Sunday 8 December 2019

Varadkar turned down chance to stay in health

Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar TD Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar TD Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

Niall O'Connor and Fionnán Sheahan

Leo Varadkar turned down an offer from Taoiseach Enda Kenny to remain in the Department of Health, the Irish Independent has learned.

Mr Kenny has told colleagues privately that he asked the leadership frontrunner to continue on as health minister, but Mr Varadkar sought a move elsewhere. This forced the Taoiseach to offer the job to Simon Harris, who was initially set to take charge of the Department of Social Protection.

The news that Mr Varadkar wanted out of health has been confirmed by senior Government figures, including ministers close to Mr Kenny.

But it comes after Mr Varadkar last week told the first of the leadership hustings that he "had unfinished business in health".

One minister last night accused Mr Varadkar of turning down the offer so that he could focus on building his leadership campaign. "Leo said he has 'unfinished business in health'. Then why didn't he tell the Taoiseach he wanted to remain there?" said the minister.

Mr Varadkar was asked yesterday why he turned down the opportunity, but he said he did not wish to comment on a private meeting with the Taoiseach which took place amid the Cabinet reshuffle on May 6 last year.

"We had a discussion about that when the new Government was formed and, I suppose, the discussion was private and I wouldn't like to divulge too much of it," Mr Varadkar told the Irish Independent.

At the tense fourth and final leadership debate in Cork, Mr Varadkar accused Mr Coveney of a "dishonest" portrayal of his own commitment to compassionate policies. Meanwhile, Mr Coveney accused Mr Varadkar of trying to buy his way to power.

Irish Independent

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