Sunday 23 September 2018

'A sign of great diversity, not just in Ireland' Leo Varadkar walks in New York parade with partner Matt

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (left) and his partner Matt Barrett walk in the St Patrick's Day parade on 5th Avenue in New York City. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday March 17, 2018 Credit: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (left) and his partner Matt Barrett walk in the St Patrick's Day parade on 5th Avenue in New York City. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday March 17, 2018 Credit: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar walks in the St Patrick's Day parade in New York City alongside his partner Matt Barrett (centre left), New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (centre right) and Congressman Peter King (right). Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaks to the media outside St Patrick's Cathedral in New York. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Jason O'Brien

Jason O'Brien

The Taoiseach has batted away suggestions he "made a show of himself" in Washington DC in the controversy about his intervention in a planning dispute involving Donald Trump's golf course in Doonbeg.

Speaking in New York, shortly before he was due to march in the city's St Patrick's Day parade with his partner Matt Barrett, Mr Varadkar said he felt he has clarified the issue sufficiently.

Yesterday, he revealed he had been mistaken when he claimed he contacted a local council about a wind farm planning application that Mr Trump was opposed to.

Mr Varadkar said he had actually contacted tourism promotion agency Failte Ireland about Mr Trump's concerns about the impact the wind turbines would have on the view from his Doonbeg course in Co Clare.

Mr Varadkar's officials released a copy of the email he sent in 2014, when he was tourism minister, to the boss of Failte asking him if the organisation shared Mr Trump's concerns about the "impact on landscapes and tourism".

The Taoiseach made the initial claim about contacting Clare County Council - on the back of a call from Mr Trump - in an unscripted anecdote during a St Patrick's lunch in Washington on Thursday.

Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (left) and his partner Matt Barrett walk in the St Patrick's Day parade on 5th Avenue in New York City Credit: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (left) and his partner Matt Barrett walk in the St Patrick's Day parade on 5th Avenue in New York City Credit: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (centre) walks in the St Patrick's Day parade in New York City alongside his partner Matt Barrett (centre left), New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (centre right) and Congressman Peter King (right). Credit: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaks to the media outside St Patrick's Cathedral in New York Credit: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaks to the media outside St Patrick's Cathedral in New York Credit: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in New York with May Mahon (centre) from County Longford Credit: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in New York with May Mahon from County Longford Credit: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (centre) walks in the St Patrick's Day parade in New York City alongside his partner Matt Barrett (centre left), New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (centre right) and Congressman Peter King (right) Credit: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar marches with Governor Cuomo during the St Patrick's day parade in New York City, U.S., March 17, 2017. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon
Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar marches with Governor Cuomo during the St Patrick's day parade in New York City, U.S., March 17, 2017. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon
Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (centre left) and his partner Matt Barrett walk in the St Patrick's Day parade on 5th Avenue in New York City. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday March 17, 2018 Credit: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (left) and his partner Matt Barrett walk in the St Patrick's Day parade on 5th Avenue in New York City. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday March 17, 2018 Credit: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (right) and his partner Matt Barrett walk in the St Patrick's Day parade on 5th Avenue in New York City. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday March 17, 2018. See PA story IRISH Taoiseach. Credit: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar poses for selfies with people watching the St Patrick's Day parade on 5th Avenue in New York City.Credit: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar attends the St Patrick's day parade in New York City, U.S., March 17, 2017. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon
Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar marches with Governor Cuomo during the St Patrick's Day parade in New York City, March 17, 2017. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon
Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar marches with Governor Cuomo during the St Patrick's Day parade in New York City, March 17, 2017. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon
Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar attends the St Patrick's Day parade in New York City, U.S., March 17, 2017. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon
Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar marches with Governor Cuomo during the St Patrick's Day parade in New York City, U.S., March 17, 2017. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon

Speaking to the media on Saturday morning, he was asked if he felt he had "made a show of himself" on Capitol Hill, by "telling a story that was essentially made up".

"I don't... I've clarified that I was certainly telling a humorous anecdote and I've clarified it since then and that's the end of it as far as I'm concerned," Mr Varadkar said.

Read more: And then I went and spoiled it all by saying something stupid: what happened when Leo met the Donald

The story prompted an angry reaction from political opponents back in Ireland, who questioned whether his intervention in a planning decision was appropriate.

The planning application for the wind farm was ultimately turned down.

Mr Varadkar also confirmed that he would march in the parade with Mr Barrett, a cardiologist based in Chicago. Until recently, the parade had banned LGBT groups.

"I had a chance to meet the Mayor (Bill de Blasio) earlier and attend Mass, and I'm going to be able to march in the parade now with my partner which is something that is a sign, I think, of change, a sign of great diversity, not just in Ireland, but in the community here as well," Mr Varadkar said.

He went into a little more detail about his meetings with Mr Trump on Thursday, describing him as "very personable, very engaged" but added he was not "a conventional politician" and tended to move from one topic to another quite quickly.

"I think he was definitely aware of Irish issues. I think he was certainly aware of issues around the Irish border and the need to avoid a hard border," he said.

"He was aware of European affairs in terms of trade, and was also very aware that we have a low tax regime

"I wouldn't say he was an expert on Ireland but he certainly had an awareness of issues relating to Ireland and gave us a lot of time during the day which I think was very welcome.

"A big thing that I was trying to get across was that rather than have a trade war between Europe and America, we should have a new trade agreement. And there was an openness to that in the White House and certainly on the Hill."

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