Leo Varadkar rejects claims of failed leadership after refusing to share view on abortion

Leo Varadkar speaks during a joint press conference with European Parliament president Antonio Tajani at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has rejected claims he is failing to show leadership by refusing to explain his view on the abortion referendum, insisting "having listened, I will lead", writes Fiachra Ó Cionnaith in Strasbourg.

Mr Varadkar said there is no reason for him to explain his opinions until at least next month, despite growing criticism by opposition parties over his failure to confirm where he stands on the issue.

Speaking to reporters at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, after it emerged he will push out the deadline for when he will reveal his own position until at least February, Mr Varadkar said he needs to see the referendum question "in black and white" before taking a view.

Despite Labour leader Brendan Howlin, Fianna Fáil health spokesperson Billy Kelleher and others accusing him of showing "a lack of leadership" on the issue while other TDs are putting their views forward, Mr Varadkar insisted he is taking the right action.

"Well first of all I don’t think it’ll be March," Mr Varadkar said when asked if he may wait until then to put his view forward due to the fact the referendum bill question may not be known until then.

"What I’ve said consistently is that I’ll give my view when I know what the wording is. I appreciate some people have decided to say how they will vote without having see the wording. I’m a little more cautious, I’d actually like to sit down and see the question in black and white, to know what the question is, before I vote.

"I think we’ll have the wording quite soon, and I don’t think it’s going to take until March to do that. And I’ll be happy to give my opinion at that stage.

"But I also think part of leadership is listening, and I did want to listen to the views of cabinet

"I wanted to listen to my parliamentary party and their views, I listened to their views for five and a half hours, and I’m paying attention to the debate that’s now happening in the Dáil and Seanad. So having listened, I will lead," he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Varadkar has said he is open to TDs and senators opposed to potential new laws allowing unrestricted access to abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy putting forward alternatives - despite warning it may be too late to do so.

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