Tag Archives: Leo Varadkar

This morning.

At Government Buildings in Dublin.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar meets European Council President Donald Tusk for talks ahead of the European Council summit later in the week.

Beats Juncker, spose.

Leah Farrell/Rollingnews

Tonight.

The White House, Washington DC.

Earlier

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and US president Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House, Washington DC

Further to today’s St Patrick’s Day meeting between Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and US Prresident Donald Trump, which touched on Brexit, the chances of a trip to Ireland and the appointment of an American peace envoy for Northern Ireland…

…a transcript of proceedings kindly provided by the press pool at the White House.

President Donald Trump: “Well, thank you very much. It’s a great honour to have the Prime Minister of Ireland. We’ve become fast friends. We’ve had some very, very good transactions taking place on trade and other things.

As you know, he’s in a very complicated position right now because of Brexit. You’re going to have to tell me what’s happening. You’re going to have to, perhaps, tell the world what’s happening because I’m not sure anybody knows.

But very, very special country. So many friends. And you’re doing a great job. Very popular man doing a wonderful job. The people love him, and that’s very important. And thank you very much for being with us. Thank you, Leo.”

Varadkar: “Mr. President, just wanted to say thanks very much for meeting us again. It’s an enormous privilege for Ireland, as a small country, to have this annual meeting on account of St. Patrick’s Day, and it’s a chance to make even closer and tighter the bonds between the U.S. and Ireland.

I particularly want to thank you for your help with Aughinish…”

TRUMP: “Right.”

VARADKAR: “with the plans in the west of Ireland where hundreds of jobs were threatened as a result of the Russian sanctions. And with the help of the administration, we were able to save those jobs.”

TRUMP: “That’s right.”

VARADKAR:
“So, thank you very much for that.”

TRUMP: “They don’t — they don’t know about that.”

VARADKAR: (Laughs.) “They do now.”

TRUMP: “They don’t know about what I do for other people.”

VARADKAR: “And I look forward to talking to you later about Brexit, giving you our perspective on it and the real importance of protecting the Good Friday Agreement and the really hard-won peace in Northern Ireland.

And I look forward to talking to you a little bit about immigration, as well, and also about trade and how much I would like to see a trade deal done between the U.S. and the EU. We’ve done one with Japan. We’ve done one with Canada. And we’d love to strike a deal with the U.S., too.”

TRUMP: “Okay, well, we’ll see. Because the EU, as you know, has been very tough to deal with, and frankly, they’ve been — it’s been very one-sided for many, many years. And so we’re changing that around, and we’re starting to maybe get somewhere. And if we don’t, we’ll win anyway. But I do appreciate your saying that. And again, it’s a great honor to have you. Fantastic country.”

Q Mr. President, do you support Ireland’s position on Brexit?

TRUMP: “I’m not going to comment on Brexit. I can tell you it’s a very complex thing that’s going on right now. It’s tearing a country apart. It’s actually tearing a lot of countries apart. And it’s a shame that it has to be that way. But I think we will stay right in our lane.

We’re doing fantastically as a country. Our economy is booming. We’re the envy of the world. Other economies are not doing well and we’re doing record business, so we’re very happy about that. And it’s really great to have the Prime Minister of Ireland with us.”

Q Are you going to visit Ireland this year?

TRUMP: “I will. I’ll be coming at some point during the year. I missed it last time and I would have loved to have been there. And it’s a special place. And I have a very warm spot for Doonbeg, I will tell you that. And it’s just a great place. Really, a great place.”

Q Mr. President, yesterday you made your decision about the Boeing planes. How long do you think that they will be grounded and —

TRUMP: “Oh, I hope it’s going to be for a short period of time, and I hope it’s — look, they have to find out what it is. The biggest thing is they have to find out what it is. I’m not sure that they know. But I thought we had to do it. We had to take a cautionary route. The grounding of the planes yesterday was a big thing, as you know. And you’re involved with Boeing also.”

VARADKAR: “Yeah. We’ve done the same. Yeah.”

PRESIDENT TRUMP: “The grounding was a big thing. And it’s a great company. It’s a truly great company. And hopefully they’ll figure it out very quickly.

It was a big decision. It’s also one of our largest exporters, one of our — you know, truly — one of the truly great companies of the world. They have to figure it out fast. They know that. They’re under great pressure.”

Q Mr. President, you were a great supporter of Brexit initially. Are you still a great supporter of Brexit given how things are playing out?

TRUMP: “Well, I was. It wasn’t that I was a supporter. I predicted it was going to happen, and I was right. And people laughed when I predicted it, and they won by about two points. And I was standing out on Turnberry, and we had a press conference, and people were screaming. That was the day before, if you remember. I think you were there. And people were screaming, and I said, “No, I think it’s going to happen.”

And people were surprised I made the prediction because President Obama made the opposite prediction. And I was right. And I will tell you, I’m surprised at how badly it’s all gone from the standpoint of a negotiation.

But I gave the Prime Minister my ideas on how to negotiate it. And I think you would’ve been successful. She didn’t listen to that, and that’s fine. I mean, she’s got to do what she’s got to do. But I think it could’ve been negotiated in a different manner, frankly. I hate to see it being — everything being ripped apart right now. I don’t think another vote would be possible because it would be very unfair to the people that won. They’d say, “What do you mean you’re going to take another vote?” So that would be tough.

But I thought it would happen. It did happen. And both sides are very, very — you know, they’re cemented in. It’s a tough situation. It’s a shame. Frankly, it’s a shame. There was no reason for that to happen. They could’ve had the vote, and it should’ve gone smoothly. Unfortunately, it didn’t. It’s a very complicated issue. And actually, the issue on the border of Ireland is one of the most complex points.”

Q Do you think it should be extended to get more time to get a deal?

 TRUMP: “Well, I think they’re going to probably have to do something because right now they’re in the midst of a very short period of time, the end of the month. And they’re not going to be able to do that. So it’s going be (inaudible.)

But I’d like to see — I would like to see —

Q (Inaudible.)

TRUMP: Excuse me. I’d like to see that whole situation with Brexit work out. I’d like to see — so, you know, we’re talking to them about trade. And we can do a very big trade deal with the UK. We’re also renegotiating our trade deal with the European groups and, you know, literally, individual nations, and also with the whole.

But it’s very sad to see what’s happening there. And there was no reason — and I’m sure — Leo, I’m sure you agree with that. Do you have any feeling on — would you like to express your feelings on Brexit?

VARADKAR: “Yeah, well…”

TRUMP: “Maybe I should not let you do it. I’ll just get you in trouble.” (Laughter.)

VARADKAR: “Yeah, well, we have a different opinion, President. I regret that Brexit is happening. And the UK was a really important part of the European Union. But they’re going now, and that’s their decision. But the most important thing for us in Ireland is that their decision to leave shouldn’t cause any problems in Northern Ireland, where people actually voted to stay, and that we shouldn’t have a hard border or anything to disrupt the peace process. And also, we want to make sure that we still have frictionless trade between Britain and Ireland, because I believe in free trade.

And I think it will be a few years until the United Kingdom sorts itself out, but in the meantime, the European Union is available to talk trade with the U.S.”

TRUMP: “Right. And we’re talking about trade with the European Union. They’ve been very, very tough over the years. They were unwilling to negotiate with the Obama administration, and they were unwilling before that, to be honest. I’m not just blaming President Obama.

But they’re willing to talk to us. And if they don’t talk to us, we’re going to do something that’s going to be pretty severe, economically. We’re going to tariff a lot of their products coming in. Because the European Union treats us very, very unfairly, I have to say that. Very, very. They treat the United States — and they have been for many years — for decades, they’ve treated us very unfairly.

So it will probably work out. They’re negotiating. They want to see if they can get — otherwise, we’re going to do something that’s going to be good for the United States.”

{later]

Q What advice did you give Theresa May that she didn’t take?

TRUMP:“Who?”

Q What advice did you give the British Prime Minister that she didn’t take?

TRUMP: “Well, I just told her what I would do and how I would do it. But she has her own way of doing it. She is — she’s got her own way of doing it. That’s okay.

Thank you, everybody.”

Q Would you appoint a peace envoy, Mr. President — a peace envoy for Northern Ireland?

TRUMP: “We may very well be doing that.”

Q You may very well be doing what?

TRUMP: “What?”

Q What was that last question?

TRUMP: “No, you wouldn’t be interested. You’re Irish.”

Remarks by President Trump and Prime Minister Varadkar of Ireland Before Bilateral Meeting (The White House)

Earlier: Trump L’eoil

Pic via The White House

This afternoon.

The White House, Washington DC

More as we get it.

Meanwhile…

Oh.

Update:

Um.

Macron?

Trudeau?

Merkel?

Meanwhile…

Just now in Washington DC.

At the US Naval Observatory.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and his partner Dr Matt Barrett meet with Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen.

They were accompanied by Waterford Fine Gael TD and Government envoy to the US Congress to work on the issue of the undocumented Irish in the US, John Deasy (above).

Pics: Leo Varadkar

Earlier: Funds And Games

Last night.

Washington DC.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar gives an address at an American Ireland Funds special dinner celebrating ‘Visionary Women’.

Mr Varadkar will today meet US president Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence….

The Taoiseach said that an existing invite for President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence to visit Ireland still stands.

Mr Varadkar’s partner Matt Barrett will accompany him when he meets Mr Pence today.

Mr Pence has been criticised in the past for his conservative views on LGBT rights, and last year there was much focus on his meeting with the Taoiseach.

Taoiseach and Trump to discuss Brexit, immigration and US-Irish relations (RTÉ)

Meanwhile

Visionary women, you say?

DUP leader Arlene Foster at the dinner with the Taoiseach.

Meanwhile

*cough*

Pics: Twitter/RTÉ

This afternoon.

Washington DC.

Thanks Johnny NYC

Earlier: Make Caps Great Again


‘sup?

This morning.

The Department of Children, Dublin

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar launching the National Childcare Scheme with toddlers, Donnacha Barr (top left) and Sam Laffertty Klvlehan and a sock puppet.

It’s not a caption competition until you insist.

Sam Boal/RollingNews

‘sup?

This morning/afternoon.

NCAD, Dublin

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with Minister for Education and Skills, Joe McHugh and Minister of State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor launching the ‘Action Plan for Education 2019’ that sets out more than “280 deliverable actions for this year with the ambition to continuously improve our education system”.

That owl guff.

FIGHT!

Leah Farrell/RollingNews

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy and Taoiseach Leo Varakar in the Dáil today

Just now.

In the Dáil…

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy repeatedly asked the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar if it’s true that Dublin City Council only built 21 social housing units last year.

Mr Varadkar appeared to confirm the figure when he said that a breakdown of social housing figures is available, he has seen the figures, and “I imagine that that is correct”.

But his answer came after some time.

Ms Murphy is a member of the Public Accounts Committee and recalled a recent meeting of the committee involving  the Housing Department’s Secretary General John McCarthy whom, she said, stated “quite categorically” that the figures for council housing are extremely clear in terms of the breakdown/categorisation of these properties.

She said Mr McCarthy said the department publishes “quarterly updates in this regard” and he “refuted allegations of spin when it comes to the presentation of the figures”.

Ms Murphy said:

“In 2018, the social housing output figures, under local authority build, the number is listed as 2,022 but the minister has bundled all of those categories and has consistently refused to give a breakdown of local authority build by individual category.

“However, at the Public Accounts Committee meeting last week, the secretary general [Mr McCarthy] in response to questions I posed, finally gave us a breakdown of the figures for 2018.

“Those figures: 768 for turn-key units, 200 regeneration properties and that leaves a total of a 1,054 actual newly built local authority houses for 2018.

Why then the continued blurring of numbers by Minister Murphy?

Ms Murphy said that a few weeks ago Minister Murphy, on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Dr Gavin Jennings “grilled” the minister for a breakdown of the social housing output but his questions went unanswered while the minister said the figures would be available the following week.

But, Ms Murphy said, these figures still haven’t been made public, outside of being made available to the Public Accounts Committee; they’re not on the department’s website; and they’re not in the department’s press releases.

The Social Democrats co-leader then asked if the reason for the “reluctance” to give a clear breakdown of the output is that some councils are performing “very poorly”?

Ms Murphy then said:

“For example, it has been said that Dublin City Council, who are at the epicentre of this crisis, only built 21 houses last year or could it be red tape? We need to know?”

“So, Taoiseach, can we get some straight answers to the following questions please?

“Can you confirm that the new builds by local authorities, given to the Public Accounts Committee, by the Secretary General last week, are accurate?

Is it correct that Dublin City Council only built 21 units in 2018 themselves?

“And what’s the actual breakdown by local authority of the 1,054 new builds in 2018?”

In his response, the Taoiseach said people receiving homes don’t ever raise the categorisation of social housing.

He added:

What matters as a fact is that last year 9,000 – more than any in ten years – 9,000 families moved into social housing with secure tenancies and we shouldn’t obsess ourselves about whether it’s done through an affordable housing body or local authority, or trust or Part 5, Part 8 or Part 26. That’s not what matters.”

Ms Murphy said knowing the breakdown does matter.

She said knowing the breakdown allows people to know what’s cost effective and value for money.

“We need to get those breakdowns so that information can be evaluated. This is public information, it’s public money. Why are you so reluctant to give the figures in a way that breaks it down and you can make those comparisons?

Is it true that Dublin City Council built 21 houses last year? The performance of our local authorities matters because they’re going to be the ones that are going to deliver, if we’re actually going to deliver the kind of numbers that are needed, to actually get a grip on this crisis.

“You cannot keep on answering questions in the way you did. The breakdown matters.”

Mr Varadkar said:

Deputy, I’m advised by the minister of state behind me that those figures are available and I’ve seen breakdown so I imagine that that is correct and they are available.

“But I think you’ve got it wrong here. The truth is, after years of running into problems, years of delays, when we didn’t have the money to do it, after years and years of trouble, we’re now delivering on social housing, increasing the housing stock by 9,000 last year.

“We’ll increase it by even more this year. And what you’re trying to do, is you don’t want people to know that. So you’re trying to make that housing provided by affordable housing body like Peter McVerry Trust or the Iveagh Trust doesn’t exist.”

Watch Dáil proceedings live here

From top: Fianna Fáil leader Mícheál Martin; Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

This afternoon.

During Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil.

Fianna Fáil leader Mícheál Martin raised a report by Louise Byrne on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland on Rebuilding Ireland’s Home Loan Scheme this morning.

Ms Byrne reported that, according to documents she obtained under Freedom Of Information, the Department of Housing – in a briefing note dated January 31, 2019, to its press office – said further approvals are not currently being issued for these particular loans.

Specifically, the note said the department “has been advised that no further approvals should issue for now”.

These loans allow first-time buyers to borrow up to 90 per cent of a property’s value from their local authority.

Those wishing to secure one of these loans have to show they’ve been turned down for mortgage approval by two banks.

Gross earnings cannot exceed €50,000 for a single person or €75,000 for a couple.

In light of Ms Byrne’s report, Mr Martin said Fianna Fáil TD Willie O’Dea was told in December 2018 by the Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy that “he was progressing reforms to ensure the loan can work for more people and more quickly”.

Mr Martin said:

I don’t know what planet the minister is on? But the question I would ask Taoiseach is: Why wasn’t the scheme extended? Why hasn’t it been extended? Why was there no public announcement to the effect, in other words, if you tell your press office, surely deserve the public deserve to know?

“And why wasn’t the Dáil told: upfront and in an honest way?

“Why this kind of continuing lack of respect for the House? In terms of being open, upfront and honest in terms of what is going on? In terms of schemes of this kind?

“People are still applying but nobody has been approved, nobody has been told that no further approvals will issue except your press office according to a Freedom of Information on RTÉ this morning?”

“Why can’t the Minister and the Government just be honest with the people in terms of these issues? And could the Taoiseach bring clarity to this? When will this scheme be extended and to what degree will the scheme be extended?”

“The original limit was €200million; 1,000 houses were to be, allegedly by the minister, accommodated. We’ve had about 1,550, if not more, applications accepted. So will those people, who’ve been approved, will they be in a position to draw down their loans?”

Mr Varadkar told the Dáil 575 people have secured loans under the scheme to date while a further 1,000 applications have been approved but the money has yet to be withdrawn in respect of those.

He said the scheme was initially limited at €200m and that figure has been allocated.

He added:

“But as loans are not drawn down and loans do expire after six months, if they’re not drawn down, more finance does become available.

What we have to consider now is two things: is to whether we should increase the cap above €200m, and that’s currently under consideration of Government, and we also have to consult with the Central Bank as well because this is a mortgage, it is a loan, it’s a loan being offered to people being turned down by banks, building societies and it is a loan at a reduced interest rate.”

In response, Mr Martin asked Mr Varadkar when he discovered that the Department of Housing had to do these two things.

He said:

“Cause the minister said back, last year, that we’re not going to wait for the fund to run out, before we build up a second fund to allow a continuation of the scheme with whatever changes we might deem necessary. The minister said there was going to be no issue here.”

Mr Martin added:

It’s low-income people again being let down. Hopes raised and then dashed with fanfare by the Government in terms of raising the hope. The dashing of the hope is done silently, quietly. Why wasn’t this, what you just said to the House, said by the minister in parliamentary replies?”

“…Why all the secrecy? And the silence around it. Why can’t you guys just be up front with people?

Mr Varadkar told Mr Martin – after Mr Martin accused him of prancing about the place – “while you’re prancing about the place and wagging the finger and telling us off, we’re actually doing things, doing things in the real world that help people”.

He said the Government has helped 10,000 people buy their first home.

Watch Dáil proceedings live here