Tánaiste Leo Varadkar speaks out about being target of threatening graffiti in Belfast
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Tánaiste Leo Varadkar speaks out about being target of threatening graffiti in Belfast

LEO VARADKAR has spoken out after he was targeted by threatening graffiti which recently appeared in Belfast.

The Tánaiste and Fine Gael leader spoke to The Journal where he admitted he feared that an escalation of verbal abuse towards politicians would end up in violence.

Last month, graffiti targeting Mr Varadkar with racist and sectarian abuse appeared on a wall in South Belfast, which investigating PSNI officers are treating as a hate crime.

The worrying message, which has since been painted over, was titled 'An Ode to Leo Varadkar' and promised the former Taoiseach would "hang" if he "set foot in Ulster".

The "vile" graffiti was condemned by the public and political leaders in the Republic and the north, but Mr Varadkar has told The Journal that he "wasn't that shocked by it".

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"A lot of people are contacting me, to kind of sympathise and express their support," he said, "which I really value.

"But I’m kind of a bit desensitised to it in some ways," he said, adding that he has received similar threats on social media.

Last year, the then-Taoiseach was doused with a smoothie by a still-unidentified woman who approached him in a public park as he spoke to cameras.

Mr Varadkar admitted he was worried that the escalation of abusive rhetoric towards politicians could result in violence "much worse than that."

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"I don’t want us to be a country where politicians need security all the time" - Leo Varadkar (Getty)

"I don’t want us to be a country where politicians need security all the time," he said, adding that now that he is no longer has constant security and he is "glad" of that.

He went on to say that people with a large following should be wary of stirring up public anger in such a way that people felt it was an 'us versus them' situation in Irish politics, adding that what has been happening in America could easily happen here.

The riots at Capitol Hill were led by people who believed "they’d won an election when they quite clearly hadn’t", and "we see traces of that in Irish politics too", he said.

Certain Irish political parties-- which Mr Varadkar did not name-- tolerate and even encourage the personalised targeting of politicians, the Tánaiste claimed.

This has become "much more common," he added, saying it is something "I really do regret".