Irish PM accused of ‘disgraceful’ and ‘snobbish’ response to vital parliamentary question on medical cannabis

A photo of Gino Kenny and Leo Varadkar in the Irish parliament.

Members of the public have criticised the Irish prime minister for his apparent lack of a concern to a question from a member of parliament. Leo Varadkar was being asked by Gino Kenny when there’d be an update on access to medical cannabis. Varadkar’s short answer was “same reply”, in reference to his previous answer to a similar question. His response, or lack of, has since been roundly condemned.

Access to medical cannabis

Micheál Martin of Fianna Fáil had initially asked Varadkar when the government would allow access to cannabis for medical reasons. He pointed out to him that two years ago a government agency recommended limited access to cannabis for certain medical conditions.

Martin revealed that, in the meantime, the government gave only “14 import licences” to people for medicinal cannabis. And as a result, he called on Varadkar to clarify when he and his government will introduce the “compassionate access” programme. Varadkar responded by saying:

It is being worked on by the Minister and the Department of Health. I do not have an up-to-date position but I will certainly make sure it is provided to the Deputy.

“Same reply”

For his part, Kenny – from the left-wing People Before Profit party – detailed to Varadkar the struggles one family has with importing medicinal cannabis. He revealed that the government granted the family an import licence last year. But he told Varadkar that they’ve just found out the state will not refund them the €9,000 per year for the medication. This now means the family can’t afford the treatment which, he said, had “made a dramatic difference to their daughter’s life”:

This is so important. I have been banging this drum for the last three years. I am so, so frustrated. It doesn’t compare to the frustration the families have.

Because of this, he asked Varadkar:

Read on...

Is there a commencement date for the cannabis access programme?

And Varadkar, referencing his earlier response to Martin, simply said:

Same reply.


There was widespread anger at Varadkar’s lack of a reply, not least from Kenny. He protested that Varadkar “can give a better answer than that”. And he went on to insist that his answer was “unbelievable” and “disrespectful”.

People also voiced their disgust with Varadkar online. One person described his behaviour as “disgraceful”:

Another accused him of simply being arrogant:

Irish MEP Luke “Ming” Flanagan accused Varadkar of being a “snob”, amongst other things:

Someone else, meanwhile, argued that Varadkar’s reply was unique in Irish politics:


Vera Twomey also attacked Varakdar. Twomey has campaigned for years to ensure her daughter’s access to medical cannabis. Her daughter, Ava, suffers from a rare form of epilepsy which responds well to medical cannabis.

Twomey previously had to live in the Netherlands with her family to secure her daughter’s access to the medication. This was because the authorities confiscated the medicine in Dublin Airport after she attempted to enter the country with it. The government has since granted her a licence allowing her to import it.

She declared that Varadkar’s reply was “an outrage”:

And in an open email to him, she wrote:

When the issue of medical cannabis is disrespected it disrespects the patients like my daughter Ava who are benefiting from it and disrespects those seeking a licence as we speak.

Vlad the arrogant

Varadkar’s reply to Kenny shows what he thinks of ordinary people. He dismisses them out of hand because he’s an elitist snob. The UK has its Johnsons and its Rees-Moggs. And Ireland has its Varadkars.

His apparent lack of concern for people most in need of help — such as those suffering with his government’s horrendous record on homelessness — will be his undoing. And it can’t come soon enough.

Featured image via screenshot

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us