Leo Varadkar defends social welfare speech

Minister had outlined new proposals for payments without notifying the Cabinet

Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar has defended  his decision to announce policy proposals without notifying his Cabinet colleagues. File photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar has defended his decision to announce policy proposals without notifying his Cabinet colleagues. File photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

 

Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar has defended his decision to announce policy proposals without notifying his Cabinet colleagues.

Mr Varadkar was criticised by Ministers for not consulting them before outlining proposals to index welfare payments.

Speaking on Today FM’s The Last Word on Tuesday evening, Mr Varadkar said he had noted the anonymous quotes from Ministers criticising the move, but insisted nobody had raised any concerns with him.

The Fine Gael Minister said the move had not been a policy announcement “on the hoof”, but was simply him floating an idea at the MacGill summer school.

He said he had been a Minister for five years, during which time a policy speech had never been considered by Cabinet before it was made.

Mr Varadkar said Taoiseach Enda Kenny had made an announcement at MacGill regarding the prospect of a Border poll which had not come before Cabinet beforehand.

Mr Varadkar said he should be entitled to the same treatment and standards his colleagues are subjected to.

Welfare plan

Mr Varadkar had said he intends to link social welfare rates to the cost of living or average earning to ensure that people dependent on the payments do not see their standard of living fall in the future.

The plans were seen in some quarters as a bid for his party’s leadership position.

Speaking on Friday morning, Mr Varadkar said that that was an unfair characterisation of his comments.

He said: “No matter what I say or do for the past six months some people are linking [it] to the leadership of Fine Gael and I am just waiting on the day when I sit on the toilet and some commentator somewhere decides that is part of some strategy.

“It is not. I am the Minister for Social Protection, these are my responsibilities and I attended a summer school and of course I am going to talk about the future of social protection.”