Varadkar labels Sinn Féin 'bullies', comments towards Doherty were 'self-defence'

Sinn Féin's Pearse Doherty and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar were involved in a heated exchange in the Dáil earlier this week
Varadkar labels Sinn Féin 'bullies', comments towards Doherty were 'self-defence'

Vivienne Clarke

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has described his comments about Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty during a Dáil row as "self-defence", describing Mr Doherty's party as "bullies".

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast, Mr Varadkar acknowledged the incident "probably" did not reflect well on politics, however, sometimes such interactions were necessary.

His reaction had been one of self-defence, he explained, as Sinn Féin were "constantly" trying to bully and make personal attacks "and do us down on the Government benches".

"Every now and then, I think you have to stand up to bullies," the Tánaiste added.

Mr Varadkar said Sinn Féin wanted to "demonise" their political opponents and make it appear like they cared more about the public.

"It started off, let's not forget, because Pearse Doherty alleged that my party was out of touch because I'd had steak and chips with Jimmy Deenihan in the members restaurant the night before - no public money involved.

"Yet they can go on their exotic fundraising trips around the world and drink champagne, and they're totally down with normal people.

"When you have to listen to that kind of stuff day-in, day-out - I think even for your own mental health, every now and then, you have to snap back."

Later on RTÉ Radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show, Mr Doherty said he had wanted to make it clear that he had no convictions.

"Leo Varadkar is a person who is under immense pressure.

"He brought up something that happened a quarter of a century ago, it was a verbal altercation with the gardaí and I have no convictions."

Mr Doherty said he believed that Mr Varadkar’s comments had been "scripted" and were "very rehearsed".

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