‘DR COWEN’, BOOZE, GAY DEPUTIES, AND DRIVING FF MAD WITH HIS WETSUIT... LEO ROASTS THE LOT
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.’