Leo Varadkar: Josepha Madigan 'didn't lobby against the methadone clinic'

Leo Varadkar: Josepha Madigan 'didn't lobby against the methadone clinic'

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has defended two Government ministers who told voters no new methadone clinics would be built in their areas, despite widespread anger over the claims.

Mr Varadkar's comments came after Transport Minister Shane Ross followed Culture Minister Josepha Madigan in facing criticism for telling voters about the lack of new drugs units in his constituency.

On Wednesday, it emerged Ms Madigan had written to voters in her Dublin Rathdown constituency to say she was "pleased to reassure local residents that following representation from my office, I have been informed a new methadone clinic will not be developed".

Ms Madigan's July letter to constituents was followed by news on Thursday that Mr Ross - who is also in the Dublin Rathdown constituency - had posted a Facebook update to voters on July 19 informing them "no new methadone clinics" would be built in Ballinteer.

Ms Madigan faced further criticism on Thursday after a spokesperson claimed the Minister had not seen the final version of the letter - which was signed by her.

Similarly, a spokesperson for Mr Ross said the Minister did not welcome the decision not to introduce a methadone clinic, instead saying he "informed residents existing methadone services will be able to cater for needs in the area". The post was described as "an information update".

Asked if he agreed with the comments at a press event in Kilkenny city today, Leo Varadkar said he will speak with Ms Madigan about what happened.

However, he said he believes his party colleague's letter was just giving "information" to voters.

I haven't had a chance to speak to Minister Madigan about that yet, but my understanding is that she didn't lobby against the methadone clinic, the leaflet was for information to her constituents.

"But I'll have a chance to talk to her about it I imagine later on today, but that is my understanding," Mr Varadkar said.

Mr Varadkar's failure to criticise either Ms Madigan or Mr Ross comes a decade after he led a campaign to prevent methadone clinics in the Castleknock area of his constituency.

While still a councillor in the mid-2000s, Mr Varadkar was involved in a campaign in his constituency to block plans by the Boots pharmacy chain to open a methadone dispensing unit for recovering heroin addicts in the Roselawn shopping centre in Castleknock.

Among the actions Mr Varadkar took at the time were the publication of press releases opposing the move, and the organisation of a major public meeting on the matter.

Asked about the controversy a decade after it happened, Mr Varadkar said on Thursday: "There are a lot of GP practices and pharmacies in my constituency providing methadone, and always have."

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