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10th Mar 2023

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has become a landlord for the first time

Rory Fleming

The Taoiseach is on the move.

Taoiseach and Fine Gael party leader Leo Varadkar has registered as a landlord for the first time in the most recent Register of Interests for TD’s.

Members of the House of the Oireachtas are required to make an annual statement of any registrable interests. According to the official Oircheatas website, this includes, but is not limited to, directorships, shares and properties TD’s own and gifts they have received.

Contained within Mr. Varadkar’s 2022 entries to the register, the 44-year-old politician describes himself as a lessor of an apartment at Rosehaven Apartments on the Carpenterstown Road in Castleknock, Dublin.

The Taoiseach had lived at the Castleknock apartment for a number of years, but moved to Portebello with his partner last year.

In declaring the property as a registrable interest, Mr. Varadkar stated under the heading of “other information provided” that the apartment in question “is the only property that I own or part-own”.

The news of the Taoiseach’s newly-certified title as a landlord comes just days after the government confirmed that the pandemic measure of eviction bans would not be extended past the 31st of March.

Speaking in the Dáil, on Wednesday, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said that the decision “shows that the Government is not on the side of hard-pressed renters” and that it was lacking in “basic intelligence and cop-on”.

Leo Varadkar and Mary Lou McDonald clashed over the eviction ban on Wednesday.

Leo Varadkar’s conflict of interest:

The never-ending debate surrounding Ireland’s well-publicised housing crisis can, and often does, prove wearisome. However, every so often a political oversight of epic proportions breathes a new lease of life into the topic.

Just this week, the Taoiseach commented on the media coverage and public sentiment surrounding landlords, saying:

“I do think that there has been a demonisation of landlords, by our political system and by wider society over the past number of years”.

These comments, when viewed with the context that Varadkar himself is now a registered landlord, only weaken the Fine Gael leader’s credibility amongst the electorate.

Having also just lifted the eviction ban put in place during the first iteration of Covid lockdowns, it is fair to assert that the Taoiseach is not an objective observer in this matter, but, rather, an active participant.

The pandemic policy of eviction bans has been a contentious political issue.

It is undoubtedly Mr. Varadkar’s right to do as he sees fit with his own property, but to then be tasked with overseeing the governmental response to an issue as pressing as Ireland’s housing crisis – whilst holding such a blatant conflict of interest – is, in my opinion, farcical.

For a nation that had seemingly left the era of political cronyism and shenanigans long behind, Varadkar has succeeded in rekindling the age-old distrust held by Irish people towards the political establishment.

Heart-wrenching stories of hard-pressed families struggling with an eviction are becoming all-too-commonplace within contemporary Ireland, with Sinn Féin only today sharing the story of a Dublin family in the Dáil.

The family was advised to present at a Garda station for a “safe place to stay” after South Dublin County Council and the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive informed them there was no emergency accommodation available.

The housing crisis is an ever-worsening issue.

Speaking yesterday, Leo Varadkar appeared to pour further fuel on the fire, when urging government “not be afraid to introduce measures that do encourage landlords to stay and come into the market”.

Whatever way the Taoiseach and his political backers attempt to spin this latest ministerial misstep, the optics for Varadkar are about as appealing as this week’s weather forecast.

Irish people are struggling to make ends meet, and to have the nation’s leader possess such a flagrant conflict of interest when dealing with landlords is yet another inditement of this government’s capacity to tackle its’ most dire issues.