By Daniel McConnell, Political Editor in New York
Leo Varadkar has rejected he has a credibility problem having admitted he canvassed controversial TD Michael Lowry for support when he was about to become Taoiseach.
Mr Lowry in an interview with the Irish Mail on Sunday, said Mr Varadkar rang him seeking his support in the Dail.
Speaking in New York, Mr Varadkar said he contacted the subsequently convicted criminal for his vote but that no formal arrangement exists and he is not reliant on him.
This is somewhat different to claims by the Government Press Secretary last week, who was adamant that no arrangement existed between the parties.
Mr Lowry in his interview said a core basis for his support was funding for Clonmel Hospital but said it was agreed for political reasons that no written agreement should be drawn up.
Asked if he had a credibility problem, Mr Varadkar said: “First of all I would point you to comments I have made in the Dail consistently on this and not a briefing a spokesperson gave.”
When it was pointed out that his spokesman, who speaks on his behalf, insisted no arrangement was in place, Mr Varadkar said sharply: “I speak on my behalf.”
Mr Varadkar confirmed he reached out to Mr Lowry, despite the findings of the Moriarty Tribunal.
“When I was running for Taoiseach before the vote happened in the Dail I naturally rung around a number of independent TDs, to ask them for support or to ask them to abstain as the case may be,” he said.
“As confirmed by Michael Lowry in his interview he didn’t seek or set down any conditions nor were any concessions made to him. So he doesn’t have a formal agreement. Michael Lowry had voted against the government 10 times in the last year. For those who support the government most of the time they can certainly raise constituency issues with my office or Ministers and if it’s good policy then we do,” he added.
He accepted the issue of funding increases of Clonmel hospital arose.
“I am sure I did. The conversation was over a year ago, I’m not sure I remember the details of every conversation I have. But having been a former minister for health I’m very aware there has been a long standing overcrowding problem at Clonmel hospital. It was very much in the government’s plans to increase the capacity there,” he said.
Mr Varadkar and Tánaiste Simon Coveney are in New York to officially launch Ireland's bid for a seat on the UN Security Council.
Mr Coveney called for a “national effort” in order to deal with water restrictions as the lack of rain is set to continue across Ireland.
“I think there’s a need for a national effort here. When we had an extreme weather event in winter, an incredibly cold spell with an awful lot more snow than anybody could remember, there was a huge effort nationally for people to support each other. There was an awful lot of voluntary effort that made a huge impact across communities,” he said.
Mr Varadkar said adopting a hardline approach to those abusing water will not be the first course of action.
“The law is there and there are penalties under the law to allow us to fine people or prosecute people that waste water, but that’s not the approach that I think we should taking. I think we should be asking people to do the right thing as citizens,” he said.
"We’re going to have a number of weeks, the weather looks like it’s going to stay dry and sunny for the next couple of weeks, hopefully people will enjoy that, it’s been great to have such good weather having had such a long six-month bad water,” he added.
He also said people should turn off the tap when they are brushing their teeth.