If you thought the UK election debates were bad, gay Irish leader Leo Varadkar being grilled on drugs is excruciating
If you thought the questions candidates faced in the UK general election debates were bad, brace yourselves for the Republic of Ireland’s election.
Ireland’s gay Taoiseach Leo Varadkar appeared on Virgin Media’s Big Debate last night where he faced off against Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin.
Veteran broadcaster Pat Kenny took a break from asking the two party leaders policy-related questions and instead asked them if they have ever taken illegal drugs.
— RTÉ News (@rtenews) January 22, 2020
Kenny said he wanted both candidates to give an “honest answer” to the question.
Leo Varadkar fell into a lengthy silence when asked about his past drug use on Virgin Media’s Big Debate.
“No, I never have,” Martin replied.
Varadkar, in his best deer-in-the-headlights routine, responded: “You know, I answered that question in a Hot Press interview about 12 or 13 years ago and I answered the truth.”
A silence followed.
“Which is?” Martin asked him.
Another silence ensued.
“Which is?” Kenny pressed him.
Kenny eventually pressed Varadkar for an answer, noting that – in that interview – Varadkar said he had used illegal drugs.
“Yes,” Varadkar eventually said. “It was obviously a long time ago.”
The question has been roundly criticised on Twitter, with many pointing out the same thing: that they don’t really care if party leaders have used illegal drugs.
Who fucking cares if Michaél Martin or Leo Varadkar did drugs before, such an infuriating question. They aren't bad people because they smoked a joint when they were 24 they're bad people because they're literal vampires who prey on the livelihoods of the poor. #Leadersdebate
— rick and morto (@DylanTeeBH) January 22, 2020
Pat Kenny: "Have you ever taken illegal drugs?"
— Seán O'Regan (@SeanOR95) January 22, 2020
Leo Varadkar when he said he’s done illegal drugs pic.twitter.com/lRye0954UJ
— John Holmes (@Johnholmes_) January 23, 2020
Others just had to laugh at Varadkar’s terrified facial expression as he weighed up how best to answer the question.
Omg hahahaha Leo Varadkar admitting to taking drugs on the debate was the most uncomfortable and iconic thing to come out of this #GE2020
— Rebecca Tallon (@becca_tallon) January 22, 2020
Leo Varadkar’s life flashed before his eyes in that gap before answering the drugs question #VMTVBigDebate
— Rachel (@RachelAda25) January 22, 2020
Varadkar has been performing badly in opinion polls ahead of Ireland’s general election in February.
In Varadkar’s famous interview with Irish magazine Hot Press in 2010, he said he had not used illegal drugs since he was first elected.
“I’ve been extremely law-abiding since I’ve been elected to politics,” Varadkar said at the time.
Yes, it was obviously a long time ago.
When asked if he had smoked cannabis, the Fine Gael politician responded: “I did a bit in my college years, yeah. But I wouldn’t be advocating that anybody else do the same – particularly being more aware now of the evidence linking cannabis smoking to schizophrenia.”
The awkward moment in last night’s debate comes after a troubling week for Varadkar. An Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll released earlier this week revealed that he has seen a 16 percent drop in popularity in just three months.
The poll also indicated that his centre-right political party is falling behind the country’s other centre-right party, Fianna Fáil.