Ten Years After


From top; Taoiseach Leo Varadkar leaves Áras an Uachtaráin yesterday after receiving his seal of office from President Higgins; Dan Boyle

Yesterday, June 14th, 2017, Leo Varadkar became the fourteenth head of government of the Republic of Ireland/Irish Free State.

Being caught up in his own history, he was probably blissfully unaware, that the day was also the tenth anniversary of when the Green Party became part of an Irish government.

While not being directly comparable, there are parallels that apply to anyone whose accesses power at a higher level. Chief among these would be two factors, those of opportunity and chance, factors which impact on the ability to achieve.

The opportunity of achieving office only has value, if the chance that accompanies it is favourable. Chance is that combination of circumstance and durability. Neither you get to choose. Neither can ever really be controlled.

You are either an agent of continuity or an agent of change. Pretending to be a bit of both only hastens an end to opportunity.

How capricious, how ephemeral, politics can be, can be seen from noting who else held office where, this time ten years ago.

In Stormont, the Chuckle Brothers were still only rehearsing their new routine, after their respective parties, Sinn Féin and the DUP, became kings of their castles.

In Westminister, Tony Blair was about to hand over to Gordon Brown who had brooded over that office for several years.

In Paris Nicholas Sarkozy had been President of France only for a matter of weeks. In Washington, George W Bush still had eighteen months of his lame duck term to serve.

The only constants are Putin in Russia and Angela Merkel in Germany (then only eighteen months into her first chancellorship).

If Leo achieves the six years in office that Enda Kenny has, he will have done very well. His first priority will be to use the time he has to buy more time. Failure to do so will consign him to the club of short term Taoisigh, with members like Albert Reynolds, John Bruton and Brian Cowen.

On a personal level I wish him well. Given our policy differences, my expectations wouldn’t be high, but that should never be a reason for wishing him, or anyone, ill. He is competent enough, confident enough, and as far as can be ascertained possessed of a sufficient integrity, to make a fair fist of the job.

I hope he is lucky, without being too lucky. His predecessor carried huge reserves of luck with him, even if he achieved little with the use of his good fortune.

He will soon be disabused of whatever expectation he has held about his office. The power bubble, he will become absorbed into, is a sealed vacuum which becomes detached from the reality and routine of everyday life.

Politicians who reach a high point in their career, run the risk of becoming further and further detached. Surrounding themselves with political friends and advisers, who have become similarly afflicted, only helps to increase their isolation.

To avoid becoming an actualised Pac Man, avoiding regular asteroid showers, our new Taoiseach should give a lot of thought towards doing most things differently. That should buy him a bit more time.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursdyay. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle


41 thoughts on “Ten Years After


    “He is competent enough, confident enough”… naw just convinced & cocky

    “further and further detached” … he had to be able to relate to the average Irish joe in the first instance, his appeal lies with the leased audi a6, slamon shirt & brown shoes brigade

    1. Andyourpointiswhatexactly?

      “leased audi a6, slamon shirt & brown shoes brigade”

      Heh. Well described.

      1. I'm "alright" Jack. Mad Jack is on annual leave.

        What’s a slam on shirt- a wife beater for poshies?

        1. Lord Snowflakee

          I’m picturing some loser with a daft beard, little or no hair and turned up jeans

        1. nellyb

          + pregnant on the cover of a local magazine. Discreet pregnancies are out of fashion, unfortunately.

  2. bisted

    …imagine forgetting such an historic occasion as the formation of the ill-fated FF/green government in 2007…luckily for you Dan you escaped unsullied by the trappings of ministerial office. When the surging green tide was lifting all boats you were already holed below the waterline…or as they say in Cork – found out.

    1. Dan Boyle

      I really was wasn’t I. Won seven less votes in 2007 than I had in 2002. Overwhelming rejection that was.

      1. mildred st. meadowlark

        It’s not a popularity contest*, Dan.

        *(It might actually be a popularity contest. Maybe.)

  3. dav

    Brave of you for bringing up that anniversary Dan.
    Can I ask why, do you think, the smaller party in a coalition, bears the brunt of the voters wrath?

    1. Dan Boyle

      They are seen as the agents of changes. They are seen as bearing full responsibility if enough change doesn’t happen quickly enough. Of course such expectations, are usually, hugely unrealistic.

      1. dav

        May I suggest that their election in the 1st place might be, in part, based on their own claims of bringing change?

        1. Dan Boyle

          Of wanting change. Of being different. All done without a working knowledge or experience of a system that initially, at least, exists to overwhelm.

          1. Blonto

            Dan. Off topic, but any chance you could do a quick analysis of what Enda Kenny promised before the 2011 election?
            There was talk of reforming government for starters, but as usual naff all was done.

          2. nellyb

            “experience of a system that initially, at least, exists to overwhelm” – are you given a list of senior public servants, union heads and local businessmen who you DO NOT RATTLE under any circumstances? :-) The Dail bible, lol.

    1. Dan Boyle

      Yes utterly despicable people. Totally devoid of integrity. You’re spot on there. A great judge of character you are……

      1. Andrew

        I may or may not be a great judge of character Dan, however I wouldn’t knowingly prop up a corrupt political party in power.
        Trevor Sargent had integrity.
        Those two?

        1. Dan Boyle

          Trevor participated in that government. We all did. There was nothing corrupt about the government we participated in. It wasn’t corrupt. We knowingly did not support corruption. It is spurious to claim we did.

  4. nellyb

    “He is competent enough, confident enough” – on what scale, Dan? And since we’re on it – are occupiers of Dail and Seanad have a JOB SPEC to adhere to be asked to perform according to?
    I.e. How does you or Leo know what to do and benchmark yourselves. Against what?

    1. rotide

      Do you think he has become taoiseach by accident? Do you think he just woke up and said ‘Oh lordy me, I appear to be leader of Ireland.’

      He is demonstrably a competant politician.

      1. MoyestWithExcitement

        LOL. So he’s competent because he was elected? I guess that makes Trump competent then. Man, HOW are you this naive? Also, Leo is an incompetent charlatan but of course you fall for the optics because you don’t think, do you.

  5. Dan Boyle

    Politics is perception. You’re perceived to have these qualities. I don’t think it’s too different from most jobs in that regard.

    1. RiderOnTheStorm

      Perceive the threadbare politics:

      His first priority will be to use the time he has to buy more time.

      and last line: That should buy him a bit more time.

      1. Dan Boyle

        Not threadbare. Real politics. Achieving office, staying in office, getting things done. The culture as it is, not how we would like it to be.

        1. RiderOnTheStorm

          Threadbare was a bit of an overstatement of mine

          More a case of emperor’s-no-clothes-at-all-at-all manifesto of politics

    2. Clampers Outside

      I think the perception of “quality” is a bigger part of politics than most jibs, especially in the middle management to top tier jobs. As in industry its more about doing than the perception of the “qualities” of the person… “doing” the do, like.

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