Belfast Telegraph

Leo's not sexist, just frank, minister says of Dail clash with Sinn Fein deputy

The Taoiseach was not guilty of sexism in his heated Dail clashes with Mary Lou McDonald, a ministerial colleague has insisted.

Minister for State Pat Breen TD said Leo Varadkar's robust criticism of the Sinn Fein deputy leader was evidence of his frank style of leadership.

Mr Vardkar and Ms McDonald exchanged strong words in the Dail last week, with the Taoiseach branding the republican "cranky" and comparing her to French far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

A row that first flared on Tuesday rumbled on into Wednesday when Ms McDonald was asked to leave the chamber after another exchange, during which she called him "facile and dismissive".

She stopped in front of Mr Varadkar's seat as she exited the chamber to continue the argument.

Critics of the Taoiseach accused him of sexism - a claim Mr Varadkar was also forced to reject earlier this year when he unveiled a government dominated by male ministers.

Asked about the Dail exhanges on RTE's The Week in Politics, Mr Breen said: "Leo is not sexist by any means whatsoever. The Fine Gael party has more women than any political party.

"He's done his very best in the Cabinet and there is a Tanaiste, a deputy prime minister (Frances Fitzgerald), who is a women as well.

"Leo's is a different style of leadership. He is very open. He's very frank, he's able to think on his toes.

"Sinn Fein, if they don't get the answers they want they to hear, they go into this ranting and raving."

Mr Breen said there was a lot of "noise" in the Dail in recent months.

"Maybe Sinn Fein should change the scriptwriter to deal with the new Leo Varadkar leadership," he added.

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