Even in our era of out­rage it’s hard to of­fend just about everyone

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - OPINION -

IT has of­ten been re­marked that, for a politi­cian so fa­mously ob­sessed with im­age and spin, Leo Varad­kar has a dread­ful habit of putting his foot in it. Since he be­came Taoiseach Mr Varad­kar has proved re­mark­ably gaffe prone though his ill-ad­vised com­ments usu­ally prove more em­bar­rass­ing than dam­ag­ing.

There was his cringe in­duc­ing ref­er­ence to ro­man­tic com­edy film ‘Love Ac­tu­ally’ on his first of­fi­cial visit to 10 Down­ing Street.

Then there was the St Patrick’s Day trip to Washington when he told an au­di­ence on cap­i­tal hill about the time Don­ald Trump called about a plan­ning is­sue at his golf re­sort in Doon­beg.

That Varadakr ini­tially claimed he’d con­tacted Clare County Coun­cil to ‘do what he could’ about the wind­farm that was vex­ing the fu­ture proes­i­dent went down badly in many cir­cles.

His tale of think­ing the Trump call was a ‘piss take’ by one of his aides went down like a lead bal­lon in oth­ers.

There have been oth­ers but few have ever proved as dam­ag­ing as Mr Varad­kar’s com­ments about Micheal Martin last week.

In an ex­tra­or­di­nary in­ter­ven­tion Leo Varad­kar launched a bit­ter and sar­cas­tic at­tack against the Fianna Fáil leader whose party props up his own em­bat­tled ad­min­is­tra­tion.

‘He [Martin] kind of re­minds me of one of those parish priests who preaches from the altar telling us how to avoid sin while se­cretly go­ing be­hind the altar and en­gag­ing in any amount of sin him­self,’ said Mr Varad­kar.

Mr Varad­kar ini­tially looked quite pleased with him­self but one imag­ines it didn’t take long for his mood to change as news of the re­ac­tion to his snide re­marks be­gan to fil­ter in.

As one would ex­pect the Catholic Church were quick to re­spond to Varad­kar’s re­marks with se­nior cler­ics de­scrib­ing the com­ments as ‘very hurt­ful’ and ‘ deeply of­fen­sive’.

That they came ahead of a sched­uled meet­ing be­tween Mr Varad­kar and the lead­ers of var­i­ous churches and eth­i­cal or­gan­i­sa­tions did not help mat­ters.

While the Church’s re­ac­tion was ex­pected and un­der­stand­able Leo prob­a­bly thought his apol­ogy was enough to get him off the hook. After all the Church’s power isn’t what it used to be.

How wrong they were, for the Church was far from the only group that Mr Varad­kar had of­fended.

‘Sin­ning priests’ have vic­tims and they too came for­ward to con­demn Varad­kar. Sev­eral surv­iors of cler­i­cal abuse said they were ‘shocked’ by the Taoiseach’s re­marks.

‘His words have seedy, dirty con­no­ta­tions, and that as­so­ci­a­tion doesn’t sit well with me at all. I wouldn’t call it po­lit­i­cal ban­ter; it’s be­low the belt’ was what Co-founder of the Aish­linn Cen­tre Carmel McDon­nell-Byrne had to say.

Then there was the po­lit­i­cal fall­out. Fine Gael are al­ready strug­gling in ru­ral ar­eas – where the im­pact of the loom­ing Mer­co­sur beef deal will hit hard – and back benchers are fu­ri­ous that Mr Varad­kar, al­ready seen as an ur­ban elit­ist, would fur­ther alien­ate the party’s tra­di­tional con­ser­va­tive ru­ral base.

Gaffes happen in pol­i­tics but it’s a rare thing when a politi­cian man­ages to of­fend ab­so­lutely everyone in one fell swoop.

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