Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said he believed attending a music festival in the UK was okay because parts of the entertainment industry in Ireland were reopening “two days later”.
he Enterprise Minister has received criticism for attending the Mighty Hoopla festival on the same weekend as the cancelled Electric Picnic had been scheduled to take place in Co Laois.
News of Mr Varadkar’s attendance at the festival emerged after another person at the London event posted an unflattering photograph on Twitter.
His partner, Dr Matthew Barrett wrote a letter to The Irish Times at the weekend saying the Tánaiste’s right to privacy was violated and that it was “cyberbullying dressed up as public service”.
When asked if it was bad judgment to go to the festival on RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland today, Mr Varadkar said: “The view that I took was that two days later concerts, conferences, exhibitions, big matches, big events in Ireland were allowed and I made sure that we had that reopening plan in place for the events sector.
“So I took the view that because it was only two days that wouldn’t matter but I understand that for people who have been closed for 180 days, the people who work in the sector felt different.”
The Fine Gael leader said as a public figure he expects for photographs to be taken of him in public, and that he doesn’t let these things hold him back.
“It wasn’t a very flattering photograph and if the shoe was on the other foot it’s not a photo I would have posted of someone else and I have never done anything like that,” he said.
“But, I am a public figure and to a certain extent, it goes with the territory that if you’re out and about in public people will take photos of you and I accept that.
“Matt is very much his own person and is able to write letters without my permission. I’ve been through a lot of these types of things and I don’t let them hold me back.”
Speaking about the appointment of Katherine Zappone as a UN envoy, Mr Varadkar said he “absolutely” apologised to the Taoiseach for the controversy it has caused.
“With the Zappone appointment, the memo with the name of her was in the Taoiseach’s office the day before the cabinet meeting notwithstanding that Simon Coveney and I had a responsibility to flag that with him,” he said.
“I did absolutely [apologise] because in a Government, and this is the third coalition I’ve been in, and it has to be based on two principals, good faith – and we have good faith in this Government- and no surprises.”
The Tánaiste said he should’ve seen the “political sensitivies” in the appointment.
“It’s not the first time we have appointed special envoys..there’s never been a particular process followed,” he said.
“But, because it was a former minister it was potentially politically sensitive and I should’ve seen that, I didn’t, and I take responsibility for that and I spoke to the Taoiseach about it.”