Varadkar flushes away talk of being FG leader
Published 23/07/2016 | 02:30
Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar is waiting for the moment he "sits on the toilet" and it gets linked to the Fine Gael leadership race.
The minister, who is frontrunner to replace Enda Kenny, has dismissed speculation that his radical new proposal to reform the social welfare system is part of a leadership pitch.
At the MacGill Summer School in Donegal on Thursday Mr Varadkar revealed that he wants to link social welfare payments to the cost of living.
This is likely to result in annual rises in line with inflation.
Asked whether this was a populist move aimed at persuading people to vote for him, Mr Varadkar replied: "No matter what I say or do for the last six months people are linking it to the leadership of Fine Gael. I'm just waiting for the moment that I sit on the toilet and some commentator somewhere decides that's part of some sort of strategy."
He said summer schools are about "stepping back".
"They are about thinking about longer-term questions and broader issues and floating ideas. That's what I was doing.
"I'm the Minister for Social Protection. These are my responsibilities. I attend a summer school and what am I going to talk about? Of course I'm going to talk about the future of social protection and welfare reform."
However, Mr Varadkar added that he would not be "losing any sleep" over the speculation that he is already engaged in a battle with Simon Coveney and Frances Fitzgerald to be the next Taoiseach.
He did acknowledge that he had not raised the proposal at Cabinet before announcing it publicly.
"It's not something that we had a detailed discussion at Cabinet or anything like that. I've had discussions individually with ministers but not all ministers and not at Cabinet," the minister said.
He added that he looks forward "to a debate about this in the coming months".