Sunday 17 December 2017

Varadkar dismisses reported rift with Simon Harris on minister's home turf

Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar has outlined new policies in his bid to be leader of Fine Gael
Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar has outlined new policies in his bid to be leader of Fine Gael
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

SOCIAL Protection Minister Leo Varadkar has heaped praise on Health Minister Simon Harris - despite repeatedly refusing to guarantee his future in Cabinet.

Speaking at a meeting in Mr Harris's Wicklow constituency, Mr Varadkar said Mr Harris is doing a "great job" in the Department of Health.

"Notwithstanding all the gossip you read in the newspapers. We do actually get on very well," Mr Varadkar said.

"We don't always see eye to eye but we do get on very well."

Some TDs in the Varadkar camp have said Mr Harris faces being axed from Cabinet if the Social Protection Minister wins the leadership race.

Mr Varadkar has repeatedly refused to say whether he will keep Mr Harris in Cabinet amid a reported rift between the pair.

But he heaped praise on Mr Harris at the meeting, saying he is doing a "great job in the Department of Health."

Meanwhile, Mr Varadkar took a swipe at the Health Service Executive (HSE).

"You'd be hard-pressed to find from the HSE how many beds are in a particular hospital at a particular time," the Dublin West TD said.

Mr Varadkar said the Government must reduce income tax on middle income earners, saying our are "really damaging us in our battle for talent."

During a questions and answers session, Mr Varadkar criticised the small number of convictions in the area of white collar crime.

He said that there is "enormous and understandable anger" among citizens and that "we need to see white collar crime in Ireland treated in the same way as the United States."

Mr Mr Varadkar said there is a dedicated section in this area in the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement and the garda fraud bureau.

"I don't think they are performing to the level we would expect."

To laughter, Mr Varadkar said White collar criminals don't confess to their crimes.

"Or they do confess to priests, not to the authorities," he added.

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