The Taoiseach has defended his comments that he has cut down on red meat, telling the Dáil he has "not become a vegan or anything like that". 

Leo Varadkar faced stinging criticism in the Dáil after he said yesterday that he was reducing his intake of red meat for health reasons and for climate change reasons. 

However, independent TD Michael Healy Rae told Mr Varadkar that he was the Taoiseach for all the country, not just Dublin city. "You're also the Taoiseach for every farmer in this country trying to make a living," he said.

The Taoiseach said he was specifically asked what he was doing to tackle climate change and he responded that he was trying to eat less red meat, but was not giving it up. 

"I can reassure deputies I have not become a vegan or anything like that", he told TDs adding that he had eaten a "very nice Hereford steak" last night. 

He also said that he was happy to eat fish, and poultry and "all the wonderful products that Irish farmers produce". 

However, Fianna Fáil's agriculture spokesman Charlie McConalogue said the Toaiseach should have been promoting Ireland as one of the most efficient countries to produce beef. 

Meanwhile, the Rural Independent Group are proposing a Dáil motion calling for a special taskforce to be set up to tackle rural crime, similar to one in the UK. 

Independent TD Mattie McGrath said ordinary rural citizens were being traumatised by the lack of support they are getting, describing the government response as "piecemeal".