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'I broke no laws' - Taoiseach defends picnic with friends after public were discouraged from doing so

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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland/PA)

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland/PA)

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland/PA)

The Taoiseach has issued a staunch defence of his decision to have a picnic with friends in the Phoenix Park on Sunday afternoon.

In a statement, Leo Varadkar’s spokesperson insisted the Taoiseach “broke no laws, breached no regulations and observed public health guidance”.

The comments came after photographs circulated on social media showing the Taoiseach and his partner Matthew Barrett picnicking with friends in the Dublin City Centre park.

However, last week, Department of the Taoiseach Assistance Secretary General Liz Canavan urged people not to have picnics in public areas during the first phase of lockdown restrictions being eased.

She said: "If you're visiting a public amenity try not to stay too long at the site or have picnics. Please do your exercise and then go home."

On Sunday, Mr Varadkar and Mr Barrett met friends at the Wellington Monument in the Phoenix Park.

On Monday night, his spokesperson said: “Last Sunday afternoon, he and his partner met two friends in the Phoenix Park. As is allowed in Phase One, this involved a group of four people meeting outdoors who were within 5km of home and stayed physically apart.

“Government guidelines allow people to spend time in the outdoors within 5km of their home while continuing to observe social distancing and good hygiene. There are no specific Government guidelines on eating outdoors or picnics,” he added.

The spokesperson also addressed the Taoiseach’s decision to move to a state-owned residence on the Farmleigh Estate during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Regarding Stewards Lodge, a four bedroom house on the grounds of Farmleigh, security is provided by the Taoiseach's regular Garda security detail, IT and home office supports by the Department of the Taoiseach,” he said.

“There are no staff and no domestic services are provided. As has been the practice for many years, the Taoiseach pays a nightly fee for the use of the house,” he added.

Belfast Telegraph