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Varadkar discusses Fine Gael’s pledges in interview

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Varadkar discusses Fine Gael's pledges in interview

Bryan Dobson was joined in studio by Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar for the first in a series of interviews with party leaders ahead of the General Election.

Leo Varadkar began his interview by paying tribute to Northern Ireland’s former deputy first minister Seamus Mallon who died today, describing him as a bridge builder, peacemaker and change-maker.

He said the best thing politicians can do is to continue on Mr Mallon’s work and re-dedicate themselves to the Good Friday Agreement to ensure it is implemented in letter and in spirit.

On Fine Gael’s changes to its pensions policy, Mr Varadkar said he was not engaging in auction politics.

During the party’s manifesto launch today, Fine Gael had said it will “guarantee to pensioners” to raise their annual pension by at least €25 a week, or €1,300 a year, over the next five years.

He acknowledged that it is an issue that is coming up on the doorsteps and that Fine Gael has heard what the people have had to say.

Mr Varadkar said that the Government’s Rebuilding Ireland programme is not working yet or to the extent the Government would like. 

However he said a year before the plan was implemented child and family homelessness increased by 60%. He said this year it is lower than it was at the same time in 2019.

He said such levelling off is not something to be proud of but said it showed the increase of supply of social houses has made a difference.

Mr Varadkar said no politician who is being honest can promise that families in crisis will not have to be accommodated in hotels or B&Bs because of homelessness.

The Taoiseach also said that he would hope that the “corner would be turned” on hospital overcrowding in 2020 but he said he knows it is a problem that is difficult to produce results. 

He also said that Fianna Fáil took hundreds of beds out of the hospital system and Fine Gael have been reversing that.

Asked about the killing of Keane Mulready-Woods; the homeless man injured on the canal, and a photo of an elderly woman eating her dinner on the street – and whether that was “Leo Varadkar’s Ireland”, he said it was not and he said the Ireland he aspires to and wants to build is a much better place than that.

He said when he sees and hear such problems, it drives him on.

He said there is no perfect country in the world and he said that any reasonable person will say that the country is in a better place now than it was three years ago.

Asked if people should really believe that Fine Gael were uniquely positioned to deliver a Brexit deal, the Taoiseach said people would ask themselves why take the risk.

He said the last time Fianna Fáil went out to bat for Ireland and negotiate an international treaty, they negotiated to bring the Troika in.