Could Leo Varad­kar have breached Irish na­tional se­cu­rity by post­ing this tweet?

We must be con­cerned af­ter the Taoiseach used na­tional se­cu­rity chiefs to ‘spin’ his own im­age as leader, writes Jody Cor­co­ran

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - ANALYSIS -

THE most rel­e­vant ques­tion this week­end is whether a ter­ror­ist at­tack is im­mi­nent in Ire­land, or whether some form of threat to na­tional se­cu­rity ex­ists. I ask this not to alarm — al­though we should be told if there is — but to draw at­ten­tion to the Taoiseach’s in­creas­ingly ques­tion­able use of his Twit­ter ac­count.

What other con­clu­sion can be drawn from his post­ing on that medium on Thurs­day of a pho­to­graph cap­tioned: “Cabi­net Com­mit­tee F meet­ing for the sec­ond time to­day: bring­ing to­gether heads of Irish se­cu­rity to dis­cuss on­go­ing work in na­tional se­cu­rity.”

It was not im­me­di­ately clear whether this was the sec­ond time on the same day that Leo Varad­kar had met with the heads of na­tional se­cu­rity, in which case there may be gen­uine cause for alarm; or whether this was his sec­ond Cabi­net sub­com­mit­tee meet­ing in that of­fice that day. It is at such meet­ings that the real work is done, be­fore it is signed off on at a sub­se­quent full meet­ing of the Cabi­net.

Ei­ther way, for the first time in the his­tory of the State, in­so­far as I am aware, a Taoiseach has pub­lished a pho­to­graph with all of the heads of na­tional se­cu­rity, and other clearly iden­ti­fi­able re­lated fig­ures, at a meet­ing, in an im­age not un­like the oc­ca­sional pub­li­ca­tion when a US Pres­i­dent or UK Prime Min­is­ter re­leases a strictly con­trolled war-time or ‘sit­u­a­tion room’ pho­to­graph for his­tor­i­cal record.

Such pho­to­graphs were not pub­lished on any medium when, say, the se­cu­rity of the State was under threat through­out the Pro­vi­sional IRA cam­paign of ter­ror­ism, or at any other time when there was a risk to the safety and well­be­ing of cit­i­zens.

So, why now; is there a threat to na­tional se­cu­rity?

If not, we need to be told why last week Leo Varad­kar deemed it nec­es­sary to post a pho­to­graph of a meet­ing which he at­tended in his ca­pac­ity as Taoiseach, with the Min­is­ter for De­fence and the Min­is­ter for For­eign Af­fairs, and oth­ers min­is­ters, along with the Sec­re­tary Gen­eral to the Gov­ern­ment. They were in se­ri­ous mid-dis­cus­sion on an ap­par­ently se­ri­ous mat­ter with the heads of na­tional se­cu­rity, at least two of whom, in­clud­ing the Chief of Staff of the De­fence Forces, were in uni­form and with pa­per­work on the desk in front of them, in one case, on a lap clos­est to cam­era, which would not be be­yond the ex­per­tise of a tech­ni­cal ex­pert to re­fo­cus and read.

This is a most se­ri­ous mat­ter, a po­ten­tial breach of na­tional se­cu­rity no less, which has been passed over with an ap­par­ent col­lec­tive shrug as if to say ‘That’s Leo’, or ‘That’s trans­parency’ or even ‘That’s mod­ern com­mu­ni­ca­tions for you’ when it is any­thing but. It is much more than that. It is, as I say, a po­ten­tial breach of na­tional se­cu­rity.

But let us leave aside that ap­palling vista for a mo­ment, and spec­u­late as to what else the pub­li­ca­tion of this pho­to­graph tells us. It may tell us that there is cur­rently a po­ten­tial se­cu­rity threat to the State, cer­tainly; or al­ter­na­tively, it tells us that Leo Varad­kar is pre­pared ei­ther to (a) po­ten­tially place in jeop­ardy, or com­pro­mise the se­cu­rity of the State for his own po­lit­i­cal pur­poses, or (b) use the heads of na­tional se­cu­rity for his own po­lit­i­cal pur­poses. There can be no other plau­si­ble ex­pla­na­tion.

So now we get closer to the nub of the mat­ter, and that nub is ‘spin’.

You can be sure that the heads of na­tional se­cu­rity will not pub­licly make an is­sue of this clear breach of ei­ther se­cu­rity and/or pro­to­col, and my sources in that area are not good enough to es­tab­lish their true views on the mat­ter, but ex­pe­ri­ence tells me that such se­ri­ous fig­ures would be far from happy, in­deed con­cerned, in­deed deeply per­turbed to be so used in what is, at a min­i­mum, an ev­i­dent breach of what is surely the as­sumed con­fi­den­tial­ity of such meet­ings.

I also note from Twit­ter that Fianna Fail’s De­fence spokes­woman Lisa Cham­bers has retweeted the im­age under the hash­tags #reck­less and #spin­pri­or­ity.

In my view the Taoiseach’s tweet­ing of this pho­to­graph was cer­tainly reck­less, but if you do not agree with that, there can be no doubt that his do­ing so clearly speaks to his nar­cis­sis­tic de­sire to present him­self in a cer­tain light to cit­i­zens, one of an au­thor­i­ta­tive fig­ure at the cen­tre of se­ri­ous State se­cu­rity is­sues as he would have it; but con­versely, I feel, as some­body who has so far failed to in­ter­nalise the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of the high of­fice he holds on our be­half, which re­quires sen­si­tive han­dling and tac­tile man­age­ment of peo­ple and is­sues rather than plac­ing him­self up front and cen­tre in ev­ery sit­u­a­tion wherein that of­fice places him as if to say ‘Look at me!’.

Don­ald Trump aside, the other (na­tional) politi­cian to use Twit­ter in this man­ner is the Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, who to my mind should be re­mem­bered, among other things, for his use of that medium to philosophise on the mer­its of lol­lipops: “When u come 2 the end of a lollipop. 2 the end. 2 the end of a lollipop. When u come 2 the end of a lollipop. Pop goes ur heart. Xo TGBE.”

Leo Varad­kar’s use of ‘spin’, his ap­par­ent super­ego de­sire to place him­self at the cen­tre of all of our lives, tells us that if the Taoiseach were a lollipop he would lick him­self.

But such a state­ment would be to min­imise his pub­li­ca­tion on Twit­ter of this pho­to­graph, of a na­tional se­cu­rity brief­ing, and I have no de­sire to do that. This pub­li­ca­tion is a se­ri­ous mat­ter, an un­doubted er­ror, yet an­other one even more se­ri­ous than his use of Twit­ter to blather on about the 20th an­niver­sary of the death of Princess Diana on a day when two home­less peo­ple had died on the streets of Dublin.

More than any­thing, this pub­li­ca­tion shows that the Taoiseach knows no bounds, or is pre­pared to ex­tend all pre-ex­ist­ing bound­aries to a dan­ger­ous level, to use se­nior na­tional se­cu­rity chiefs solely for his own po­lit­i­cal grat­i­fi­ca­tion.

It is time to be con­cerned folks — re­ally con­cerned about the press­ing is­sue of Leo Varad­kar and his in­sa­tiable de­sire to ‘spin’.

‘Such photos were not pub­lished dur­ing the IRA cam­paign. So why now?’

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