Si­mon keeps busy but Leo seems lost in a fudge

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - OPINION - With Dar­ragh Clif­ford

IT HAS been a busy week for Min­is­ter for For­eign Af­fairs Si­mon Coveney. Last Tues­day, he was in Belfast for cross-party talks with the Sec­re­tary of State for North­ern Ire­land as ef­forts con­tinue to find some progress ahead of a likely No Deal Brexit.

On Thursday he took to Twit­ter to strongly crit­i­cise the racist chants at a Don­ald Trump rally where the bay­ing mob shouted ‘send her back’ in re­la­tion to Con­gress­woman Il­han Omar.

On Fri­day it was on to Brus­sels where he had a meet­ing with Michel Barnier. The EU’s chief Brexit ne­go­tia­tor de­scribed the meet­ing with Min­is­ter Coveney as pos­i­tive, say­ing the With­drawal Agree­ment ne­go­ti­ated with the UK is the only way to achieve an or­derly Brexit as well as the best way for start­ing a com­mon work on a new EU-UK part­ner­ship.

Over the week­end, Min­is­ter Coveney penned a hard-hit­ting opin­ion piece, pub­lished in the Sun­day Times, where he re­it­er­ated that the With­drawal Agree­ment is not up for rene­go­ti­a­tion. The Min­is­ter was clearly set­ting out our stall ahead of the im­mi­nent elec­tion of Boris John­son as Prime Min­is­ter, although it re­mains to be seen whether Boris will take heed of any of this.

And to round off the week, Min­is­ter Coveney put in a strong in­nings on the BBC’s An­drew Marr show, spell­ing out to the UK au­di­ence where this gov­ern­ment stands on Brexit.

‘This is a Bri­tish choice. We all want to avoid a no-deal Brexit and we have worked for three years to try to do that. I have done very lit­tle else in pol­i­tics apart from fo­cus on the choice of the Bri­tish people to leave the Euro­pean Union, and its im­pact on Ire­land and the EU,’ he said.

All in all, it was a pro­duc­tive few days for the Cork TD, in stark con­trast to An Taoiseach Leo Varad­kar, who had yet an­other for­get­table week lack­ing in lead­er­ship.

On Wed­nes­day, An Taoiseach was ac­cused of fudg­ing his re­sponse to the Trump/racist chants story. He said the chants had all the hall­marks of racism, but stopped short of call­ing it out for what it was.

On Thursday, he was down in Wex­ford to of­fi­cially open the En­nis­cor­thy M11 by­pass. So far, so good, only what should have been a day of pos­i­tiv­ity on a rare visit to the Model County turned into an­other PR mess as Leo’s han­dlers gave all lo­cal me­dia the cold shoul­der.

The Taoiseach’s people made it clear that he was not an­swer­ing any ques­tions re­lat­ing to Wex­ford from any lo­cal me­dia present. All pol­i­tics is lo­cal ex­cept when Leo is in town, it seems.

It begs the ques­tion, would Si­mon Coveney have han­dled the lo­cal me­dia in the same way? Or would he have seen the ben­e­fit of en­gag­ing with the lo­cal me­dia, how­ever briefly, in the knowl­edge that a lit­tle cour­tesy goes a long way, es­pe­cially in ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties.

Crit­ics of Leo Varad­kar’s lead­er­ship style have in the past la­belled him an ur­ban Taoiseach, and rum­blings of un­rest among ru­ral party faith­ful have been ev­i­dent for quite some time. If we were keep­ing score, the past week has def­i­nitely gone the way of Coveney.

An Taoiseach Leo Varad­kar and Min­is­ter for For­eign Af­fairs Si­mon Coveney.

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