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fresh controversy Leo Varadkar travelled to festival just days after calling UK event rules a 'bad example'

Ex-FG TD Kate O’Connell said it was “completely tone-deaf” and she would not return to the party while it was under his leadership

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Leo Varadkar at the Mighty Hoopla festival. Photo: Oonagh Murphy/Twitter

Leo Varadkar at the Mighty Hoopla festival. Photo: Oonagh Murphy/Twitter

Leo Varadkar at the Mighty Hoopla festival. Photo: Oonagh Murphy/Twitter

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar told the live events industry that the UK’s reopening is “definitely” not an example to follow, just days before travelling to London to attend a music festival.

Mr Varadkar has been caught up in fresh controversy as the Irish Independent can reveal that he warned the meeting about the high numbers of Covid deaths and hospitalisations in England and Scotland.

The meeting was held between the live events sector, Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Arts and Culture Minister Catherine Martin and the Tánaiste last Monday.

Mr Varadkar said he “definitely” didn’t think that Britain was “an example to follow”.

He told the meeting that the country was the “most open” in Europe and had the highest incidence of the virus.

It also can be revealed that he told the live events sector he finds himself “torn” as a doctor and as Enterprise Minister , trying to “get these things right” when it comes to deciding on restrictions.

He said that he appreciated his “personal freedom” and that the Government has a “dilemma” of balancing public health, economic activity and personal freedoms.

On Saturday, he was photographed attending the Mighty Hoopla festival in London. Attendees had to be either tested or fully vaccinated.

Ex-Fine Gael TD Kate O’Connell said it was “completely tone- deaf” and she would not return to the party while it wa s under his leadership. Speaking on RTÉ’s Brendan O’Connor radio show, she said that she thought the image was “jarring”.

Senior industry representatives said they were “very frustrated” and “disappointed” in the minister.

It was noted that Mr Varadkar attended the festival on the first weekend in September, on which E lectric Picnic would normally take place.

Mark Graham, who produces the Irish Music Industry Podcast, said: “Angry? Please let him and his colleagues who have crippled our entertainment industry know.”

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Some within the industry also compared the Tánaiste’s attendance of the London festival to that of Taoiseach Micheál Martin’s at the All-Ireland hurling final in Croke Park last month.

Promoter Justin Green, member of the Event Industry Alliance and Promoters Forum, said: “We are extremely disappointed and annoyed by the actions this week of An Taoiseach Micheáll Martin, and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, in attending large organised events, where neither contact-tracing registration or proof of vaccination was required. This is despite the Government of Ireland mandate which has kept our live entertainment events sector shut over the past 18 months.”

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Former Fine Gael TD Kate O'Connell. Picture: Gerry Mooney

Former Fine Gael TD Kate O'Connell. Picture: Gerry Mooney

Former Fine Gael TD Kate O'Connell. Picture: Gerry Mooney

 

A spokesperson for the Tánaiste said that he “does not think the UK is a good example to follow in terms of managing Covid”.

“His comments referred to the UK decision to ease restrictions months ago, before much of the population was doubly vaccinated, the decision not to require masks indoors and not to use vaccine passes for indoor activities or large events. Ireland is following a different approach on these three matters.”

They said Mr Varadkar was currently in the UK on a “private visit” before a trade mission in London, Paris and Berlin.

“Like everyone, ministers are advised to observe local laws and the restrictions apply to the country they are in.”

The spokesperson added that the Tánaiste was one of the “strongest supporters of the events industry in Government” and he “supported Electric Picnic going ahead and other cultural and music events being allowed before now”.

It is understood Mr Varadkar travelled to the UK on a commercial flight and he paid for his own accommodation and other expenses.
 

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