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'People on low pay are not middle class': Leo faced tough questions from Vincent Browne last night

The Taoiseach joined Vincent Browne for the broadcaster’s penultimate TV3 show.

varadkar Source: TV3

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR was interviewed by broadcaster Vincent Browne last night, and reiterated he represents the large majority of Irish people who “get up early in the morning”.

Speaking on the penultimate episode of Tonight with Vincent Browne, the Taoiseach said that the government was working to increase housing stock to solve the crisis in that sector but that the problems would not necessarily be solved in the lifetime of his government.

In one exchange, Varadkar said that he represents a middle class that is in a large majority in Ireland, but quickly switched between 70% and 60% as he sought to redefine the group.

“Over 70% of people describe themselves as middle class,” Varadkar said.

“Where did you come across that?” Browne shot back.

“It’s a standard statistic, if you ask people,” the Taoiseach replied. “For example, you asked about the phrase “getting up early in the morning”. When we asked people in polls – after I used that term – over 60% of people identified as being in that group.

I’m very much talking about people on lower pay too. They’d be very much part of the group I’m talking to.

“People on low pay are not middle class,” Browne said.

vincent browne Source: TV3

“Well, they’re middle Ireland then, they’re certainly people who get up early in the morning,” Varadkar replied.

On the housing crisis, Browne asked Varadkar why the government doesn’t build sufficient properties to solve the housing crisis.

“We’re now back in the space where the State is building houses again – social houses,” the Taoiseach said. He said the number of houses being built, at 3,000, is three times higher than at this stage last year.

The Taoiseach said the government would increase social housing stock by a third.

He said action would be taken to buy houses from the private sector, and impose penalties on leaving houses empty.

The Fine Gael leader also told Browne that he gets up at 6.45am in the morning, when Browne put it to him that he “didn’t have a reputation” for getting up early in the morning when he started in the Dáil.

He said he exercises regularly in the morning for his mental health, and to get fit.

He closed by paying tribute to Browne. The Taoiseach thanked the broadcaster for allowing him to appear on his various radio and TV shows.

Varadkar said: “You’ve been tough, but fair. And even when you haven’t been fair, I’ve always admired your integrity. Your ability to make politicians squirm… Best of luck in the future.”

“You’ve just ruined my reputation,” Browne joked back.

The broadcaster added that he hoped that Varadkar still had an open mind on the issue of equality, as the now-Taoiseach had expressed that view on many occasions on the show when he first became a TD and Minister.

The last edition of Tonight with Vincent Browne will air this evening on TV3.

Read: After missing out on Enda, Vincent Browne will interview Leo Varadkar tomorrow night

Read: Confirmed: Vincent Browne is stepping down from his TV3 show

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Sean Murray

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