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‘He wasn’t representing Ireland’: Irish PM upstaged by Conor McGregor at Chicago St Patrick’s parade

‘He wasn’t representing Ireland’: Irish PM upstaged by Conor McGregor at Chicago St Patrick’s parade
PR-obsessed Irish PM Leo Varadkar was left squirming after leading Chicago’s St. Patrick’s Day parade alongside recently-arrested UFC bad boy Conor McGregor. Varadkar claimed McGregor “wasn’t representing Ireland.”

Varadkar led the massive, three-hour parade through the streets of the Windy City on Saturday, as part of his annual four-day trip to the US as Taoiseach (Prime Minister of Ireland). Unbeknownst to Varadkar, he would be marching alongside UFC fighter Conor McGregor.

Marching beside a national sporting hero would normally be no big deal, except McGregor’s violence outside the octagon has recently landed him in trouble with the law. The 30-year-old fighter was charged with robbery and criminal mischief in Miami last week, for snatching a fan’s cell phone and stomping it to pieces on the ground. McGregor was also convicted of disorderly conduct in New York last year, after vandalizing a bus carrying UFC rival Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Photos taken at the parade and splashed across the front pages of Irish tabloids show Varadkar squirming and nervously eyeing up the loose-cannon fighter.

Varadkar told reporters he was “unaware” that McGregor would be heading the parade. Asked whether it was appropriate for a convicted criminal to represent Ireland on the world stage, the Taoiseach said “I don’t think he was representing the country, that’s kind of what I was doing.”

Perhaps Varadkar was simply worried about being upstaged. After all, the Irish leader is nowhere near the household name McGregor is in the US.

Known in Ireland for his obsession with image and presentation, Varadkar established a ‘Strategic Communications Unit’ after taking over his party’s leadership in 2017. The department, dubbed a “propaganda unit” by opposition leader Micheál Martin, had a budget of €5 million, and churned out lavish videos to promote policy, until it was shut down last year.

Varadkar was not the only Irish leader to court controversy over St. Paddy’s weekend. In New York, Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald was condemned for marching in the city’s parade behind a banner reading “England, Get Out of Ireland.” Given her party’s history as the political wing of the IRA, the banner inflamed tensions at home.

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