‘What’s The Big Deal Here?’

at

This morning.

On RTE’s Radio One.

Various shows looked at the fall-out of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s comments in Washington yesterday when he claimed he made a call to Clare County Council when he was Minister for Tourism in 2014.

Readers will recall Mr Varadkar said he made the call after he got a phone call from Donald Trump, who was then a businessman, about a proposed wind farm which was to be built close to Mr Trump’s Doonbeg golf resort, subject to planning permission.

The wind farm subsequently didn’t get planning permission. [The decision was appealed to An Bord Pleanala but the board upheld the decision to refuse permission].

Readers will recall, Mr Varadkar specifically said of the permission not being granted:

The president has very kindly given me credit for that, although I do think it would probably have been refused anyway. I’m very happy to take credit for it…”

Clare County Council last night said it had no record of any contact from Mr Varadkar.

This morning, on Morning Ireland, RTE’s Micheal Lehane reported:

“The latest on it is that it was in fact the Taoiseach’s office that made an inquiry about the status of the planning application.

“They say nothing more than that and a record probably wouldn’t be kept in that instance .

“And it’s being compared by Leo Varadkar’s side to a politician making a call about the status of a medical card and saying it’s nothing at all along the lines of any judicial matter so therefore, on that grounds, they say, it’s acceptable, but there’s no doubt, it is controversial and many in Leinster House believe it highly unusual given the nature of what was being proposed on the planning application and the big purchase at Doonbeg at the time.”

Later, also on Morning Ireland…

Presenter Dr Gavin Jennings spoke to Fianna Fail TD Timmy Dooley and Fine Gael Senator Martin Conway about the matter.

Dr Jennings specifically asked Senator Conway if Mr Varadkar rang the council – as Mr Varadkar himself said – or not.

From Mr Conway’s response…

My understanding is that he didn’t ring the council. I’ve been speaking to council officials. None of them can recall receiving a phone call from Leo Varadkar.

“I have been talking to people in Leo Varadkar’s office who were working with Leo Varadkar at the time he was minister for transport and tourism and they’re absolutely clear that Leo Varadkar did not make a call – that, basically, somebody in his office made an inquiry in terms of the status update.

“As we all do on a regular basis, we regularly, as public representatives get phone calls about planning files by people who are supportive of them and people who are not supportive of them.

Sometimes we will just check, we can do it online or we can make a phonecall to see what’s the story with this file, you know when is a decision due, and so forth.

What the Taoiseach did was the Taoiseach sought information, his office sought information for somebody who was employing over 300 people down in West Clare.”

Further to Morning Ireland, on Today with Sean O’Rourke, which was presented by Damian O’Reilly…

Mr O’Reilly spoke to Labour leader Brendan Howlin and Louth Fine Gael TD Fergus O’Dowd about the comments.

Mr O’Dowd said:

It was a humorous side remark and I accept that’s what it was and it’s something that he spoke about on other occasions. The key point is that at the core of this is that he got a call from Donald Trump, he wasn’t president. Leo wasn’t Taoiseach at the time, he was Minister for Tourism and Sport.

“And indeed, people in public life receive calls all the time from business people, all the time from the public about this and the other and on planning issues, we’re often invited to meetings arguing people for something or against something and as Mr Howlin said there, I mean, Regina Doherty is strongly opposed a planning application for a wind farm in her own constituency, so there’s nothing new…

“[Leo] made a query, through his office, as to what was the status of the application and that’s what he did.”

“…there was no law broken, it wasn’t interference…”

“...he didn’t interfere, he made a query...”

“The office inquired about the planning permission, they didn’t make representation and that’s the democratic process…”

“But the other point is he did it openly, there’s nothing hidden about this, he spoke about it two years ago [in Time magazine], he joked about it in public, what’s the big deal here?

Meanwhile…

On Ryan Tubridy’s RTE Radio One show Tubridy

Mr Tubridy said:

“All the papers covering the trip to Washington by the Taoiseach. And, you know, part of me thinks, oh, he’s telling his story about Doonbeg and I presume he thought, it’s a gas story and it’s a bit of an old, a bit of fun, and you’re in Washington.

“But, you know what, when you’re Taoiseach and you’re in Washington, you have to remember that you might aswell be on the main street in Killarney or wherever you want to be in Clare because it’s just, you kind of think when you go out there, you think the rules are a bit different but they’re not.

“And sure enough, we’re not talking about trade and immigrants in as much a way as you can hear on Morning Ireland there, the interest of the trip has really been slanted towards what he said about Doonbeg and the wind farm and you heard [Fianna Fail TD] Timmy Dooley, a local interest, talking about that.

“I’d say that they’re probably…a bit of a face palm, ‘oh, if only, maybe, you just didn’t need to tell that story and maybe if you hadn’t and everything else’, but…anyway…that’s what he did and that’s what they’re doing.”

“The headline in The [Irish] Times is: ‘Trump open to deal on undocumented’, but actually it’s the story that seems to be getting the most traction is the on the side which is ‘Varadkar criticised over Doonbeg’.

Bit of a pity really because those trips are really meant to be fun, good news trips and you come back armed with loads of stories about investment and everything…

Listen back to Morning Ireland here

Listen back to Tubridy here

Listen back to Today with Sean O’Rourke here

51 thoughts on “‘What’s The Big Deal Here?’

  1. Brother Barnabas

    “Later, also on Morning Ireland…
    Presenter Dr Gavin Jennings spoke to Fianna Fail TD Timmy Dooley and Fine Gael Senator Martin Conway about the matter.
    Dr Jennings specifically asked Senator Conway if Mr Varadkar rang the council – as Mr Varadkar himself said – or not.
    From Mr Heydon’s response…”

    Was it not Sen Conway who gave that response?

  2. Martco

    this is what you get from a media/tv/youtuber personality/politician when the storytelling & reality become so entwined one forgets ones arse from ones elbow when all excited. I’m very much enjoying this #pisstaketaoiseach show though, a bit like The Office, can’t wait for the next episode!

    1. GiggidyGoo

      how did you get away with the ‘a-word’ and the ‘p-word’? a comment by me yesterday was delayed for the p-word even though it was in the article itself. Booboo there Bodger

  3. anne

    The point is not whether he actually made a call or not.. the point is he thinks this sort of corruption is ok.

    You get an insight into crony capitalism with these sorts of comments.

    1. stupidoulwan

      What’s the insight exactly?

      Tourism Minister gets call from stakeholder in the Tourism industry

      Makes phonecall

      Tells you about it.

      Where’s the evidence for corruption?

      Are you a bit simple or something?

      1. realPolithicks

        “Are you a bit simple or something?”

        You should pose that question to yourself.

    2. TheQ47

      Anne, I’m no FG-er (no party political affiliations at all, in fact), but I don’t see this as corruption in any way. Every single politician (from local councillor to Taoiseach) of every party and none, checks on the status of things like planning applications, Old Age pensions, medical cards, etc., etc., when asked by a constituent. Sometimes they’ll look up the info online, sometimes they’ll make a phone call, and sometimes they’ll write an email or a letter.

      It’s what they do, represent their constituents. There’s no indication that anything he said or did changed the status of this application in any way, or had any affect on it at all, or that he was trying to influence it in any way.

      Storm in a teacup, IMO.

      1. Neilo

        This is what happens when you have a TD per 30,000 souls – calls are made, representations are written and the TD is often told to sod off. If this is corruption, the word has lost all meaning.

      2. anne

        The Targarine one is not even one of his constituents.

        Listen carefully, let’s break this down for the more simple ones amongst us.

        He’s taking credit for bypassing the normal planning process, that as minister in government, he put in a call and hey presto, no wind farm, coz he had the power and he’s taking credit for it & the Orange Yoke thinks he’s brilliant for it.

        This sort of ar*se foolery is embarassing. Last time Trump was over Baldy Noonan met him with a red carpet & a few fiddle players when his Trump plane landed in Shannon.

        Je get it now?

        1. stupidoulwan

          Yes it is embarrassing, but it’s not corruption

          That’s for the more simple among us

          Get it now?

          1. Martco

            well I think it is corrupt behaviour, Lowry would be proud! a dope who is managing to make Kenny look good.

            (thankfully though my vote matters as much as yours)

            makes entertaining reading the comments here which attempt to normalise this….everything from: “but but but shure lookit FF did this & worse” to “he’s sooo clever he’s just playing Trump & you’re just too thick to see that you naysayer”

            utter blx & what low standards indeed!

          2. martco

            I’ll do as I want thanks. bit of baking or maybe a ride on my bike, who knows

            we are all entitled to our opinions so work away & have yours by all means
            as I already mentioned my vote counts just like yours does & in the end that’s what matters….for me personally his behaviour is utterly unacceptable, I’ll make sure my vote reflects that come GE time

          3. stupidoulwan

            your vote doesn’t really count if it’s uninformed and reactionary, you might as well be voting for a dog.

          4. pedeyw

            Except uninformed reactionary votes still count. A vote is a vote regardless of the reasoning.

          5. stupidoulwan

            It really shouldn’t be

            look at those muppets who voted for Trump and the kinds of saddos who take pizzagate and qanon at face value

          6. david

            So a government minister involves himself in a matter that has nothing to do with him and the decision goes the way of the person who rang him up is not corrupttion?
            This is the question
            did the council refuse the planning application because varadka told them to or not?

          7. stupidoulwan

            I’m not answering your dumb remarks any more david, please go away and acquaint yourself with the facts before making a complete dope of yourself online. thanks.

    3. Neilo

      You want examples of corruption? Perhaps ponder why Chavistas in Venezuela have billions of dollars on deposit – abroad, invariably – while the benighted citizens feast on dogs.

      1. BobbyJ

        Nah, we are more interested in Irish affairs but feel free to continue with the whataboutery

    1. stupidoulwan

      Why is he a sleveen?

      *Note, you may use words of more than one syllable in your answer, and your answer may contain one or more sentence.

      1. dav

        Happy to help you idiots in the Strategic Communications Unit
        https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/sleeveen
        Definition of sleeveen in English
        noun :Irish : informal
        “An untrustworthy or cunning person.”
        Origin : Mid 19th century: from Irish slibhin ‘trickster’.

        Hope all those big words weren’t too much. If yes, then just be happy with the fact that those clever people in Oxford Dictionary know what type of politician your glorious Leo is.

        1. stupidoulwan

          That’s much better, thanks dav :)

          Wouldn’t you rather a sleeveen representing us abroad than some dim-witted ex-teacher?

          *genuine question

          1. dav

            I’d prefer someone who doesn’t think that homelessness is not “normal” or that people who claim welfare are NOT criminals, but I’m afraid Leo doesn’t do either.

  4. edalicious

    As much as I’d love for this to be a big gotcha moment for our Leo, I can’t help but feel it’s a bit of a storm in a teacup. Like, he probably got the call from Trump then got someone to see what the craic was, turned out it probably wasn’t getting permission anyway so happy days. The problem is whether he would’ve have leaned on local councillors if it looked like the wind farm was getting the go-ahead but, to be fair, we can’t really (or certainly shouldn’t) lynch somebody over a hypothetical. The real embarrassment is that he’d bother his hole checking after the planning application for someone with such a small operation in Ireland as Donald Trump though.

    1. david

      The fact he announced to the world that he varadka lifted the phone to the council to involve himself in a matter nothing to do with him and could of asked them to refuse the planning application is enough
      We are not privy to what was said or not or any pressure he might or might not of used
      That is the matter of an investigation to see that costs millions.
      But the company that spent most probably millions on the venture which had to be scrapped could have grounds to sue the state if it is established varadka used his position to block their business venture
      This is the issue and the example of a person that should really be kept silent

  5. some old queen

    Of course the context of this is the fact that most of us don’t like Trump. Some even feel Leo should not have met him. If it had to be Hillary in similar circumstances would there be such outrage? I doubt it.

    1. Nigel

      If Varadker had told the same or similar anecdote about Clinton the reaction would be thermonuclear by comparison. Six congressional inquiries before he’d finished his speech. Facebook and Twitter flooded with Crooked O’Hilary memes. Headlines all over the world about Windmillgate. Varadker tied to Pizzagate. Half the Irish cabinet wiped out by a Russian nerve agent the other half fired by Tweet.

    2. david

      No this is an example of possibly using his influence to help a businessman
      Remember Lowry
      This is opening the door of a company to sue the state

  6. Neilo

    Well, meeting Hillary ‘Rob’em’* Clinton would be entirely different because she’s the world’s favourite tipsy aunt.

    *Sorry, got a bit Fox News there

  7. Daisy Chainsaw

    I could fill filing cabinets with the representtions “on behalf” of constituents I’ve gotten. Being perfectly honest, they’re a massive pain in the bum, but they hold no sway over the decision. Of course, if the applicant is approved, the Rep gets the credit, but if it’s refused, the department or Co Co gets the blame!

    1. qwerty123

      Yes, obviously everyone who works in an Hotel has a LinkedIn profile, all casual staff, all housekeeping, all support staff working for other companies will all have LinkedIn profiles saying they work for Trump international. With such cutting edge investigative work, you should apply for a job in Broadsheet.

      1. johnny

        “who was employing over 300 people down in West Clare”

        other companies ?

        WTF are you going on about,the multiplier effect,the senator who was a FG member of Clare County Council from 2004 to 2011,bigged up the number of employees,included part time, seasonal workers,etc.

        as off right now there’s over 1,500 jobs posted for hotel housekeeping staff on Linkedn,ah there supposed to be invisible,illiterate and illegal and NOT on Linkendn !

        1. qwerty123

          Have you tried ringing them to see how much staff they have? Or just go by the fool proof Linkedin method. All the summer caddies not updating their Linkedin profile, disgraceful. Lazy teenagers!!

          I’m not on Linkedin, not illiterate, whereas you probably are, and just look at what you are writing. Irony, eh?

          1. johnny

            have you ever been to a golf club,a Trump International one or similar,do you think there are teenage caddies running up to members offering to carry their bags for a few bob!
            hey mister can i carry your bag ?
            is that your mum calling you for dinner…….

          2. qwerty123

            OMG, haha, no, you are correct, they have a full team of expert full time caddies, all ex pros, some on call, 365 days a year. All get full benefits and pension and have an up to date Linkedin profile.

            Wow, have to be trolling as nobody can be this dim. Having a slow day in work so I’ll indulge.

  8. Andy

    Isn’t that Labour git Aodhan Ríordáin betting his entire Dail re-election campaign on blocking a development out next to St Annes?

    In the midst of a housing crisis no less.

  9. david

    Dose he realise the stupid comment he made has implications
    In order to prepare a planning application for a windfarm of this scale costs millions of euro and this has been reported around the world that a government minister could of possibly used his influence to block a business as a favour to another businessman
    He stated what he said on camera and it can be read that trump called his office which he varadka stated
    He then added he rang the council to check on the application and revealed it was refused
    If I controlled that company I would be looking at taking legal action over the refused planning application citing a governmental ministers involvement using his influence to stop a proposed development that dose not suit another persons wishes
    This could cost this country millions if not billions of euro in compensation
    Varadka has on camera stated that he contacted the council opening up the possibility that corruption is involved

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