- 16 Mar 18
The Taoiseach is in hot water after he admitted during his US visit yesterday that when he was Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport he phoned Clare County Council on Donald Trump's behalf over a planning permission issue.
While giving a speech at a reception yesterday, Leo Varadkar stated that he got an out-of-the-blue call from Donald Trump which he thought was a "piss-take".
He said that future US President was concerned about a wind farm being giving planning permission beside his golf course in Doonbeg.
Trump told Leo that it would spoil the landscape and have a negative impact on local tourism.
Leo then revealed that he “endeavoured to do" what he could and admitted that while Minister for Tourism he actually phoned the County Council about the matter.
Not only that, but Leo confessed yesterday: "The president has very kindly given me credit for that but it would probably have been declined anyway."
However, in an interview with Time magazine last year, Leo said it was resolved by the Council and that he didn't influence the outcome. He said: "It was resolved by the county council rather than by me but it was resolved."
But his comments yesterday have now been described as a "shocking admission" by Green Party leader Eamon Ryan.
“It is a shocking error of judgement. Clare County Council now need to outline who the Minister contacted and whether there is a record of what was said,” Ryan said.
Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin said it was an "extraordinary" that Leo made such representation as a government minister for a private US citizen.
"The Taoiseach needs to make clear immediately the nature of these representations and if President Trump or a member of his family asked the Taoiseach to make them on his behalf,” he said.
“For the Taoiseach to be seen to meddle and intervene on planning processes at Doonbeg is entirely inappropriate."
The company behind the proposed windmill also raised their concerns about Leo's confession.
In a statement, Michael Clohessy, director of Clare Coastal Wind Power ltd, said: "We are disappointed at the admission by an Taoiseach that he interfered in the planning process regarding the planning application for our proposed wind farm in west Clare.
"We at all times acted with integrity and in good faith but it now appears that we were not on a level playing field. We will be reviewing this situation over the coming days"
Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Housing, Planning and Local Government Barry Cowen TD has said he is "very concerned" about the media reports that the Taoiseach made private representations on behalf of Mr Donald Trump and his commercial interests when he was Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport.
Deputy Cowen commented, "I was amazed to hear today that the Taoiseach made representations on behalf of Mr Donald Trump on a planning matter about wind turbines. What is even more bewildering is that it is only coming to light now when he is actually visiting him in the White House.
"It seems extraordinary, particularly when the Taoiseach was so involved in giving his opinion on not wanting to invite President Trump to Ireland this time last year when Enda Kenny was Taoiseach. He was saying one thing in public and doing something very different in private," Cowen said.
"There is more to this than meets the eye and the Taoiseach needs to clarify exactly how and when he made the representations and whether or not it was appropriate.
"He also needs to clarify whether the call came from President Trump directly or from a person on his behalf. The public also need to know whether or not the representation interfered with the planning process in Doonbeg because it was coming from a Minister.
“Mr Varadkar needs to give a full account of this issue without delay.”
A spokesperson for Leo Varadkar has tried to play down the controversy.
"As Minister for Tourism, Leo Varadkar received a call from Donald Trump regarding a wind farm proposal near Doonbeg, which is a significant tourism asset on the west coast," the spokesperson insisted.
"It's normal for ministers to seek information on planning applications when issues are raised by citizens, businesses or investors.
"This matter has been mentioned publicly on many occasions by the Taoiseach. It was not a court case or judicial matter."