Varadkar defends volatile exchanges with Pearse Doherty, says they were "self-defence" 2 weeks ago

Varadkar defends volatile exchanges with Pearse Doherty, says they were "self-defence"

The Tánaiste brought up a previous prosecution Doherty had received during a heated Dáil debate last week.

Leo Varadkar has once again stoked the flames of his rivalry with Sinn Féin's Pearse Doherty, describing their volatile exchanges in the Dáil as "self defence".

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The Tánaiste spoke about the row while on RTÉ Radio One's "Morning Ireland" programme on Wednesday (22 June).

Varadkar was asked if he was wrong to bring up Doherty's previous prosecution during their "spats" in the Dáil last week.

"I wouldn't describe them as 'spats', and I'm not going to rehearse them again," Varadkar said, describing the debates instead as "self defence".

"I think if anybody watched that from start to finish... they can see it was a series of attacks on my party which were hypocritical, which I obviously defended my party, and then a personal attack on me and I defended myself.

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"I'm not someone who likes to get personal or get down and dirty, I've probably mellowed with age in that regard but I will defend myself."

Senator Lynn Ruane had previously commented on the matter, saying that people shouldn't be "shamed" for mistakes they had made in the past, including convictions.

"I know what she's saying, and I'm a supporter of the Spent Convictions Legislation, so that people can move on in their lives if they've been convicted of a crime in the past," Varadkar said.

"I hear what she's saying, but I think it lacked context. I would have liked her to say what Pearse said about me was unfair as well, and that everybody is entitled to due process and the presumption of innocence, and she hasn't done that, but I hope she will."

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Pearse Doherty had criticised the Tánaiste following a response to a question over a dinner Fine Gael held last Wednesday, saying that he "really thought somebody who, in which the DPP is currently assessing whether they'll prosecute you under the Corruption Act, maybe you would be a bit more humble in relation to your response".

Varadkar replied by bringing up a previous prosecution Doherty had received when he was younger.

"Deputy, I think that was another cheap shot and a very personal shot," Varadkar began. "And it says a lot about you and the nature and the character and kind of person you are, and it's particularly strange coming from you because you were prosecuted.

"You abused, mistreated, a Garda Síochána. For that, you were prosecuted. You were found guilty. Yes, you got away without a conviction because of your age at the time but you were actually prosecuted, you were arrested – that's what happened to you.

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"And in your party, there are a huge number of convicted criminals in your party and in your wider Republican family," the Tánaiste continued. "Whether that is tax dodgers like Slab Murphy, a 'good Republican' according to Mary Lou McDonald, a good Republican, a tax dodger, people who are convicted for murder. We know what your party's attitude is to rape and pedophiles and what you've done in relation to that.

"So your cheap shots, your cheap shots say a lot more about you than they do about me."