'Completely tone deaf' - Kate O'Connell slams Varadkar attendance at UK festival

Tanaiste Leo Varadkar (Niall Carson/PA)

Gabija Gataveckaite

Ex-Fine Gael TD Kate O’Connell has said that Tánaiste Leo Varadkar’s attendance at a festival in London this weekend is “completely tone deaf” and said that she would not return to the party while it is under his leadership.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Brendan O’Connor radio show on Sunday, she said that she thought that the images of the Fine Gael leader at the Mighty Hoopla festival in Brockwell Park in London on Saturday were “jarring”.

“I do think that the pictures, to my mind, show a serious lack of self-awareness, I think the week that’s in it and I think if you’re a policy maker making decisions that are affecting all of our lives, and then you leave the country within which you make those decisions for to have your jolly elsewhere, I think it’s jarring,” she said.

“I think it was completely tone deaf.

“It just doesn't really correlate with what people are feeling or the way people are living right now in Ireland.”

“I think it’s about leadership and showing example. I think a point comes where you have to be mature and say, ‘How will this look?’”

She said that the public has been “culturally neutered” for the last 18 months.

“Maybe he didn't mean any harm by it, but to my mind, you’d have to consider, how would you think that’s an ok thing to do yesterday?

“I do think it shows a serious lack of consideration for what people are going through. The pain thats still being suffered by people, the unease that there is in society, and the residual impacts of the pandemic.

“We’re not all the second in command of the country and that’s the fundamental difference.”

A spokeswoman for Mr Varadkar said yesterday that the Tánaiste is currently in the UK “on private time where such events are allowed”.

She added: “Festivals and concerts are permitted in Ireland from Monday. The Tánaiste is a strong supporter of the Irish events industry and nearly 100 million has been provided to the entertainment sector during the pandemic, not including EWSS and PUP.”

Ms O’Connell is viewed as being one of the most outspoken critics of Mr Varadkar and previously ruled herself out of running in the Dublin Bay South by-election, saying that she was “not the desired candidate”.

Speaking on the programme this morning, she added that she was “clearly not” finished with politics but that she would not return to Fine Gael while it is under Mr Varadkar’s leadership.

“I have an interest in politics and as for elected office, I don’t know what’s ahead and I don’t want to rule it in or out.”

“I don’t feel wronged in anything, that’s just the way life is. But I do believe in the power of politics and I do believe that there are very passionate people in Dáil Eireann, across the political tide and I would like to contribute to that in the future.”

When asked if this would happen under Mr Varadkar’s rule, she responded: “No.”