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24th Nov 2022

“Don’t know what you’re talking about” – Leo Varadkar blasted for ‘grass looks greener’ emigration comments

Dave Hanratty

Leo Varadkar grass greener

The Tánaiste said that Irish people looking to emigrate may not find things easier elsewhere. Plenty of Irish emigrants have firmly disagreed.

Leo Varadkar received quite the scolding in Dáil Éireann on Thursday (24 November) when the subject of his recent comments about emigration were raised – with the Tánaiste told “you don’t know what you’re talking about”.

Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy led the charge during Leaders’ Questions, underlining the current, visibly stark state of play in the Irish rental market and how Varadkar’s recent remarks left a sour taste in the mouth of many an Irish citizen, including those who felt they had no choice but to move to another part of the world.

Speaking on Newstalk’s On The Record programme on Sunday, Varadkar responded to a new opinion poll which indicated that two-thirds of Irish 18 to 24-year-olds and over a third of 25 to 34-year-olds are considering a move abroad, largely in response to rising rents and the overall cost of living crisis in Ireland.

“Sometimes the grass looks greener,” countered the Tánaiste. “The grass can look greener, and considering emigration is not the same as actually doing it, and many do come back.”

Later, he argued that people won’t find lower rents in New York or discover that it’s easier to purchase a house in Sydney.

In recent days, many Irish people who have emigrated to various places including those mentioned by Varadkar have taken to social media to state that they did, in fact, find cheaper, and in many cases significantly superior, accommodation, amenities and overall quality of life.

In Dáil Éireann on Thursday, Catherine Murphy took Varadkar to task with the following address:

“You said if they go to a successful busy city, they’ll find the same high rents as here, but the rents could be lower if they went to a very rural area or a fourth tier city – Tánaiste, do you actually know that we have the highest housing costs in the entire EU?

“In fact, housing costs here are an astonishing 88.5% higher than the EU average. So, unless you consider places like Paris and Rome ‘fourth tier’, the reality is you really don’t know what you’re talking about.

“Since you made those comments, young people living abroad have reacted with utter astonishment… Tánaiste, we know from the latest report that the average rent across the country is nearly €1,700 per month and a staggering €2,300 in Dublin.”

Responding to this, the Tánaiste said that “everyone’s lived experience is different” and insisted that Ireland is still an attractive place in which to live.

“People travel abroad for all sorts of different reasons. I wouldn’t discount for a second anyone’s lived experience or dispute the examples that you gave earlier,” said Varadkar.

“But I don’t think any individual’s lived experience is everyones. And I have to look at things in the round. And I see a country that has thousands of people coming here every year from England and Europe to live. People who are European citizens, who have 27 countries to choose from, and tens of thousands come here.

“Even if you narrow it down to Irish citizens – more Irish citizens return home every year than leave. It might not be true every year, but it is true for most of the years in the last few years. How does that fit in with your narrative, Deputy?”

The Tánaiste also rejected the claim that his Government’s action on housing has been “a failure by every metric”, insisting that supports and infrastructure are in place for those looking to buy a home in Ireland.

Featured Image of Leo Varadkar via Leah Farrell  /

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