Ireland’s prime minister Leo Varadkar has been accused of “hypocrisy” after photos of him picnicking with friends during coronavirus lockdown went viral.
A shirtless Mr Varadkar was pictured in a busy park with his partner Matthew Barrett and two friends in Dublin on Sunday, just days after his own department warned residents to stay home.
“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,” Liz Canavan, assistant secretary of the Department of the Taoiseach (the prime minister of the Republic of Ireland), said in a media briefing last week.
The viral snaps have sparked a flurry of outraged headlines in Ireland, with the Irish Independent accusing him of “simply making things up as they go along”.
The scandal has also angered citizens, with many calling on the leader to resign.
“Why does @LeoVaradkar think the rules are only for the rest of us?” one Twitter user questioned, while another said: “Leo Varadkar should resign.”
“Time to go now Leo. The rest of us were going out for our hour’s exercise and avoiding others. My kids would have loved to go for a picnic in the park … your day is numbered,” another posted, while another added: “The silly rule says no picnics and he had one. So he broke the rule. It’s a stupid rule but there is hypocrisy there.”
However, a representative of the PM insisted this week Mr Varadkar had been “in line with public health guidance” and “broke no laws, breached no regulations and observed public health guidance”.
That’s because while the government has specifically urged the population to forgo picnics, the official rules simply forbid people from travelling more than 5km of their homes and to stay at least 2m from others.
The park where Mr Varadkar was pictured is just under 5km from his current residence.
After the scandal broke, Ms Canavan said her earlier comments were intended as “guidance” only, claiming: “We’re asking people to use their head”, according to the Irish Independent.