Irish Daily Mail - - News - by Se­nan Molony

LEO Varad­kar de­liv­ered a ‘roast’ speech at his party think-in din­ner in Clon­mel that took aim at his pre­de­ces­sor, Brian Cowen – while also goad­ing mem­bers of his own front bench. Mr Varad­kar said: ‘This is my eleventh think-in now, and right about now I would have al­ready con­sumed about two pints, would prob­a­bly be half­way through a bot­tle of wine, and would be bitch­ing about when is this guy ever go­ing to stop speak­ing?

‘That’s not the case now. I am now to­tally stone cold sober, so thank you very much, Dr Brian Cowen. I do prom­ise to be up early in the morn­ing – and I re­gret ever say­ing that now, be­cause there was some­body out­side my apart­ment just check­ing out what time I ac­tu­ally got up at. There might have been a story about me not ac­tu­ally get­ting up early in the morn­ing.

‘I asked Enda for a bit of ad­vice. I said you’ve done about 15 of these af­ter-din­ner speeches and you do them re­ally well – what should I do, what goes down well, what does the crowd like, what’s funny?

‘He didn’t get straight back, like other peo­ple do by text. It was prob­a­bly the next day, and the an­swer, as al­ways with Enda Kenny, was a bit enig­matic. He said that if I wanted a good laugh, I should go through his desk and find his old min­is­te­rial score­cards.’

Mr Varad­kar said he had been crit­i­cised for go­ing to con­certs and fes­ti­vals around the coun­try. ‘It’s only a mat­ter of time be­fore a news­pa­per, most likely a week­end news­pa­per, de­cides that I’m re­ally not gay at all, and it was prob­a­bly just some­thing that the Strate­gic Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Unit came up with,’ he told din­ers. ‘Along, of course, with the J1 stu­dent from Chicago who is now go­ing to vote for Fine Gael.

‘Of course, if I had known how many Pride marches I would have to at­tend, I would never have done that in­ter­view with Miriam [O’Cal­laghan, in which he dis­closed his sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion]. And ever since that trip to Canada, I have been ab­so­lutely in­un­dated with in­vi­ta­tions from prime min­is­ters from around the world who want me to at­tend some sort of cul­tural or so­cial event or another. The most in­vi­ta­tions are from Chris­tian Kern who, as you know, is the Chan­cel­lor of Aus­tria. He sent me a won­der­ful in­vi­ta­tion to go over there on New Year’s Eve and at­tend with him a per­for­mance by the Vi­enna Phil­har­monic Orches­tra, along with the Vi­enna Boys’ Choir. I don’t think I am avail­able – but I do know a few choir­boys who per­haps I could send – led, of course, by our ex­pert con­duc­tor, Deputy Kate O’Con­nell.’

That was a jibe at Dublin Bay South TD Kate O’Con­nell’s ref­er­ence to Leo sup­port­ers as choir­boys in search of a job dur­ing the lead­er­ship cam­paign, when she was back­ing Si­mon Coveney.

Mr Varad­kar made ref­er­ence to the num­ber of wed­dings in­volv­ing FG TDs over the sum­mer. ‘First up was Si­mon Harris. When he came back from honey­moon I asked him what mar­ried life was like, and he said it was the ex­act op­po­site of be­ing Min­is­ter for Health. You don’t get blamed for ev­ery­thing, and when there is a prob­lem it usu­ally is your fault.

‘There have been other wed­dings as well – Maura Hop­kins, who has cut her honey­moon short to be here, as have I,’ he said,

re­fer­ring to his po­lit­i­cal honey­moon. ‘He­len McEn­tee de­cided on a low-key wed­ding and didn’t in­vite any politi­cians.

‘They were lucky, be­cause they got in be­fore the Strate­gic Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Unit was es­tab­lished. You’re not go­ing to get away with any low-key wed­dings now. We will have to be con­sulted on any event – wed­dings, chris­ten­ings and en­gage­ment par­ties – and a strict tem­plate will be made out by my of­fice: #Pho­toOp­pForLeo.’

Mr Varad­kar joked that some politi­cians were very up­set not to be in­vited to the McEn­tee wed­ding. ‘It has dam­aged her pro­mo­tion prospects con­sid­er­ably.’ He added: ‘But no­body was as up­set as the Min­is­ter for So­cial Pro­tec­tion.’ Regina Do­herty had com­plained that Ms McEn­tee did not talk to her around Le­in­ster House.

The Taoiseach said it was a salu­tary les­son for Se­na­tor Jerry But­timer. ‘We didn’t go through all the has­sle of the Mar­riage Equal­ity ref­er­en­dum just so you can marry the per­son you love in pri­vate. It’s the quiet pe­riod be­tween Christ­mas and New Year – and we’re go­ing to make the most of it.’

HE said Enda Kenny’s ‘great re­gret was that he wasn’t there at Croke Park to see Mayo win the Sam Maguire. Maybe they will this Sun­day, as they last did un­der a Fine Gael taoiseach, John A Costello in 1950.

‘The omens are good in that re­gard. There is a ru­mour go­ing around that while Dublin only wins an All-Ire­land un­der a Fine Gael taoiseach – and that’s true for at least 40 years at this stage – Dublin never wins un­der a Dublin taoiseach.

‘But that is a nasty, fake-news Fianna Fáil ru­mour. It’s not true. Dublin won un­der Gar­ret FitzGer­ald as taoiseach in 1983, al­though he was more of a hurl­ing man, be­ing a south­sider. And there were two wins un­der Liam Cos­grave, back in the 1970s.

‘The real story, which of course they don’t want to ad­mit to, is that Dublin have never won un­der a Fianna Fáil taoiseach from Dublin, some­thing that nei­ther Charles Haughey nor Ber­tie Ah­ern ever man­aged to bring back to the county. In fact the last time Dublin won an All-Ire­land un­der an FF taoiseach was with Seán Le­mass – who we all know would vote Fine Gael if he were around to­day.’

Mr Varad­kar said it was also the case that Cork had never won a foot­ball All-Ire­land un­der a Cork taoiseach. ‘I’ve heard it’s why so many peo­ple from the Rebel County de­cided to vote for me in the lead­er­ship elec­tion.’ Si­mon Coveney squirmed.

Tak­ing aim in the style of US Pres­i­dents at the White House cor­re­spon­dents’ din­ner, Mr Varad­kar said Enda Kenny had also asked him how he was get­ting on as Taoiseach.

‘The truth is that I’m lov­ing the job, and de­spite the oc­ca­sional ten­sions with Fianna Fáil, it’s been a re­mark­ably sta­ble cou­ple of months.

‘I do want to tell you some­thing off the record, though. It did come close to col­laps­ing on one oc­ca­sion, and that was about ten days ago when I got a very lengthy mes­sage from one of Micheál Martin’s as­sis­tants, ex­press­ing anger and frus­tra­tion.

‘And they – I shall not state the gen­der – made clear they were go­ing to pull the plug on the Gov­ern­ment if there were any more pho­tos of me in a wet­suit.

‘Ap­par­ently, it’s now driven Micheál to dis­trac­tion: he’s been seen in re­cent days div­ing into the River Lee in prepa­ra­tion for a triathlon, and has been try­ing to per­suade Michael McGrath to go on runs with him.’

Speak­ing about a gen­eral elec­tion, Mr Varad­kar joked: ‘A gen­eral elec­tion right now wouldn’t re­ally be in my best in­ter­ests. ‘Never mind you,’ he told del­e­gates, ‘it’s my best in­ter­est that counts.’

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.