Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has been living on the Farmleigh Estate in the Phoenix Park during the Covid-19 pandemic, it has emerged.
Mr Varadkar and his partner Dr Matthew Barrett have been staying in the State-owned Stewards Lodge on the grounds of Farmleigh for a number of weeks.
The Taoiseach is paying a nightly fee to stay in the residence which received a €600,000 refurbishment in 2007.
Mr Varadkar’s spokesperson revealed he was staying in the residency, which is available to Taoisigh, after photographs emerged of the Taoiseach meeting friends in the Phoenix Park.
The Taoiseach and his partner Matthew Barrett met friends at the Wellington Monument on the Parkgate Street side of the park on Sunday afternoon.
The area of the park is almost 8km from his apartment on Carpenterstown Road in the Dublin West constituency.
Under the Government’s Covid-19 restrictions, people are prohibited from any non-essential travel more than 5km from their homes.
However, following queries from the Irish Independent, the Taoiseach’s spokesperson said: “The Taoiseach was in the Phoenix Park with his partner Matt and two friends on Sunday Afternoon, in line with public health guidance.”
“He was within 5km of the Stewards Lodge, where he is staying during the Covid Emergency,” he added.
Sources said the Taoiseach choose to stay in the residence because it has an office with “secure connections” for video conferencing which allows him work from home.
The source the Taoiseach’s friends could not come to Stewards Lodge because it was further than 5k from their home.
Brian Cowen regularly stayed in the lodge when he was Taoiseach.
In photographs circulating on social media, which have been verified by the Irish Independent, Mr Varadkar and his partner are shown socialising with two other friends near the Wellington Monument.
The Taoiseach and his friends are pictured with their shirts off enjoying a picnic during the warm weather on Sunday afternoon.
Gardai are seen walking near Mr Varadkar but were not with the Taoiseach.
A number of people posted photographs and videos on Instagram and Twitter.
Users of the social media platforms suggested Mr Varadkar was breaching the two metre social distancing rule with his group of friends.
Groups of four people are permitted to meet outside under phase one of the Government’s roadmap for reopening the country.
However, they are restricted from travelling further than 5km from their homes to meet friends or family.
The ban on travelling further has caused some controversy with concerns raised of people travelling further to play golf or tennis.
Senior gardai have raised concerns with Government officials over enforcing the travel ban as restrictions are eased.