If you thought the UK election debates were bad, gay Irish leader Leo Varadkar being grilled on drugs is excruciating

Patrick Kelleher January 23, 2020
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Leo Varadkar Micheál Martin

Leo Varadkar facing off against Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin on Virgin Media's Big Debate (RTÉ News)

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.

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.

Others just had to laugh at Varadkar’s terrified facial expression as he weighed up how best to answer the question.

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.




More: drugs, fine gael, Irish general election, Leo Varadkar, Micheal Martin

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