Leo Varadkar accused of having an “obsession” with Sinn Féin in heated Dáil exchange
Aodhán Ó Ríordáin claimed to have gone through all of Varadkar's tweets from this year and found 12 mentioning Sinn Féin.
Labour TD Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has clashed with Leo Varadkar in the Dáil today after Ó Ríordáin accused the Tánaiste of having an "obsession" with rival political party, Sinn Féin.
The Labour TD posed a question to Varadkar about youth unemployment, asking for a task force to prevent the mass emigration of young people across Ireland.
"Young people have been unfairly targeted over the course of this pandemic I'm sure you will agree, but, young people have been working incredibly hard within their own families and within their own communities over the past year. Over the past number of years, they have changed Ireland for the better, in their activism, in their engagement, their campaigning," he said.
"Our fear in the Labour party is that we are losing a generation again, as we did 10 years ago, what we're asking for and what the Youth Council of Ireland are asking for Tánaiste, is a task force on Youth Unemployment."
Varadkar said that while he believes older people have borne the brunt of the pandemic in terms of hospitalisations and deaths, the "economic brunt" has fallen on to younger people.
"I really want to thank Deputy Ó Ríordáin for raising this issue which is really important to him and to me too. I think it is true that young people suffered a lot in this pandemic," he said.
"I certainly don't want us to lose another generation. Too many times in the past, we have lost another generation to emigration due to economic mismanagement."
The Tánaiste went on to add that the Government would be meeting to discuss solutions to youth unemployment soon, saying that Ó Ríordáin's figures, which stated that Irish youth unemployment was at 59%, were "incorrect" due to the way Ireland measures unemployment rates to exclude people in education or training.
"I know this isn't a priority for you Tánaiste, because I took the time last night to go through every single one of your tweets this year since January 2021 and the number of times you've mentioned youth unemployment came to the grand total of zero, but the number of times that you referenced Sinn Féin came to the grand total of 12*," he replied.
"So if I was a young person in Ireland, I would come to the conclusion that your obsession is not with youth unemployment and getting people jobs and saving this generation. Your obsession is with a political game with Sinn Féin. Zero tweets about youth unemployment, 12 tweets about Sinn Féin and that is only since the beginning of the year."
Varadkar said the comment made by Ó Ríordáin was a "very cheap shot" and an example of "virtue signalling."
He said, "I just think that's a cheap shot. A very cheap shot and the Deputy once again is engaging in virtue signalling, trying to make it out that we disagree with each other, that he's also a better person than me, and he cares more, and that's just cheap politics I believe.
"The number of times you tweet about something isn't necessarily reflective of how important you regard something to be."
*The 12 tweets O'Ríordáin refers to, he has since clarified, include retweets from Varadkar's account.
On Thursday afternoon (O'Riordáin conducted his review of Varadkar's Twitter account on Wednesday night), having scanned Varadkar's tweets from so far this year, JOE found seven mentioning Sinn Féin, including retweets.