Varadkar hits back at Martin over 'elite' jibe claim
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar last night hit back at Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin's claim that the Fine Gael leader was a right-wing elitist.
In a sign of the deteriorating relationship between the Minority Government partners, Mr Varadkar used his inaugural speech as leader at the Fine Gael presidential dinner to attack Mr Martin.
At the dinner in the Clayton Burlington Hotel, he said Mr Martin's party believed people on average and middle incomes were the so-called elite.
Mr Varadkar rejected "such a characterisation" and insisted his party would "never apologise for standing up for people who get up early in morning, who work nights and weekends, who aspire for something better".
He added: "It's their taxes that fund public services and keep our welfare system afloat and they deserve a break. And they know which party is on their side. "We don't want to punish people - we want to reward them. We don't label those who work hard or earn good wages as an elite - we believe in them and support their values. And we want more people to be enabled to join their ranks," he said.
Mr Varadkar said the "arc of our aspirations" was evident in the Budget which he said "points towards fairness and reward and aspiration".
The Taoiseach said the Fianna Fail leader was a "formidable politician" who had "seen it all".
"He became a TD during the Haughey era, he became a Minister during the Ahern era, and he became an expert during the Cowen era. And he's spent the last seven years learning to be the new kid on the block," Mr Varadkar added.