Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has insisted Jean Claude Juncker is the right man to lead the European Commission through the Brexit process.
Mr Varadkar rejected recent criticism directed at the commission president, stating his “absolute and immense confidence” in his abilities.
Aspects of Mr Juncker’s behaviour have come under scrutiny amid the Brexit negotiations. He ruffled an EU official’s hair upon arriving at a Brussels summit earlier this month and was later involved in a public dispute with Theresa May, denying her claims that he called her nebulous.
Mr Varadkar defended the politician as a “very good supporter of Ireland”.
“I have absolute and immense confidence in Jean Claude Juncker who has been a very effective EU Commission president over the last couple of years, was a long-serving prime minister of Luxembourg and has been a very good colleague of mine and a very good supporter of Ireland,” he said.
“I have never once seen him anything other than sober and he has sciatica and walks in a particular way and some elements of the media make that out to be related to alcohol. It’s not. I know it’s not. And secondly, I was there, he didn’t call Prime Minister May nebulous.
“I think he was referring to some of the requests or demands from the UK but that wasn’t a remark about her personally.
“Probably ill-advised to fluff other people’s hair though. I wouldn’t do that myself.”
In London, the Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd said of Mr Juncker: “He’s ghastly.”
The Tory MP said: “What I minded were those pictures of the way he was holding the prime minister. I did not like that. When I used to go to the EU for meetings, I often had a terrible cold to insist that I didn’t get enveloped in a bear hug.”
Meanwhile, Andrew Leadsom has said MPs who want to block a no-deal Brexit will have to either vote for Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement or a replacement to do it.
The Brexiteer Commons Leader warned politicians trying to block efforts to take the UK out of the EU in March without an alternative that no-deal was “legal default”.
Her comments to the Sunday Telegraph came after she spoke of a “managed no-deal” as an alternative to the PM’s Withdrawal Agreement should it fail to pass the Commons in January.
Former chancellor George Osborne earlier warned that no-deal could see the party stuck in opposition. And three Tory MPs – Nick Boles, Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston – have warned they would resign the whip if a no-deal Brexit ever became official government policy, and Justice Secretary David Gauke has suggested he would quit the government.