Varadkar donor lobbied taoiseach on behalf of Airbnb

The PR company that made donations to Leo Varadkar that the taoiseach didn’t declare twice lobbied him on behalf of Airbnb over the last year.

Edelman, whose managing director previously worked as Varadkar’s press secretary, made payments of more than €2,500 to the taoiseach that he later decided not to declare – decisions that SIPO is now probing.

The consultancy phoned Varadkar this summer seeking a meeting between the taoiseach and the Airbnb CEO to discuss what it considers the importance of short-term letting to Irish tourism.

Once his press secretary

Edelman first contacted Leo Varadkar’s office on behalf of its client Airbnb at the end of 2022, according to a return published on the lobbying register.

The contact from Edelman came just months after it had donated €1,250 to Varadkar at a May 2022, €250-a-head fundraiser at the four-star Castleknock Hotel in the taoiseach’s Dublin West constituency.

It was Varadkar’s former press secretary who first made contact with the taoiseach’s office about the potential meeting.

Now Edelman managing director, Feargal Purcell contacted Varadkar’s deputy chief of staff Philip O’Callaghan in December 2022.

Purcell sought “meetings between senior Airbnb representatives and the taoiseach… to ensure Airbnb's perspective on tourism and balanced regulation is heard and understood”, according to the lobbying return filed with SIPO in January this year.

Less than eight months later, Edelman changed tack and made direct contact with Varadkar on behalf of Airbnb.

At some point between May and August this year, Purcell phoned Varadkar “to secure a meeting on behalf of Airbnb CEO (Brian Chesky) with the taoiseach to discuss the value of short-term letting to Ireland's tourism sector", according to a lobbying return filed last week.

Edelman has given €2,650 to Varadkar in the past five years, including a 2018 donation of €1,400.

The lobbying comes at a time when there are almost 13,000 homeless people in Ireland and 500,000 adults living with their parents. A recent report claimed there are 14 times more Airbnb short-term lettings than rental homes listed on across the country.

Varadkar declined to comment when asked if he agreed to meet Airbnb’s CEO.

The Ditch editors

The Ditch editors