Thursday 18 July 2019

Varadkar refuses to clarify comments on his own drug use

Every member of the Cabinet except one refused to answer our questions on any drug use, writes Niamh Horan

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
Photo: Frank McGrath
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar Photo: Frank McGrath
Niamh Horan

Niamh Horan

As a storm engulfs senior British politicians over their past use of class A drugs, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has refused to clarify comments he made about his own drug use in a 2010 Hotpress magazine interview.

In recent days, it emerged that British prime minister hopeful Michael Gove snorted cocaine before entering British politics, while his Tory rival Boris Johnson also revisited past tales of his drug taking when challenged by reporters.

The rock'n'roll bible Hotpress has long been known for its profile interviews with Irish politicians and celebrities where they face probing questions about their personal lives.

Before becoming Taoiseach, Le Varadkar admitted to smoking cannabis in college but when asked if he ever experimented with ecstasy or other illegal drugs as a teenager, Mr Varadkar replied: "Not since I've held elected office, anyway."

He added: "I've been extremely law-abiding since I've been elected to politics."

Mr Varadkar was first elected to Fingal County Council in June 2004 at the age of 25.

A spokesperson for the Taoiseach did not respond to requests to clarify the comments when contacted by the Sunday Independent this weekend.

Meanwhile every member of the Cabinet was also sent a list of questions about any drug use in light of last week's controversy over Mr Gove.

The questions included: Have you ever taken a class A drug? Have you ever taken cannabis, amphetamine, nitrites, ecstasy, LSD or magic mushrooms?

Only one member of Cabinet agreed to answer the questions - Minister for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O'Connor.

After confirming she had never taken any drug, she said: "I'm very aware of the increasing negative impact of substance use, particularly alcohol and drug-related behaviour, on student well-being in Ireland.

"The consequences of such behaviour can affect the students' health, undermines their academic engagement, inhibits their progression in higher education and, sadly, may result in serious injury and death.

"There is a need to further support our students to successfully negotiate the challenges of alcohol and drug use.

"Therefore, I am undertaking a new initiative to address these issues which will support your ongoing work in this area. I am going to hold a consultation meeting at the Department of Education and Skills in Dublin on Monday, June 24."

Meanwhile, in Britain, Mr Johnson said he had only ever taken cocaine once - as a 19-year-old - while insisting that the public does not care about the issue. In a separate interview he claimed it didn't actually go up his nose.

Asked directly when he last used the Class A drug, the Tory leadership frontrunner said that it was a "single inconclusive event" when he was a teenager.

Asked if he had taken cocaine since then, he replied: "No."

Other global leaders who have admitted to taking drugs include former US President Barack Obama, who said he had taken cocaine before being elected to office and former US President Bill Clinton who admitted he smoked marijuana - but said he didn't inhale.

Sunday Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section