Varadkar labels Adams a 'self-serving phoney'
In an extraordinary personal attack on Gerry Adams, at Fine Gael's national conference in Castlebar yesterday, the Dublin West TD accused the Sinn Fein President of accepting "dig outs" from friends after he flew to the US for health treatment.
In a clear reference to Bertie Ahern's personal finances, Mr Varadkar said: ''Ireland does not need another Taoiseach who gets dig-outs from his friends when he skips the country. We need a Taoiseach who has faith and confidence in our own country. A true patriot like our Taoiseach, not a self-serving phoney like Mr Adams."
Mr Varadkar added: "He has houses on both sides of the Border, though he pays his property tax and water charges to Her Majesty's government in the North - but objects to paying in the Republic, so I'm told."
Mr Adams previously confirmed that he did travel to the US for surgery for a prostate problem. While Mr Adams insisted he paid for the treatment himself, a Sinn Fein fundraising group covered the cost of the flights.
The Sinn Fein leader last night hit back, describing Mr Varadkar's comments as "misleading".
He said: "It's disappointing but not surprising that the Minister for Health stoops to personalised attacks rather than deal with the substance of Sinn Fein's criticisms of this Government. It is a mark of political bankruptcy to attack one's opponent rather than the arguments of that opponent."
In his speech, Mr Varadkar also ruled out going into coalition with either Fianna Fail or Sinn Fein after the next general election.
"Neither can be trusted to lead a government. And our job is to make sure they are not," he added.
Mr Varadkar then turned his guns on Fianna Fail leader Michael Martin, ridiculing his claim that he will be the next Taoiseach.
"I'll give him one thing, he has a brass neck. But delegates, you and I both know, Emperor Martin has no clothes," he said.
Mr Varadkar's twin attacks on Fine Gael's rivals came as a new Red C poll for the Sunday Business Post show his party remain the most popular party in the country, unchanged on 24pc.
Support for the Labour party has slipped two points to 7pc, while Fianna Fail has fallen back one point to 18pc. Sinn Fein is up one point to 21pc while Independents and others, including Lucinda Creighton's Reboot Ireland group, are up two points to 30.
Echoing Mr Varadkar's attacks on Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein, Taoiseach Enda Kenny also used his keynote address to claim a vote for either party would bring "chaos and instability''. Mr Kenny warned voters not to risk the country's progress to those who wrecked it in the past, or to those whose policies would wreck "our future".
He added: "I don't want Ireland dragged back to the failures of the past, or for the country's progress to be ruined by those who are intent on blowing a huge hole in our recovering national finances.
"Ireland's future economic stability must be underpinned by political stability."
Mr Kenny also outlined his main policy priorities for the run-in to the election.
The Taoiseach pledged that the era of new taxes is over.
He added: "Tax cuts to reward hard work and enterprise will continue in the next budget and in future budgets if the people return Fine Gael to office."
Mr Kenny also promised the central target of the Coalition's plan is to return the country to full employment by 2018.
The Taoiseach said the Coalition would make 500,000 low earners - or a quarter of the entire workforce - exempt from paying the hated Universal Social Charge.
Mr Kenny also said the Government plans to triple the number of houses built and to create 60,000 construction jobs.
He linked the referendum on gay marriage to the 1916 Rising commemorations.
"A 'Yes' vote would send out a powerful signal internationally that Ireland has evolved into a fair, compassionate and tolerant nation."