Sunday 24 September 2017

Problems in housing and health 'will not be solved by this government', Varadkar admits

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with Vincent Browne on his final show on TV3. Picture: Arthur Carron
Leo Varadkar appeared on the penultimate Vincent Browne show

Kevin Doyle and Ryan Nugent

THE problems in housing and health will not be solved in the lifetime of this government, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.

The new leader of Fine Gael said he has ambitious plans for his tenure, starting with a capital investment plan in the region of €80bn.

In an interview on ‘Tonight With Vincent Browne’, Mr Varadkar also indicated that he intends to introduce “penalties” for people who leave properties vacant.

And he defended his support for 'people who get up early in the morning'.

However, Mr Varadkar struggled to define what he means by the middle-class. He claimed 70per cent of people, including those on the minimum wage, are middle-class.

“It’s a metaphor of course. It applies just as much to somebody who works late. What it refers to is effectively two million people who work in Ireland now. It’s the middle class, it’s middle Ireland. People who feel they contribute a lot to society but don’t get much back,” he said.

Mr Varadkar said this class of person “deserve more representation” even though they are “essentially the big centre of Irish society”.

The Taoiseach also repeated his aim of creating a ‘Republic of Opportunities’.

“It’s big stuff and it’s ambitious and it’s going to take time but I really want to do it,” he said.

For the first time, Mr Varadkar gave some insight into why he left the Department of Health with “unfinished business” after the last election.

“I think I did get some things done. What I didn’t manage to do was get on top of the very serious problem we have of access to services,” he said.

Browne, who was presenting his penultimate show, asked Mr Varadkar if he previously asked to be moved from the difficult Health ministry. Mr Varadkar responded: “I didn’t. I didn’t ask to leave either by the way. I was appointed to Cabinet three times, on no occasion did I pitch for what position I wanted.”

He appeared to blame former Taoiseach Enda Kenny, saying: “We did have a conversation about the kind of things I thought needed to be done if we were really going to turn things around. There was never any real response or reply to that and I was moved to a different department.”

Online Editors

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