Leo and the lie-in: Taoiseach gets up early and exercises

Varadkar revealed in interview with Vincent Browne that he gets up at 6.45am

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he would not rule out raising some taxes in future budgets during an interview on the penultimate episode of TV3’s Tonight with Vincent Browne programme. Courtesy: TV3


Taoiseach Leo Varadkar gets up at 6.45am each morning and likes to exercise before work, he revealed in an interview with TV3’s Vincent Browne.

While Mr Varadkar may have been seen as a “night owl” in his early years as a politician, this has all changed with the Taoiseach’s alarm going off before 7am each morning.

When asked by Vincent Browne, what time he gets up at, the Taoiseach replied 6.45am. He told the veteran broadcaster that he now like to start his morning off by exercising.

“It wouldn’t be that unusual, certainly not in suburban Dublin,” he said.

The Taoiseach noted that that he used to be more of a night owl but has since changed his ways to become part of the early morning risers.

The Taoiseach famously identified the “people who get up early in the morning” cohort during the recent Fine Gael leadership contest.

“When I was working as a doctor, I did obviously [get up early] as I had to. When I was in the Dáil, I tended to get up a bit later and work very late, but in the last number of years I changed,” said Mr Varadkar.

When challenged by the TV3 presenter, about not having a reputation for getting up early in his early years in politics, Mr Varadkar said: “I would have been someone who worked very late; you could be sending emails at 2am or 3am.”

The Taoiseach said that part of his new early morning strategy was down to getting fit. “What I do now is I train in the mornings and people ask me why I do it. I do it for two reasons, first of all to keep in shape but secondly I think training, sport and physical activity is really good for mental health. It’s an opportunity to escape essentially from the worries of your day, or the things you are concerned about and it gives people some headspace and thinking time and running and swimming does that. I know a lot of people who say it helps with the rest of the day,” said the Taoiseach.


Asked to elaborate on “people who get up early in the morning”, the Taoiseach said it was a metaphor for people who worked hard, regardless of the specific hours. “What it refers to is effectively two million people who work in Ireland for a living; 1.5 million who pay income tax, who work very hard, who contribute a huge amount to the country in terms of tax and also in terms of the work that they do,” he said.

“It’s the middle class, it’s middle Ireland and it’s a group of people who often feel that they contribute a lot to the economy and a lot to society but maybe they don’t get as much back for it as they should.”

These people were on the wrong side of the means test for medical cards; they received no housing support; and until recently they would have lost out on childcare subsidies, he said.

“I think they are the people who make everything possible in this country and they need to know that Government is on their side,” he said. “I want to raise their living standards.”

Mr Varadkar struggled to define what he meant by the middle-class. He suggested 70 per cent of people, including those on the minimum wage, are middle-class. Asked by Browne where the 70 per cent figure came from, Mr Varadkar replied that it was a “standard statistic”.

“It’s a standard statistic if you ask people, for example, you asked about the phrase ‘getting up early in the morning’. When people were asked in polls, after I used that term by the way, not before as we didn’t do any research, over 60 per cent identified as being in that group.

Browne argued with Mr Varadkar that minimum wage workers could not be identified as middle class to which the Taoiseach responded: “Well they are middle Ireland, and are certainly people who get up early in the morning and that is the phrase that I used.”