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13th Sep 2021

‘It wasn’t very flattering’ – Leo Varadkar breaks silence on festival photo fiasco

Dave Hanratty

Leo Varadkar festival photo

“I’ve been through a lot of these types of things and I don’t let them hold me back.”

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has finally broken his silence over the photograph that circulated on social media of him attending the Mighty Hoopla festival in London two weekends ago.

There was a huge reaction to the image from the general public as well as the arts industry in Ireland – which called for an immediate full capacity reopening – and Varadkar’s own partner Matt Barrett, who penned a letter to the Irish Times on Saturday.

In his letter, Barrett criticised the capturing and distribution of the photo, declaring that this was done with “the sole act of humiliation” in mind.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland on Monday morning (13 September), Varadkar conceded that the image didn’t paint him in the brightest of lights. Asked directly if he felt that his privacy was violated, the Tánaiste responded:

“Look, it wasn’t a very flattering photograph and if the shoe was on the other foot, it’s not a photograph that I would have posted of somebody else,” Varadkar began.

“I’ve never done anything like that but I am a public figure and to a certain extent it goes with the territory that if you’re out and about in public, people will take photos of you. That’s the way it is and I accept that.

“Matt is very much his own person, I guarantee you, and is able to write letters without my permission.”

Asked if he and his partner were upset by the situation, Varadkar added:

“I’ve been through a lot of these types of things and I don’t let them hold me back but what I do want to say in terms of the wider issue around events and the events industry – I’ve been one of the strongest supporters around the cabinet table…”

At this juncture, host Mary Wilson interjected, asking Varadkar if it was “bad judgement” on his behalf to attend the UK festival.

“I suppose the view that I took was that, two days later – and it was only two days later – concerts, conferences, exhibitions, big matches, big events in Ireland were allowed and I was one of the people who made sure that we had that reopening plan in place for the events sector, and I took the view that because it was only two days, maybe that wouldn’t matter,” he responded.

“But I understand that for people who have been closed for a year-and-a-half, for 180 days, people working in that sector, would have felt different.”

Finally, the Tánaiste was asked if he will continue to lead Fine Gael into the next general election.

“Absolutely, I’m looking forward to it,” he replied.

You can watch the full interview below.

Featured image via Sasko Lazarov /