Leo Varadkar: Irish premier denies Dublin park ‘picnic’ broke lockdown regulations

Images show Taoiseach in Phoenix Park with his partner and two other people

Matt Mathers
Tuesday 26 May 2020 13:21 BST
Leo Varadkar confirms restrictions will ease from Monday

Irish premier Leo Varadkar has insisted he did not break any rules by visiting a Dublin park with friends.

The Taoiseach, 41, was photographed near Phoenix Park’s Wellington monument on Sunday with his partner Matthew Barrett and two other people.

In video and images shared online, the group of four appeared to be enjoying a picnic, leading some to question whether Mr Varadkar had been following the 2m social distancing measures set out by the World Health Organisation and included in Health Ireland guidance.

“[People may] meet friends or family within 5km, in groups of no more than four people while keeping at least 2m apart,” the guidance adds.

A spokesperson for Mr Varadkar said in a statement on Monday night that he “broke no laws, breached no regulations and observed public health guidance”.

“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,” the spokesperson added.

Ireland’s chief medical officer, Tony Holohan, also said the images suggested Mr Varadkar did not break any rules. “I didn’t see any pictures that are in violation of that involving the Taoiseach,” he told reporters at a press conference on Monday.

Mr Varadkar is thought to be living on the Farmleigh Estate, just outside Phoenix Park.

Last week, Liz Canavan, assistant secretary of the Department of the Taoiseach, said that people should only visit parks for exercise and not stay too long. “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,” she said.

Controversy surrounding the Fine Gael politician’s picnic followed widespread outrage on the other side of the Irish Sea, where Dominic Cummings has been accused of flouting lockdown guidance by driving 260 miles to a home in Durham – and by taking a day trip to a nearby beauty spot.

Boris Johnson’s top adviser has refused to quit or apologise for the breach, saying he had acted responsibly and legally.

On Tuesday, Conservative MP Douglas Ross resigned his ministerial role in protest. Mr Ross said he could not “in good faith” tell constituents who have followed government advice in the face of heartbreak that “they were all wrong and one senior adviser to the government was right”.

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