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‘You have to stand up to bullies’ – Leo Varadkar defends row with Pearse Doherty, says it was ‘self defence’

  • Varadkar defends his Dáil row with Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty, saying ‘you have to stand up to bullies’
  • Doherty describes Varadkar’s dig as ‘sounding very rehearsed’


Leo Varadkar and Pearse Doherty

Leo Varadkar and Pearse Doherty

Leo Varadkar and Pearse Doherty

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has defended his Dáil row with Pearse Doherty, saying it was “self defence”.

He said for his own mental health that “every now and then” he has to snap back and “you have to stand up to bullies”. 

Last week in the chamber Sinn Féin’s finance spokesperson had cited corruption allegations against Mr Varadkar which are being considered by the DPP. 

Mr Varadkar immediately hit back accusing the Donegal TD of “a very personal cheap shot”, which he said told a lot about his character.

The Tánaiste accused Mr Doherty of having “abused and mistreated” a garda, which led to him being arrested and prosecuted in court.

Speaking today, Mr Varadkar said he wouldn’t call the exchange a “spat” and that it was “self defence”. 

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"I won't go through the detail of it, but in my mind it was very much self defence,” he told Newstalk Breakfast. 

"Sinn Féin - whether it's their supporters online, or their supporters on the streets, or their politicians in the Dáil - are constantly trying to attack us personally and bully us and do us down on the Government benches.

"I think the way they try to demonise their political opponents - sort of make out that they care about people more than us.

"It started off, let's not forget, because Pearse Doherty alleged that my party was out of touch because I'd steak and chips with Jimmy Deenihan in the members restaurant the night before - no public money involved.

"Yet they can go on their exotic, fundraising trips around the world and drink champagne, and they're totally down with normal people.

"When you have to listen to that kind of stuff day-in, day-out - I think even for your own mental health, every now and then, you have to snap back.”

In response to the Tánaiste, Mr Doherty today said on RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne: “Well first of all, I want to make clear I have no convictions, Leo Varadkar is a person who is under immense pressure we can hear it with his discussion earlier on the cost of living. 

“But he brought up something that happened a quarter of a century ago, it was a verbal altercation with the gardai and I have no convictions.”

He added that he believes what Mr Varadkar said about him in the Dail was “very rehearsed.”

Speaking on the same show, Fine Gael’s Colm Brophy defended his party leader and said Mr Doherty is “big enough” to expect such a response from the Tánaiste after bringing up the DPP investigation. 

"If you want to go down that route you are big enough and bold enough to get a response and you got a response from the Tánaiste, you made a comment you shouldn't have made,” he said. 

Mr Brophy added that Mr Doherty is “the master of the slight word” and he wasn’t explaining the full extent of what he said in the Dail on the programme. 

The Sinn Féin deputy leader replied: “I asked him to be a bit more humble of someone who the DPP is currently investigating, that's what I said after.”

Speaking earlier on RTÉ Radio 1’s Morning Ireland, Mr Varadkar said he would like to see Senator Lynn Ruane say that what Mr Doherty said about him was “unfair” after she said no one should be shamed for mistakes from the past. 

"I know what she is saying, I am a supporter of the suspended convictions legislation I was Taoiseach when we brought that in so that people can move on with their lives if they’ve been convicted in the past,” he said.

“But I think It lacked context, I would like to hear her say that what Pearse said about me was unfair as well and that everyone is entitled to due process and the presumption of innocence and she hasn't said that and I hope she will.”

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