IRISH PRIME Minister Leo Varadkar has responded to the criticism that greeted his appearance alongside Conor McGregor at the Chicago St Patrick’s Day parade.
The Taoseach led the three-hour parade through the Windy City as part of an annual four-day trip to the US that included a meeting with President Donald Trump.
However, he courted controversy after it soon became apparent that he would be marching through Chicago alongside McGregor.
The Irish MMA star was recently charged with robbery and criminal mischief following an incident in Miami last week that saw the 30-year-old accused of snatching a fan’s mobile phone and smashing it to pieces.
McGregor was previously convicted of disorderly conduct in the US after attacking a bus carrying UFC rival Khabib Nurmagomedov at an event in New York.
He was also handed a lengthy ban from UFC, along with Nurmagomedov, for his part in the ugly scenes that followed his defeat to the Russian at UFC 229.
Images from the parade of Varadkar marching close to McGregor saw the Taoseach garner plenty of criticism from the Irish press.
Reports suggest Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel invited McGregor.
The Sunday papers won't be pleasant reading for the Taoiseach. pic.twitter.com/XMidGeSulI
— Richard Chambers (@newschambers) March 16, 2019
Speaking to the Irish Times later that day, Varadkar stated that he was “unaware” McGregor would be in attendance.
““No, no I wasn’t actually, I imagine the parade organisers invited him, but that’s it really."
Asked whether, given McGregor’s legal issues, it was appropriate to have him representing Ireland during the parade, Varadkar said it was “up to the organisers of the parade to decide who they want to march in the parade.”
"I don’t think he was representing the country, that’s kind of what I was doing”
McGregor, meanwhile, kept his comments to a minimum refusing to be drawn on his latest legal issues and instead repeatedly declaring: “I love Ireland.”
He did confirm to ABC7 meteorologist Larry Mowry that he was closing in on a UFC return though.
“We're currently in negotiations, we're aiming for July, we'll see what happens," McGregor said. "I am staying ready.
This morning I was doing incline sprints on the treadmill … So we're staying on it, getting work in as we go."