Thursday 17 October 2019

The Leo and Maria road show goes across Europe after calling in for Connacht welcome


On the road: Leo Varadkar meets students from Scoil Chaitríona with Maria and Michael Walsh. Photo: Tommy Dickson
On the road: Leo Varadkar meets students from Scoil Chaitríona with Maria and Michael Walsh. Photo: Tommy Dickson

Caroline Crawford

It's not every day an international business call gets photobombed by a world leader, but software developers across four countries were left stunned when the Taoiseach popped his head into their Skype call.

Leo Varadkar surprised software developers in Spain, the UK and Italy when he appeared on their live conference call from Galway. The Taoiseach was visiting the Portershed business centre in the city when he popped his head into one of the booths used for private calls. The Taoiseach was in Galway on a canvassing tour with European election candidate Maria Walsh.

Described as "gold dust" by party colleague Frank Feighan, Ms Walsh was lauded as a positive advocate for change in the west.

The former Rose of Tralee gave a speech to friends and supporters, vowing to introduce a year of promoting positive mental health.

"We saw Marian Harkin do this for volunteers in 2011," she said.

"I'm unbelievably fortunate to have a link with Jigsaw as their ambassador and I passionately believe this will happen, a European year. Think about how much funding, networking and opportunities will be in our grassroots programme."

Ms Walsh said she wanted to ensure we as a country were accountable to future generations.

The pair began their day with a trip to the Connacht Rugby grounds where Leo met some of the players and was presented with his own number 10 jersey.

Meeting Bundee Aki and Jarrad Butler, the Taoiseach revealed he still plays a game or two of rugby each year for the Oireachtas team before realisation dawned as to who he was talking to and he quickly added: "Not very well, though."

Leaving the Sportsground, after dropping some serious election hints that the grounds would soon benefit significantly from government funding, Leo and Maria took to the streets of Galway.

With the exception of one lone protester holding a placard highlighting the homeless crisis, the pair were greeted warmly.

But while he may have been in jocular form after his reception in Galway, the Taoiseach was more sombre about the European elections warning he had "a real sense" they could possibly be the most important in the last 40 years.

"That is partly because the European parliament has much more power now than it had in the past but it's also because so many of the big issues facing Ireland are decided at European level or at least large elements of what has to be done are decided at European level," he said.

Brexit, trade deals and the EU budget, decisions on climate change and CAP were just some of the issues that would be overseen by the next tranche of MEPs.

"We can actually go backwards if the wrong type of people on the far left or far right populace get elected to the European Parliament and that's why we need to make sure that we've good people with the right values elected to the European Parliament from across Ireland and across Europe next Friday," he warned.

Irish Independent

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