Leo Varadkar endorses Minister's criticism of Maria Bailey over 'swing-gate' case

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has strongly endorsed Business Minister Heather Humphrey's criticism of Maria Bailey over her 'swing-gate' personal injuries case.

Leo Varadkar endorses Minister's criticism of Maria Bailey over 'swing-gate' case

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has strongly endorsed Business Minister Heather Humphrey's criticism of Maria Bailey over her 'swing-gate' personal injuries case.

In the Dáil, without naming her directly, Ms Humphreys strongly hit out at the country's compensation claim culture and spoke for the need for personal responsibility.

Speaking in Brussels, Mr Varadkar said a lot of people in Ireland would strongly concur with what his Business Minister said.

I heard what Minister Humphreys had to say today in the Dáil and I think a lot of people would identify with that and agree with what she had to say.

In relation to Ms Bailey, he said: “I’ll be meeting her before the end of the week and I would like to have that meeting and hear her story. I am not going to ask her questions through the media, I’ll do that when I meet her during the week and that is the appropriate thing to do.”

Asked if Ms Bailey's action had embarrassed the party, he responded sharply: “I think I have answered that question before.”

Maria Bailey
Maria Bailey

He also said that while an early general election cannot be ruled out, he made it clear, he will not be the cause of a premature poll.

“It is a statement of fact that I cannot rule out the Dáil being dissolved early because this is a minority Government. I can say my focus is absolutely on the job, keeping the economy strong, creating jobs, improving living standards. My focus now is on Brexit and on getting the budget through so nobody need plan for an early election, it won't one that is caused by me,” he said.

The meeting of EU leaders tonight is concerned with the election of new Presidents of the EU Commission and Council.

Mr Varadkar re-stated his support for Manfred Weber to become Commission President, despite growing doubts over his candidacy. Reports had suggested that Ireland would now support Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier but the Taoiseach said his commitment to Mr Weber remains.

“That commitment stands, I had a very good meeting earlier on with the EPP party leaders and also met Manfred Weber. I am somebody who believes in a more democratic Europe and that means that the result of the European election should be reflected in who we elect or appoint as President of the European Commission,” he said.

“And the EPP has won the most seats in the European Parliament elections and our candidate for that position is Manfred Weber, who again has been to Ireland many times and has been very supportive of Irish interests.”

He did qualify his response by saying: “I am also realistic in the sense that I know that the EPP doesn’t have enough seats on its own to form a majority, nor can a majority be formed without us.

“So what we will have to do is get together with the Social Democrats, and also talk to the Greens, the Conservatives and also the Liberals, and may need to bring one or two of them on board as well, and that is going to involve of course a compromise, being the largest group, the most important position, the President of the European Commission, I believe should come to our group and our candidate for that position is Manfred Weber.”

Mr Varadkar said the success of the Brexit party in the UK represents a fresh challenge for Ireland but said the MEP race in Northern Ireland was significant.

“They did, there is no question about the fact that the Brexit party did very well in the European elections in Britain, so did all of the remain parties if you add up their support.

“For 40 years there have been two Unionists and one nationalist, that is no longer the case. There is one unionist, one Alliance party MEP and one nationalist, so two of three of the MEPs elected in Northern Ireland supporting the European Union and supporting the backstop and I hope that hasn’t been missed as a fact by the British Government and the wider British people,” he said.

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