Leo Varadkar came under fire in the Dáil and was accused of having a “nasty streak” during a heated debate on advertisements for the Government’s Project Ireland 2040 campaign which have appeared in regional and national newspapers.
There were sharp exchanges and the Dáil was suspended for a time after Fianna Fáil’s Marc McSharry accused the Government of organising a “€45,000 Goebbels-style launch” of Project Ireland 2040 in Sligo last week.
The row escalated when Health Minister Simon Harris claimed Mr McSharry’s comments were “anti-Semitic” and amounted to “an attack on the Jewish community and the victims of the Holocaust”.
His comments came after Labour’s Alan Kelly also compared the strategic communications unit’s publicity campaign to Goebbels.
Amid repeated interruption, Mr Varadkar called on Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and Labour’s Joan Burton to disassociate themselves from the comments of their colleagues.
“Deputy leader of the Labour Party Alan Kelly compared my Government and civil servants in my department to the Third Reich and to Nazis and to Goebbels and I think that was wholly inappropriate.
“I am not thin-skinned by any means but I think describing the Government, civil servants, any individuals as being akin to Nazis and the Third Reich or Goebbels is defamatory and is beneath the level of discourse that should occur in politics and in this House.”
Turning to Fianna Fáil, Mr Varadkar asked Mr Martin to disassociate himself from Mr McSharry’s remarks which were “beneath this House”.
Mr Martin said it was wrong of the Taoiseach to “try and suggest that I would endorse that or in any way associate myself with” such comparisons. However, he then went on to attack Mr Varadkar, stating: “Your problem, Taoiseach, is that you do not like it when hard words are said about things that you get up to and your Government gets up to and I am talking about legitimate questions that I have asked.
“You don’t like this and what happens then is that you get overly partisan and you get nasty, there is a bad streak there, Taoiseach.”