Leo Varadkar slammed for partying at Mighty Hoopla festival as Ireland remains under restrictions

Leo Varadkar Mighty Hoopla festival

Ireland’s Leo Varadkar is facing resounding criticism after he attended the Mighty Hoopla festival in London while Ireland continues to impose COVID-19 restrictions on live events.

The politician told the live entertainment industry just days ago that the UK’s reopening is “definitely” not an example to follow, according to the Irish Independent.

But that didn’t stop him from travelling to England on a “private visit” to attend the Mighty Hoopla festival, one of the highlights of the LGBT+ calendar.

Varadkar – who currently serves as tánaiste (deputy prime minister) in Ireland’s government – was photographed at the festival in London on Saturday (4 September).

He immediately faced backlash for attending an event with 25,000 other people in England while restrictions in Ireland prevented Electric Picnic, Ireland’s largest festival, from going ahead on the same weekend.

The Irish government has faced increasing pressure from the live events industry in recent weeks, with many calling for a full reopening of the sector.

The cancellation of Electric Picnic proved particularly controversial. Organisers said they wanted the event to go ahead in Laois with only fully vaccinated people allowed to attend – but they were ultimately denied permission from the local authority.

Leo Varadkar and Irish government accused of ‘crippling’ entertainment industry

Leo Varadkar was photographed sitting on the grass at the Mighty Hoopla festival in London and the snap was later posted to Twitter by Oonagh Murphy.

“Interesting that Leo Varadkar has come to a festival in the UK today, while failing to commit to a plan for the Irish entertainment industry,” Murphy wrote.

Mark Graham, a music tech lecturer at Waterford IT, hit out at Varadkar on Twitter. Sharing the picture of the tánaiste at the festival, Graham wrote: “On the weekend that Electric Picnic was meant to be on, here is Leo Varadkar at the unsegregated full-on full capacity Mighty Hoopla Festival London. Entry with COVID passport or PCR test.

“Angry? Please let him & his colleagues who have crippled our entertainment industry know.”

The Event Industry Alliance (EIA) said in a statement on Monday (6 September) that it is glad Varadkar “recognises and trusts the safety measures put in place by our UK colleagues”.

The group called on the Irish government to “open our industry at 100 per cent capacity without further delay”.

The EIA said the Irish government has produced “no explanation or supporting data” for the continued reduced capacity at live events.

Meanwhile, Irish taoiseach (prime minister) Micheál Martin refused to comment on the furore as the controversy threatened to overwhelm the government.

Varadkar faced a wave of criticism on Twitter as the photo of him at the Mighty Hoopla festival spread rapidly.

A spokesperson for Varadkar said that the tánaiste was in the UK “on private time, where such events are allowed”.

They added that Varadkar is “one of the strongest supporters of the events industry in government”.

“He supported Electric Picnic going ahead and helped secure the re-opening plan for concerts and other big events beginning on Monday with capacity limits and vaccination certificates, moving to full capacity next month,” the spokesperson added.

“The industry has received over €100 million in financial support from government, not including the EWSS (Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme) and PUP (Pandemic Unemployment Payment).”

Some of Ireland’s restrictions on live events were eased on Monday (6 September), but most concerts won’t be going ahead until late October under current reopening plans.

As part of the government’s easing of COVID-19 restrictions, outdoor live events can have 75 per cent capacity with fully vaccinated attendees or 50 per cent capacity with a mixed audience.