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garda protection Fine Gael TD says sinister death threats to Leo Varadkar are ‘unnerving’

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Tanaiste Leo Varadkar (Julien Behal Photography/PA)

Tanaiste Leo Varadkar (Julien Behal Photography/PA)

Tanaiste Leo Varadkar (Julien Behal Photography/PA)

A Fine Gael TD has described the recent death threats levelled at his party leader as “unnerving” but praised the Tanaiste for “getting on with it”.

A fortnight ago, the Sunday Independent revealed that several death threats have been levelled against the Tánaiste in recent weeks, leading to him now requiring round-the-clock armed garda protection.

Senior sources say the deaths threats are being taken “extremely seriously” and gardaí are “responding appropriately” in terms of providing protection for Mr Varadkar.

In an interview this weekend in the Sunday Independent, Fine Gael TD Neale Richmond said he was aware of the threats made against the Tánaiste.

“The threats are unnerving. You know, if you want to go for a run within your 5k and have to ask Special Branch to come with you, it has a huge impact on your life.

“And Leo, in fairness, has had a slew of threats over the years.

"He’s had homophobic death threats; he’s had racist death threats; he’s had politically charged death threats; he’s had loyalists putting up his home address on walls.

"And he’s also getting a lot from the anti-lockdown far right.”

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Fine Gael’s Neale Richmond

Fine Gael’s Neale Richmond

Fine Gael’s Neale Richmond

The TD for Dublin Rathdown added that he believed Mr Varadkar had full faith in An Garda Síochána.

“It’s not nice for him or his partner Matt,” Mr Richmond said. “But he’s getting on with it and has great faith in the guards.”

While is it not unusual for members of government to receive threats, each threat is evaluated separately to determine whether it is credible.

“A full evaluation of every threat received is carried out.

"Some of the threats against the Tánaiste are coming from people who are already on Garda radar, because of their involvement in extremism linked to some of the recent anti-lockdown protests,” added a source.

It is the responsibility of the Special Detective Unit (SDU) to provide armed protection in the form of a full-time SDU driver to the Tánaiste of the day.

However, due to a slew of recent threats, including some of a homophobic nature, Mr Varadkar now warrants a full-time close protection detail from the SDU.

This entails a 24/7 armed garda detail, in addition to his garda driver.

It is understood the recent death threats were “particularly nasty” and came from a number of different individuals.

Some people who made the threats have been identified as having the potential to attempt to cause the Tánaiste physical harm.

Some of those involved are believed to be far-right extremists who hold homophobic views, as well as being anti-lockdown and anti-facemask advocates.

Not all of the death threats are from the far right, a source added — and while many of the threats have been made online, this is “not the only way” the threats have been issued.

One security source explained: “For obvious reasons, not much can be divulged — as this is a security issue of national importance.

"But it is fair to say gardaí do not ramp up any member of government’s armed security to this level unless there is good reason. This is being taken extremely seriously.”

Taoiseach Micheál Martin also has a close protection detail from the SDU. But it is understood that the Tánaiste’s level of protection is currently higher than the Taoiseach’s, because of the threat level against him.

Meanwhile the PSNI has made contact with the Garda about threats levelled by loyalist paramilitaries against senior politicians in the south including Mr Varadkar, Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Foreign Minister Simon Coveney.

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