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Varadkar says Taoiseach should not be questioned about his leadership when he is abroad

While on a trade trip to Canada last week, Enda Kenny was asked when he will step down as Taoiseach.

Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar.
Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar.
Image: Sam Boal

SOCIAL PROTECTION MINSTER Leo Varadkar has said the media should not try “to embarrass” the Taoiseach when he is abroad by asking him questions about his leadership.

While on a trade trip to Canada last week, Enda Kenny was asked by the Irish Examiner newspaper when he will step down as Taoiseach.

Clearly unhappy with the question, he replied: “I can’t believe that you travelled this distance to ask a question like that.”

Today, Varadkar (potentially the next Taoiseach) was asked whether he agrees with Enda Kenny that the Taoiseach should not be asked about leadership issues while on a foreign trade mission.

He said:

I think when somebody is representing the country abroad, particularly when they have a prime minister of another country or the president of another country standing beside them – as a country – we really shouldn’t be trying to embarrass them. We should be asking questions relevant to their visit… But at the same time I think you can allow for that by agreeing separately to take the questions on domestic issues.

Leadership

“I agree with the Taoiseach, but I also think ministers shouldn’t be asked about it domestically, because we are always asked about it whether we raise it as an issue or not,” he continued.

Varadkar went on to say that he has never travelled abroad with the media pack, and does not have much experience of how it works.

I don’t have much experience of this, but the practice, as I understand it, is generally if somebody is overseas they will agree to do a domestic briefing, on other issues, and on that basis when somebody is abroad or outside of the country they are not asked about domestic issues.

Poll results 

The latest poll (carried out by RTÉ’s Martina Fitzgerald) indicates that Varadkar is ahead of his probable running mate, Housing Minister Simon Coveney in the Fine Gael leadership battle.

Varadkar said the polls indicating he is ahead in the race are “encouraging”.

While the contest rumbles on behind the scenes, party members await to hear from the Taoiseach as to when he is stepping down.

Questions about his leadership revved up after he said he would make his position known following the St Patrick’s Day visit to Washington. But that trip has obviously come and gone.

He also said he’d stay on to see through talks in the North and the start of Brexit negotiations (which have now both been delayed because of the election in the UK).

Kenny has said he will inform Fine Gael deputies before telling the Dáil, and there is widespread speculation that he could do this at next week’s parliamentary party meeting.

While there is a meeting tomorrow night, he is not expected to overshadow the visit of European Chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair this week, by announcing his resignation.

Read: Enda Kenny had a go at a journalist for asking when he’ll step down as Taoiseach>

Read: Poll shows Fine Gael is leaning towards Leo, but leader race could go either way>

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