independent

Sunday 21 October 2018

The Taoiseach, that jacket and the uninvited TD

An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar wearing THAT jacket on his visit to Wexford County Council Buildings
An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar wearing THAT jacket on his visit to Wexford County Council Buildings

Maria Pepper

An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar experienced two sharp cold fronts after making a heartwarming visit to Wexford in the immediate aftermath of Storm Emma to talk to County Council staff and emergency services personnel about local rescue and road-clearing operations during the blizzard.

Accompanied by Minister of State with Responsibility for Defence Paul Kehoe, Leo opted for a casual weatherproof look with a navy zip-up jacket and was photographed examining a map in the Council command centre.

The picture appeared in various newspapers and was also posted on the Taoiseach's own twitter account, prompting People Before Profit TD Brid Smith to call him out on the cost of the jacket, a Moncler designer ski brand.

The Taoiseach accompanied the photo with an explanation for why he was out in the snow in Wexford. 'I've come to Wexford today to get an update on the response operation.

'Wexford is one of the worst hit areas in the country and access to some areas remains very challenging. Response agencies are in crisis management mode here at the local coordination centre'.

Deputy Smith said his choice of attire showed how there was 'one winter for the rich, another for the poor'.

'It's a Moncler. On their website and in Brown Thomas, a Moncler jacket will set you back €600 to €700', she said.

'That's a lot of briquettes!. One winter for the riche, another for the poor', she remarked icily.

Then back in the Dáil on Tuesday, Wexford Labour TD Brendan Howlin had a go at Mr. Varadkar for not inviting opposition T.D.'s to join him when he met Council and ambulance crews in Wexford.

Mr. Howlin praised the heroic effort of people in the storm, saying the impact on the east coast had been extraordinary.

'Communities have pulled and pushed together. Stories of the snow will not be forgotten for decades. It shows the best of us in the worst of circumstances.'

The Taoiseach noted that he had been in the Labour T.D.'s own Wexford constituency to meet with emergency crews. This statement prompted Deputy Howlin to complain that he wasn't invited. He said that during past incidents local representatives were invited to suche vents as a 'matter of courtesy'.

Mr. Varadkar said inviting local politicians along was the 'last thing on my mind' as he was far too busy dealing with the national weather crisis and Brexit 'to organise invitations to Deputies personally in order that they felt included'.

'Upsetting the egos of poliiticians really has not been on my mind for the last couple of days' he said after Deputy Howlin complained that it was 'all Fine Gael'.

'I do genuinely apologise to the Deputy if his dignity was offended in any way by not being invited to an ambulance base in his own constituency, a few metres from where his office is'.

Mr. Howlin retorted that it was not about dignity and the Taoiseach 'should not be churlish'.

It was normal when there was such a briefing 'and a matter of courtesy, to invite key local representatives and others to attend. That is all I am saying'.

The exchange took place ast Mr. Howlin raised questions about the need for employers and employees to know specifically what is expected of them in the event of a declaration of a status red warning in the future.

He said SIPTU had called for clear protocols to be put in place and asked when the report on the review of Storm Ophelia would be published. 'What we need is clarity. These are no longer once-in-a-generation events, and we have had two in five months', he said.

Wexford People

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