'I never said medical staff don't work hard' - Varadkar
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has responded to online criticism from medical staff over Christmas, insisting he never said they didn't work hard over the holiday period.
Mr Varadkar's social media feed would have lit up on Christmas Day as staff tweeted from hospitals with the hashtag #I'mAtWorkLeo.
It came after Dáil remarks the previous month when he warned hospitals that staff must work "at full whack", which were interpreted as a swipe at medical staff.
Mr Varadkar responded to the campaign, saying: "I totally appreciate that lots of people were working very hard over the Christmas period and of course I never said otherwise."
He added: "I know they do. I worked in the public health service for seven years so I was there myself."
He said he made a point of visiting Crumlin Children's Hospital on December 23 and Cork University Hospital on Christmas Day.
He argued his Dáil remarks were highlighting a two-week period when nine days have services reduced from normal working hours.
He said not having full outpatient, radiology and laboratory, and operation theatre services have an impact.
Mr Varadkar believes "more was done" during Christmas 2018 than previous years.
He said he hopes this helped to lower trolley numbers along with 200 extra beds, 4,000 more staff, the mild weather and the delay in peak flu season.