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Ireland’s Taoiseach was subjected to a barrage of criticism after he, his partner Matthew Barrett and friends were photographed at the Wellington Monument in Phoenix Park. In a statement issued last night, Mr Varadkar’s spokesman said: “Last Sunday afternoon, he and his partner met two friends in the Phoenix Park.
“As is allowed in Phase One, this involved a group of four people meeting outdoors who were within 5km of home and stayed physically apart.
“Government guidelines allow people to spend time in the outdoors within 5km of their home while continuing to observe social distancing and good hygiene.
“There are no specific Government guidelines on eating outdoors or picnics.”
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Mr Varadkar had “broke no laws, breached no regulations and observed public health guidance”, the spokesman insisted.
He also referred to Mr Varadkar’s decision to relocate to a state-owned residence on Dublin’s Farmleigh Estate during the pandemic.
He said: “Regarding Stewards Lodge, a four bedroom house on the grounds of Farmleigh, security is provided by the Taoiseach’s regular Garda security detail, IT and home office supports by the Department of the Taoiseach.
“There are no staff and no domestic services are provided.
“As has been the practice for many years, the Taoiseach pays a nightly fee for the use of the house.”
Even though Mr Varadkar has broken no rules, his decision to have a picnic does seem to fly in the face of guidelines outlined by Liz Canavan, Department of the Taoiseach Assistance Secretary General last week.
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Discussing the first phase of the lifting of lockdown restrictions, Ms Canavan said: “If you’re visiting a public amenity try not to stay too long at the site or have picnics.
“Please do your exercise and then go home.”
Mr Varadkar’s appearance in the park triggered a mixed reaction on Twitter.
He is laughing at us
Rebecca Barrett suggested Mr Varadkar had broken social distancing rules by being less than two metres from friends, adding: “People have been isolated from their loved ones.
“Grandparents have been too afraid to hold their grandchildren for weeks.
“Leo made up the rules. Leo is breaking the rules. He is laughing at us.”
Irrespective, Peter Dwyer suggested Mr Varadkar had been ill-advised to visit the park, adding: “#leo #Varadkar scores more own goals than Richard Dunne – brings it all on himself – can’t see Coveney been so naive.”
However, others were more sympathetic, with one saying: “Like the #Cummings story, the press have nothing better to do that inflame the public, point fingers, and sow discontent.
“This isn’t #journalism it’s pure rabble rousing.”
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