From top: Leo Vardkar addresses the media; Tony Groves
Long before Rome was an empire, there was the regal period; a much disputed and historically vague time. It was in this age that the origin stories of Romulus and Remus were born, and it was here that the myth of Roman citizenry was cultivated.
The kings, seven of them, while individually interesting characters, are not as important in today’s context as is the methodology of their ascension.
Kingly succession was not hereditary and the Romans used complex legal procedures that involved the appointment of an Interrex (a ‘between king’), a popular vote for the new monarch and senatorial ratification. Only then could the Interrex be called the Rex (Latin for king).
Hundreds of years later, the Romans, wanting to project later priorities into the past, cultivated backstories of these Kings. It was said that of the seven, three were murdered, one was struck by a divine lightning bolt, one was exiled and only two died in their beds.
The message to the later Romans was clear, Rome has no King, Rome needs no King; a message heard and manipulated by the Caesars.
Much like the recent election of Leo Varadkar to Fine Gael Leader (and in contrast to the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour Leader) the popular vote of the Interrex counted for much less than the “senatorial ratification” votes.
Much like the ascension of Leo Varadkar to Taoiseach, dodgy deals were cut with powerful interests in order to gain the senatorial favour. While unlike in Rome, no assassinations were ordered, one can’t help think of Michael Lowry and his backing of Leo Varadkar.
Much like the new Tory Taoiseach wants us to focus on his backstory and not his conservative, neoliberal politics, the Interrex would also have a backstory cultivated to appeal to the plebeians.
Numa and Titus Tatius, were said to be the sons of a refugees, Servius Tullius was the son of a slave. The message here, much like that of the new Taoiseach, is unmistakable: Romans could come from anywhere; and those born low could rise to the top.
Yes, there is much to admire in the son of an Indian migrant rising to the top position in the country. There is some comfort in his sexuality not featuring as a topic, but for a brief idiotic moment in the Irish Independent. But, there’s more discouragement in our need to slap ourselves on the back for such ‘enlightenment’.
I would love to see Leo Varadkar succeed. He has made much noise about the death of Left/Right politics, if only to deflect from his Right Wing leanings, and if he was to govern as he says then perhaps he will find a new route. I will give him the benefit of the doubt, briefly.
Let’s see how serious he is about resolving his “unfinished business” in the Health Service. As a country we await him fixing the date for the Referendum on the Eighth Amendment.
As a two speed economy, we await the “substantial increases in capital spending” he has promised. Let’s see him address the housing crisis and impending property bubble, without bowing to vested interests.
Leo has put his name to an ambitious list of promises. But until he starts to deliver on his “Republic of Opportunity ” mantra and living up to the (demagoguery like) hype, he will remain the Interrex; an in between king.
Tony Groves is a full-time financial consultant and part-time commentator. With over 18 years experience in the financial industry and a keen interest in politics, history and “being ornery”, he has published one book and writes regularly at Trickstersworld