Varadkar defends seeking Lowry’s backing for Taoiseach vote

Leader denies claims that Tipperary TD got commitments on funding for local hospital

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tánaiste Simon Coveney answer questions from reporters during their visit to New York. Photograph: Simon Carswell/The Irish Times

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tánaiste Simon Coveney answer questions from reporters during their visit to New York. Photograph: Simon Carswell/The Irish Times

 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has defended asking Independent TD Michael Lowry for his support to elect him as Taoiseach last year.

He denied Mr Lowry’s claims in a Sunday newspaper interview that the Tipperary TD, who was convicted of tax offences last week, had received commitments to support funding for a hospital in his constituency.

The Taoiseach said he rang a number of Independent TDs last year to ask them for their support.

Mr Varadkar said he had intended to support Clonmel Hospital because he knew of the hospital’s long-standing overcrowding issues, as former minister for health.

“He [Mr Lowry] didn’t seek or set down any conditions for that support, nor were any concessions made to him, so we don’t have a formal agreement, either written or otherwise,” Mr Varadkar told reporters in New York.

Constituency and policy issues

The Taoiseach said Independent TDs who support the Government “most of the time” can raise constituency and policy issues with his office or Ministers “and if it makes sense and it is good policy – and we can work on them – we do”.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he rang a number of Independent TDs last year to ask them for their support. File photograph: Yves Herman/Reuters
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he rang a number of Independent TDs last year to ask them for their support. File photograph: Yves Herman/Reuters

Asked why his spokesman told reporters last week that Mr Lowry does not have any channels available to him that are not available to any TD, Mr Varadkar said: “There are a few of them [Independent TDs] that generally support the Government who don’t have a formal agreement with us, either written or verbal, but they are free and welcome to contacts Ministers about specific constituency issues.”

Questioned whether he had a credibility problem in light of Mr Lowry’s remarks, Mr Varadkar said: “First of all I would refer you to the comments that I have made in the Dáil consistently for the last couple of months on this issue, not a briefing that a spokesperson gave.”

When it was put to the Taoiseach that his spokesman, who speaks on his behalf, insisted there was no arrangement was in place for Mr Lowry, Mr Varadkar said: “I speak on my behalf.”