Debunked: No, Leo Varadkar didn’t use the government jet to fly to or from his UK trip
7th September 2021
A NUMBER OF posts shared on social media over the last two days have claimed Tánaiste Leo Varadkar used the government jet to fly to or from a personal trip to the UK at the weekend.
The claim has been made in a number of Facebook posts that have been shared more than 400 times and seen by tens of thousands of people, The Journal has found, not including a number of widely-shared posts that have since been deleted. It has also been shared by a large number of accounts on Twitter. © Alamy Stock Photo Stock photo of Leo Varadkar arriving at Liverpool Airport in October 2019.
One of the most popular posts that was shared widely was originally uploaded to a Facebook page which says it is run by a person who describes themselves as an investigative journalist.
The post says that the information comes from a ‘trusted source’ who said that the government jet was sent to London to pick up Leo Varadkar, who was attending a music festival there, and transport him back to Dublin.
The post has since been copied, pasted, and shared on a number of other Facebook pages.
In a live Facebook broadcast last night, anti-government campaigner Ben Gilroy also mentioned the rumour.
We know, by the way, that a government jet, the government private jet, flew over to the UK the night before this festival. And it was on a medical trip, but it was rumoured that the staff were told to stay over, that important guests were coming back on the government jet.
And I just want to know, was that Leo and his party friends that came back on that jet? Because if that’s correct, then serious questions have to be asked.
The Tánaiste was in the UK at the weekend and did, as the post states, attend a music festival.
His attendance at the Mighty Hoopla festival in Brockwell Park has prompted criticism as similar events – including Electric Picnic – have not been allowed to take place in Ireland under the same conditions, such as proof of vaccination for all attendees.
He did not, however, use the government jet to travel either to or from the UK.
A spokesperson for the Tánaiste told The Journal that Varadkar travelled to the UK on a commercial flight at his own expense ahead of the weekend. He remained there after the festival, before beginning a trade mission to London, Paris and Berlin.
That trade mission started this morning, and the spokesperson confirmed that Varadkar “did not return home before commencing the trade mission”.
This is backed up by the publicly-available evidence: online flight history logs show the plane, a Learjet 45, arrived in London on the night of 4 September and returned to Ireland the following day, landing at Baldonnell at 12.22pm.
The Department of Defence confirmed to The Journal that the purpose of the government jet’s flight to the UK on Saturday night was to facilitate emergency medical treatment, not to transport the Tánaiste.
The last time it was used for a Ministerial Air Transport Service (MATS) mission was on 22 and 23 August when Minister for Defence and Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney travelled to Ukraine.
The Facebook page that posted one of the earliest claims about the rumour has since retracted the report, apologised to the Tánaiste, and deleted the post.
A post on the Facebook page last night acknowledged that the initial report had been “completely incorrect and a grave error”, noting that the page had been informed of the error by the family of a critically ill child who was flown to London on the jet for treatment at the weekend.
Some similar posts shared by other social media users have also since been deleted.
While the government jet did fly to London and back over the weekend, it was not for the purpose of transporting the Tánaiste home, so there is no evidence to support the claim made.
The Tánaiste has faced criticism from the live entertainment industry after he was pictured attending the Mighty Hoopla festival in London at the weekend, at the same time the Electric Picnic was scheduled to take place.
Today Taoiseach Micheál Martin defended his attendance at the festival, stating “what the Tanaiste does in his private time is a matter for the Tanaiste”.
“I don’t intend to comment one way or the other in relation to that, or in relation to any other individual who have their private time for themselves.”
He added: “I’ve made my position clear on this. I have a particular view of these things and my view is that the Tanaiste, in his private time, is entitled to do – that’s it. It’s a matter for him.”
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