him in 2014 in relation to a matter concerning Trump’s golf course and hotel at Doonbeg in Co Clare.

Speaking at a luncheon in Washington D.C. yesterday, Varadkar said that he inquired about the planning permission for a proposed wind farm after he received a call from then-businessman Trump.

Varadkar was Tourism Minister at the time.

In his comments yesterday evening, Varadkar said that he made contact with the council about the plan.

“So I endeavoured to do what I could do about it. I rang [Clare] County Council and inquired about the planning permission and subsequently, the planning permission was declined, and the wind farm was never built, thus the landscape being preserved,” Varadkar said.

Varadkar added that Trump “has kindly given me credit for that, although I think it would probably have been refused anyway”.

Just a joke

Varadkar said today that he had gone back to check with his staff and records following the controversy caused by his remarks.

“Here’s what happened. A businessman was investing in tourism in Ireland,” he said.

As people do – they invest in attractions, they invest in hotels – and that person raised an issue with me and I did what was entirely appropriate which was to pass on those concerns to the… statutory agency,” Varadkar told reporters today.

“That is exactly what a tourism minister should do. If an investor raises an issue you pass it on to the relative authorities and they deal with it – that’s exactly what I did,” he said.

Varadkar also released the email in question:

leof The email that Varadkar sent Fáilte Ireland.

Varadkar said the luncheon yesterday was the kind of occasion where people were making jokes and telling anecdotes.

The leaders of the major opposition parties had called on Varadkar to clarify his remarks after he made them.

Fianna Fáil leader Micaheál Martin called on Varadkar to be “more transparent in relation to his intervention with Clare County Council on behalf of President Trump”.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said she was “taken aback and concerned” by the revelation and also asked for more clarity.

With reporting from Christina Finn in New York City

Read: Opposition hit out at Taoiseach over phone call with Trump about Doonbeg wind farm four years ago >

Read: Trump and Leo become ‘fast friends’ yesterday (just don’t mention Doonbeg) >

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