Varadkar: O'Leary's EU warning is 'akin to threatening to set off grenade'
Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar has criticised Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary following his claim that Ireland should threaten to leave the European Union over the Apple tax ruling.
Mr Varadkar last night said such a move was akin to "threatening to pull the pin on a hand grenade in an ammunition factory" and warned that Ireland's interests could be damaged by "extreme" commentary.
Addressing a Fine Gael event at the Old Wesley club in south Dublin, Mr Varadkar said he admires Mr O'Leary for both his achievements and style. But he singled out the Ryanair chief executive following his claim last week that Ireland is being bullied by Europe and should threaten to leave the EU if the decision that Apple owes the State €13bn is not withdrawn.
"We need to be careful in the weeks and months ahead about the language we use.
"Unchecked, the commentary could become ever more extreme and more damaging to Ireland's long-term interests," Mr Varadkar said.
"The idea that we should threaten to leave the European Union as suggested this week by Michael O'Leary, a man whose achievements and even style I admire, seems to me to be akin to someone threatening to pull the pin on a hand grenade in an ammunition factory, seemingly unaware that the first person to be killed will be themselves."
Mr Varadkar told the meeting, organised by Senator Neale Richmond, that Europe had been "very good for Ireland".
He said that as a "small country on the edge of the continent", Ireland had gained access to the largest single trading market in the world.
"Since June and the Brexit vote, we have witnessed a renewed focus on our relationship with Europe. This has intensified since the European Commission's decision on the tax affairs of Apple," the Dublin West TD said.
"In the immediate aftermath of that decision, it was perhaps inevitable that harsh words would be spoken on both sides.
"I reject the use of terms like 'tax haven' for our country, but I also reject the characterisation of the European Union as a conspiracy of large states against small countries such as Ireland."
Mr Varadkar has been increasingly speaking at constituency events in what sources say is part of his leadership campaign.