Leo Varadkar: ‘I won’t change my life’ despite far-right threat to his safety

Leo Varadkar: ‘I won’t change my life’ despite far-right threat to his safety

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has insisted he will not change his life despite threats to his safety from far-right extremists.

Mr Varadkar also ruled out entering a “security bubble” because he will not give in to those who seek to intimidate politicians.

“To be honest, I’ve kind of refused to change my life,” he said. “And, you know, I have been advised by the Garda Commissioner that the threat is higher, and the risk to my personal safety is real. And that is the case for other ministers too.”

Mr Varadkar told reporters that Garda protection had to be extended to all senior Government ministers due to an increased risk to their safety.

“The Garda Commissioner has taken the decision to extend Garda protection to all members of cabinet, including the chief whip and Minister Hackett and Minister Chambers, and that’s based on security assessments that the risk to politicians in terms of our safety is heightened,” he said.

The Garda Commissioner recommended that all Cabinet ministers receive Garda protection drivers following a security review in 2022.

However, Mr Varadkar says the increased risk has not changed how he lives his life. He said: 

First of all, I’m not going to give into it and, secondly, I see how other countries operate where politicians, ministers, prime ministers live in a security bubble and …. really forget what it’s like just to do normal things and live a normal life. 

“And I don’t want to stop doing that, just for my own personal sense of being who I am.

“But, secondly, I don’t think it’d be a good thing for the country. So I’ll keep on going to the cinema. I’ll keep on going to restaurants and bars, I’ll keep going to the gym, and I’m not willing to have that changed.”

Concerns about politicians’ safety were highlighted on several occasions last year, particularly in the wake of angry protests outside Leinster House and during November’s riots in Dublin city centre, stoked by the far right.

The first sitting of the Dáil after the summer recess saw hundreds protest outside the gates of Leinster House, with far-right demonstrators raising a mock gallows adorned with photographs of several politicians, including Mr Varadkar.

TDs, senators, and staff working in the Oireachtas were heckled by protesters, while Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae needed Garda assistance after being shoved by a protestor as he left Leinster House.

The protests led to a series of arrests, with a group of TDs and staff, including Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald, prevented from leaving the Dáil due to a barricaded back gate.

Earlier this year, the Government approved a new once-off allowance for TDs and senators to claim back 50% of their personal security costs, up to a maximum of €5,000.

The allowance covers the cost of politicians improving the security of their staff, homes and offices, but requires a security review to be carried out by a member of An Garda Síochána.

However, protests have continued to take place outside the homes of ministers and opposition TDs, with a number of these staged outside Mr Varadkar’s home.

During the Dublin riots on November 23, images were posted on social media that showed Mr Varadkar’s home, with rioters threatening to march on it.

And in the last number of months, there has been a rise in protests against the housing of asylum seekers, with Mr Varadkar saying the time has come for the Government to push back on “far-right myths” about immigration.

Source: Irish Examiner


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