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Wedding rings, airline pilots and cinemas – what are the limitations of TDs who have been addressed as Taoiseach with Varadkar in the past few weeks?

In his final weeks as a Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar was often hired by TDs who wanted lockdowns to be eased sooner, as the Sunday Independent can show.

Varadkar received dozens of representations from TDs in Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Sinn Féin, and other parties on accelerating the country’s reopening. The now Tánaiste was informed almost daily by email about the easing of the Covid-19 restrictions. He received inquiries for a wide range of industries, from construction to car dealerships to pubs and golf courses.

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Jim O’Callaghan. Pic Tom Burke

Jim O’Callaghan. Pic Tom Burke

Fianna Fáil TD Jim O’Callaghan conveyed an Aer Lingus pilot’s concern about the 14-day quarantine period – an issue central to the Phil Hogan Golfgate controversy, which the European Commissioner resigned last week.

Another politician involved in the scandal, Fianna Fáil’s Senator Paul Daly, campaigned for the resumption of horse racing. Mr Daly, who had been stripped of the party whip for attending the Galway dinner, confirmed in an email to Mr Varadkar that he had “some interest” as chairman of the Kilbeggan races.

Correspondence received in the context of freedom of information is dated May 1st to July 16th with all but a handful of statements to Mr. Varadkar, whose successor Micheál Martin was in the Taoiseach office on June 27th.

One of the most common presentations was on behalf of cinemas. They wanted to reopen on June 29th – and were finally allowed to do so. However, according to the original plan, the cinemas should be closed until August 10th. Mr. Varadkar was contacted on the matter by Fine Gael TD Hildegarde Naughton, who is now a Super Junior Minister. Green Party TD and now Cabinet Secretary Roderic O’Gorman; Fianna Fáil TDs Willie O’Dea and John McGuinness; Sinn Féin TDs Imelda Munster and John Brady; Social Democrat TD Cian O’Callaghan; and independent TDs Michael Fitzmaurice and Peadar Tóibín.

Several TDs also pushed for the 50-person limit for those allowed in church services to be raised. Independent TD for Galway-Roscommon Michael Fitzmaurice made statements on behalf of the Bishop of Elphin.

Fianna Fáil TD Mary Butler, now Minister for the Elderly, told Mr Varadkar: “It doesn’t make sense to me personally that no distinction is made between a cathedral and a small country church in terms of numbers.” Mr. Varadkar was also engaged on the matter by independent TDs Marian Harkin and Carol Nolan. Fianna Fáil TD Robert Troy, who is now junior minister in Mr. Varadkar’s department, asked him to consider reopening places of worship earlier than planned and also advocated a pub that was about to reopen.

Mr. Troy’s party colleague Barry Cowen made statements to the Taoiseach on behalf of a number of wedding rings who were concerned about the wedding limit. Another Fianna Fáil TD, Pádraig O’Sullivan, asked Mr. Varadkar to clarify whether dealerships could reopen in phase one.

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Fianna Fáil TD Mary Butler. Image: Collins

Fianna Fáil TD Mary Butler. Image: Collins

John McGuinness also made statements on behalf of a constituency hotelier, a voter concerned about delays in test results, and the Irish Hospice Foundation. Fianna Fáil’s backbencher, John Lahart, wrote to the then Taoiseach on behalf of an independent member who wanted restrictions to be relaxed more quickly.

Mr. Varadkar was also hired by several Fine Gael colleagues, including former Communications Secretary Richard Bruton. Mr Bruton sought, on behalf of a member, to relax the strict rules governing the admission of partners of pregnant women to maternity hospitals. Westmeath TD Peter Burke asked in early May if construction of a school in his constituency could be resumed.

Wexford TD Paul Kehoe, who was Mr. Varadkar’s Secretary of Defense at the time, emailed on behalf of a wedding venue to clarify the numbers allowed at weddings.

Fine Gael Chairman Martin Heydon, now Junior Minister, wrote to Mr. Varadkar on May 25, advocating flexibility in reopening dates for cafes and restaurants in his Kildare South constituency.

Fine Gael TD’s Jennifer Carroll MacNeill stood up on behalf of the Irish Harness Racing Association, the governing body for harness racing in Ireland, on behalf of Mr Varadkar, who wanted to recreate the events behind closed doors at the same time as the thoroughbred racing industry.

The Dún Laoghaire TD also contacted Mr. Varadkar in early May on behalf of a “frustrated” member whose golf course was 30 km from his home. “He will have to wait until mid-summer before he can play golf and train again,” she wrote.

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Barry Cowen TD.  Photo by Tom Burke

Barry Cowen TD. Photo by Tom Burke

Barry Cowen TD. Photo by Tom Burke

Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald reached out to Mr. Varadkar in May to tell him that people with disabilities and parents caring for children with disabilities or learning difficulties are “alarmed and hurt” that the reopening strategy is theirs “Unique circumstances” have not recognized and taken into account. . She urged that the situation be corrected. Hildegarde Naughton and independent TDs Catherine Connolly and Verona Murphy also contacted Mr. Varadkar on behalf of families with children with special needs.

Union leader Alan Kelly wrote to Mr. Varadkar on May 20, asking for an explanation of the criteria for being appointed to the National Public Health Emergency Team and details of how their appointments were signed. Mr. Varadkar was also hired by Marian Harkin on behalf of driving instructors; People Before Profit TD taxi driver Richard Boyd Barrett; and Michael Fitzmaurice on behalf of a small construction company.

The documents also show a handful of emails sent to Micheál Martin in the days after he became Taoiseach.

In the first half of July, Social Democrat TD Cian O’Callaghan asked Mr. Martin to address “large numbers” gathering outside and inside pubs and asked in a separate email whether Ireland would continue to border with the US will keep open.

Fianna Fáil TD Éamon Ó Cuív forwarded an email to Mr Martin and Health Secretary Stephen Donnelly on July 15 from a voter who criticized the “shameful” treatment of rural pubs. Mr Ó Cuív wrote that the voter had a point.

Sunday independent


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