Leo Varadkar and Enda Kenny
He’s just a very ordinary minister.
Martin McMahon writes:
Back in the Charles J day, Haughey was more than shrewd enough to have the measure of his would-be successor. Of Bertie Ahern he said:
“He’s the man. He’s the best, the most skillful, the most devious, and the most cunning of them all”
There was a strong element of ‘it takes one to know one’ in Haughey’s remark. Charlie knew people; he knew what made them tick (or thick); he knew the buttons he could press and the ones not to press in order to achieve the best political outcome for himself.
Charlie’s people skills undoubtedly revealed a high emotional intelligence which he used to ruthlessly manipulate others and become the dominant politician of his generation. Haughey never allowed himself to be upstaged by his eventual successor.
The same cannot be said of Enda Kenny. Despite his best efforts to marginalise Leo in the Angola Ministries of Health and Social Protection, Leo has managed to shine brighter than Enda.
One might be tempted to think that Leo is the man, the most skillful, possibly the most devious or maybe the most cunning of them all.
One would be wrong.
The writing is on the wall for Enda. Pretty much everybody knows this except, of course, for the Taoiseach himself. Even if he does defy popular public opinion and insist on limping on, his days as Taoiseach and Fine Gael party leader are numbered. A voter-friendly face is essential to the party faithful.
Leo has become a ‘Daaahling‘ of established media types. His gaffe prone history is conveniently forgotten in the scramble to counter the inexorable return of Fianna Fáil.
No matter how dismal, cynical or self-serving his performance, he is relentlessly flogged by the mainstream media as something he most certainly is not.
This MSM fabricated version of Leo was perfectly encapsulated back in 2014 by RTÉs Drivetime in an analysis by Health Correspondent Sara Burke of Leo’s first six months as Health Minister:
“I think he’s fared very well. It’s the first time we’ve had a competent Minister for Health. It’s early days but he’s hardly put a foot wrong. He’s been really good at preempting crises. He preempted the really high numbers we saw in E.Ds (Emergency Departments). He’s very good at dampening expectations. The weekend before an extremely critical HIAQ report on ambulance services, he went out on the Saturday night with the ambulances.
He made that really nuanced, excellent speech in the Dail on Clare Daly’s proposal in relation to abortion before the story broke of the pregnant woman who’s clinically dead in the Midlands……..
Critically I think Leo’s done two things, he’s brought political news to the point which has been really missing now and he seems to have the support of the Cabinet behind him and critically the support of the Economic Management Council and that’s how he managed to achieve (prevent) any more cuts to Health and a slight increase but also he’s brought clarity and direction setting out a clear stall with his top ten priorities.”
This MSM position is a master class in cognitive dissonance. Leo did not fare well as Health Minister. He was forced to row back on the key plank of the Government’s health reforms, Universal Health Insurance.
Far from preventing cuts to the Health budget, Leo consistently backed his own party on every single callous cut resulting in longer waiting lists, front line under-staffing and A & Es that do actually resemble battle fronts in third world countries.
All of his predecessors in Health also had lists of priorities. Reilly, Harney and Martin were not considered ‘competent’ simply because they had a ‘list’ of what they wanted to achieve.
That leaves only what’s described as Leo’s ‘Preempting’ of crises. Had James Reilly mooched around ambulances the weekend before a damning HIQA report came out he would have been rightly crucified by MSM for creating a self-serving photo opportunity to deflect from his own personal responsibility in creating the very crisis he was ‘preempting’.
There is no difference between what Leo does and a politician kissing babies in public whilst cutting children’s allowance in private.
As for his ‘preemptive’ nuanced, excellent speech in relation to abortion, rarely have we seen such blatantly cynical politicking. An issue that should have been about the rights of women was instead hijacked and spun by Leo to suit Leo’s favourite subject, Leo’s phantom largesse.
So absurd was Leo’s statement at the time, that Kenny distanced the party by rationalising it with a comfortable yet unbelievable illusion that Leo was speaking in a personal capacity and not as the Minister for Health as Leo claimed, a ploy repeated by Enda in regard to Ms Zappone’s activities.
In Social Protection Leo is a ghost, occasionally he issues a statement which is pounced upon by RTÉ where statements from other Ministers gain little if any purchase.
His comment that Maurice McCabe is a heroic whistle blower deserving of a full apology reaches a new low in self serving cynicism from a party that had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the Maurice McCabe debacle.
Leo, like Fine Gael, is not devious, skillful or cunning. It’s not that they don’t try, but the fact remains that like much of Fine Gael’s time in government they have proved to be no better than Fianna Fáil and they are a damn sight short of Fianna Fail’s ability to fool people for any meaningful length of time.
Martin blogs at RamshornRepublic