Petulant Leo shows he’s more spin than substance
MOST of the hardworking folk who got up early on Friday morning would have been exhausted couch potatoes watching Leo Varadkar’s Ard Fheis speech that evening on television. His address was long on big thoughts, short of cheap shots and written in those abstract, clenched sentences beloved by academics.
He said nothing about the scandal of successive Fine Gael-led governments aiding and abetting cravenly dishonest banks robbing the owners of tracker-mortgages. Nor did he acknowledge the continuing failure of the health service after six years of Fine Gael in office.
Not a word about his colleagues in Government acting like publicityseeking missiles locked on to North Korea. Fine Gael ministers ignored the Pyongyang farce for 10 days, and it was left to the admirable independent junior minister, Kevin Boxer Moran, to say ‘enough already’.
Leo’s Big Thoughts will be shoehorned into a 45-page draft for transforming this modest Republic into the sort of place he outlined in earlier documents: the first published in the Fine Gael leadership contest and another paper setting out the party’s 10-year plan.
He has been leader for only five months, although it seems longer, watching him ritualistically do the same routine each day in Leinster House. His father was not a Fine Gaeler (Leo found his own way to the party as a student) and Leo believes individual freedoms go hand in hand with compassion, fighting climate change and the free market.
All very laudable, but his biggest worry is that too many people see the political Leo Varadkar as a Frankenstein creation of marketing men: more spin than substance. His petulant performance in the Dáil last Wednesday was like a newly qualified doctor trying to belittle a more experienced colleague with a more comforting bedside manner.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin had asked him about the ‘terrible blackguarding’ around the funding of hospices and asked for pay linkages to be restored.
Leo appeared to go into a huff, and nobody coming a privileged Dublin background should accuse a son of the working class in Cork of using ‘unparliamentary’ language ‘unbecoming of his office’. It was posh Blanchardstown looking down its nose at Turner’s Cross.
It was a first indication that Varadkar is leaving us for that strange land of imaginary friends where politicians refer to themselves in the Third Person. If he had said, ‘Leo Varadkar is entitled to be addressed in a manner befitting a president rather than as a jobbing politician,’ the message would not have been clearer.
Perhaps it was a test run for a new persona for the Taoiseach under construction in the Strategic Communications Unit.
Still, whatever flight of fancy Varadkar was on last Wednesday, by Friday he had to recall that Simon Coveney was more popular with party members at the leadership election just five months ago. JOHN HALLIGAN attempted to redeem himself on Friday by revealing he had asked a male interviewee the same question he had asked the woman who accused him of discrimination.
Alas, his recall was challenged and he was back in the ministerial sin bin by late afternoon. Clearly no malice was intended on Halligan’s part; he was simply ignorant of contemporary practice. But he now has to pay what could be a €20,000 bill for legal fees and compensation.
I wonder about the female civil servant, a 23-year veteran who has worked closely with a secretary general, the four-star generals of the public service.
The mother of two collected €7,500 after reporting the minister’s discriminating questions to the Workplace Relations Commission. The Public Service Executive Union described Halligan’s question to her as ‘outrageous’. But then a lot of people who were ‘shocked, appalled and outraged’ had their hurt assuaged by the generous €7,500 compensation.
Civil servants have always been very fair when it comes to awarding compensation to other civil servants – but even a socialist like Halligan will wince at paying off a civil servant from his own pocket. Taxpayers usually pick up the bill for socialists’ indulgences, like cancelling the water charges. WHEN actor Kevin Spacey was in Dublin in 1998 filming Ordinary Decent Criminal, some of those working with him told me he was a relentless sexual predator.
Colin Farrell played a small part and Gerry Stembridge wrote the script, and it went straight to video in the US in 2003.
Some of those who worked on the film told me about Spacey importuning young men in Dublin.
The accusations made against Spacey in Dublin are shocking – and the details of his alleged sexual assaults on youths in other jurisdictions now compare with the worst of Harvey Weinstein.
If Weinstein is being written out of Hollywood history after his outing, then directors are literally editing Spacey out of films he recently appeared in, and replacing him with other actors. Kevin Spacey is being rebranded as Kevin Who? HAPPY Anniversary to Donald Trump – a year on from his victory and still unable to lift his approval rating above 38%. It is worth remembering that Trump persuaded seven million people who had voted for Barack Obama to vote for him last November. Trump’s Obama voters were only 4% of the electorate, but if they stay with him he will be president until 2025.