Bryan Wall; Style Over Substance


From top: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with Fine Gael TD Maria Bailey in 2016; Bryan Wall

As we’re all well used to by now, the government insists on image over substance. It can claim to represent the needs and wants of the wider citizenry but all it continues to do is take care of its own interests and that of its backers.

We are in the midst of a climate breakdown but all the government can muster is a tepid response in the form of the Climate Action Plan.

Then we have the lack of accountability with Maria Bailey and her legal excursions. Instead, Leo Varadkar and company have decided to go after the source who leaked the entire fiasco to the media.

In the space of a week, then, we have a government intent on doing nothing constructive about the climate breakdown and pursuing a whistleblower.

One would think that given recent history, particularly when it comes to the latter, the government would know better.The fact of the matter is that it does know better. It just doesn’t care. And neither does Leo Varadkar.

With the Climate Action Plan, nothing of major substance is provided. Instead, the government admits that over the coming decades it intends to rely on a relatively “low price trajectory for oil”.

It also suggests allowing local authorities to ban petrol and diesel cars from certain parts of cities or towns. “Zero-emission vehicles” would be given precedence, thus punishing the lower-middle and working classes for not being able to afford a new car.

And that’s not even mentioning the state granting an exploration licence to a Chinese-owned oil company and Exxon to drill for oil off the Kerry Coast.

Another example of the plan’s hollowness comes in its discussion of agriculture. At beginning of the document it is revealed that 32% of Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture. By comparison, the European average is 11%.

But in the chapter on agriculture the plan states that:

‘Irish agriculture has strong green credentials and a positive international reputation in terms of the carbon intensity of its dairy and beef output’

In the world of Leo Varadkar and company, being three-times worse than your European peers in polluting the planet is to have “green credentials”.

This is emblematic of the Fine Gael and Leo Varadkar edifice. Image is everything. Reality can never be allowed to shine through. But when it does, it illuminates the side of politics that people like Varadkar want covered up at all costs.

Take the issue of Maria Bailey. Instead of holding her to account for her apparently spurious legal claims, the source of the leak to the press about the entire fiasco is to be hunted down and named and shamed.

We aren’t at the level of Maurice McCabe but it does show that nothing much has changed since he was vindicated by the Charleton Tribunal.

Whistleblowers are not to be celebrated. They are to be found and punished for daring to undermine the edifice and the narrative that supports it. This shows how for Varadkar image is everything. Anything that undermines him and his party is to be denigrated and sought out as a threat.

That also includes the UN. Earlier this year the UN Rapporteur on Housing, Leilani Farha, along with Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations, Surya Deva, sent a letter to the government criticising its housing policies or lack thereof.

They declared that the government has a practice of “adopting laws and policies which treat housing as a commodity and undermine the enjoyment of housing as a human right”.

They went on to accuse the government of essentially allowing the “financialization of housing”.

Housing in Ireland, they wrote, is now “significantly unaffordable”. Government investment in the area “has disconnected housing from its core social purpose of providing people with a place to live in with security and dignity”.

The letter was written back in March, but the government has now taken the authors to task. The government has even claimed that housing is “eminently affordable”.

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul says otherwise. In its pre-budget submission, it revealed that one in five people in rental accommodation spend more than 40% of their income on rent. This, despite what the government might insist, is not sustainable.

Varadkar’s tactic is to maintain that everything is fine and that society is not starting to buckle under the weight of obscene rents, rising homelessness, and a health system on the verge of collapse.

Nothing can be allowed to question the myth of him and his party working for the “common citizens”.

Maria Bailey is an embarrassment because she damaged this edifice by allowing people to see that, in fact, politics-as-usual is the same old story: One rule for them and another for the rest of us.

And that’s why the person who leaked the story to the press in the first place has to be tracked down and duly flogged.

But this insistence on the edifice and its stability is proof of the contempt that Varadkar and his party hold the country in. It doesn’t matter what’s true. It only matters what they say is true.

So, there is no housing crisis and there is a well-thought out plan to combat climate breakdown. The opposite, even if it is true, really isn’t because Leo says so. It isn’t surprising but there is a boldness in his actions and statements that’s impressive.

It makes you question what you’ve actually seen and actually read. This is a well-worn political tactic. Thus far, it seems to have worked. In our confusion the government continues its policies of ignoring the masses for the benefit of the few.

But the thing about tactics is that they can only be used for so long before their target adapts and realises what’s going on.

And this means that for Leo, time is hopefully running out.

Bryan Wall is an independent journalist based in Cork. This is an election special. Bryan’s regular column appears here every Monday. Read more of Bryan’s work here and follow on Twitter:  @Bryan_Wall

22 thoughts on “Bryan Wall; Style Over Substance

  1. kellMA

    FG should start giving classes on “how to make a bad situation worse”. If the outcome of this review is to focus on who leaked the story then they really are out of touch….. Serious lack of common sense available to members of this government.

  2. postmanpat

    The leaker I assume was one of the Hotel staff who overheard the rumor that that “yoke from the other night who fell of the swing is suing us!” Probably some min wage worker who actually does some real work. fair play to him /her. Not that they will ever catch them now. HA! more of this kind of thing.

  3. eoin

    Today is Day #26 of what was supposed to have been a fortnight-long review. The review was supposed to delve into the details of what is perceived to have been a dodgy compo claim by Deputy Maria Bailey, and to look at what role, if any, played by the FG culture minister Josepha Madigan who is a solicitor and principal at Madigan solicitors who act for Maria.

    Now, 26 days later, still no review and we learn an aspect (“focus” the cynics would say) of the review is to look at who provided accurate information about the compo claim to the press.

  4. DOC

    Leo reminds me of a Milder version of Mohammed Bin Salman
    The Saudi Arabian Prince who ordered the murder of the Journalist
    Jamal Khashoggi. All about image. Complain about the Government and you will
    suffer the consequences. Leo is not at that level yet but you never know!!!!
    It is not all bad news though. There will be a General Election Next Year – I am counting down the months. Leo will be shown the door and he will be going back to his Doctor’s Practice. Of course he will get a big fat pension but i know many many people who will be glad to see the back of him.
    What happens then? The Fianna Failures are back in power. The party that destroyed the country in the first place. People in this country have a bad case of Amnesia. It really is swapping a penny for another penny but that is Politics Irish style. We are used to it. This has been going on for DECADES. Anyway RANT over. All i know is 90% of the people i know can not wait to get rid of Leo. The other 10% are TOO YOUNG TO VOTE!!!

    1. Rob_G

      “Leo reminds me of a Milder version of Mohammed Bin Salman
      The Saudi Arabian Prince who ordered the murder of the Journalist
      Jamal Khashoggi.”

      – there you have it folks – the dumbest thing you will read all week, and it only Monday afternoon.

      1. Qwerty123

        It is up there, I thought people thinking power-hosing horses being ok would be a potential winner.

        Looks like it will be a good week!!

        If you like people being stupid in public and not knowing it, check out Gemma O’Dohertys YouTube. Its excellent. Latest being sex education a front for an international paedo ring. Good stuff.

    2. A Person

      At least he’s trying. Not a single body on the left is trying to produce a house, reduce climate change, or even get elected as a credible govt. Why, because they then have to make decisions, have to do something other than moan. DCC has had a left Council for the last 10 years. How many houses did they provide? South Dublin Co Council, the same – how many houses.? Cork City the same. How many?

          1. A Person

            Why have they not built enough? One of the biggest budgets in the country. They are officially a Housing Authority after all. I hate the bias that it is always the governments fault. What were all the shinners and lefties doing on the Council for the last 10 years?

          2. Vanessa the Holy Face of Frilly Keane

            Too busy filiblustering, fighting among themselves, pretentious windy posturing and fake swagger – and that’s just in the Council Chamber

            Meanwhile the FF and FG Councillors were getting themselves elected onto Housing, Budget, Education and Planning Committees, Chair of this and that Committees
            So they were able to go back to constituents with outcomes
            Actual stuff done

            Why do think they did so well in locals?
            Yet the Shinners and the PBP and what-have- ya Indos will blame the voter and the media
            but never themselves

            They did loads of talking
            But no doing

          3. Al Bin Man

            Frilly, is it not more the case they don’t approve their own capital budget? Honestly don’t know

          4. Vanessa the Holy Face of Frilly Keane

            Dept of Environment and Dept of Finance still have a lot of clout
            But Councils still generate their own income
            and control their own resourses

            The established parties make sure they get on the committees that get to make decisions about spend and allocations
            Housing lists and community welfare stuff
            You ask any long term old hack Councillor
            Who does all the talking and delaying in the Chamber,
            Cribbing from everything from Matters Arising to not getting reports ahead of meetings soon enough

            And who is there during the day meeting will Council managers, engaging with different departments, following up with requests from Constituents.

            The Latter is what gets you re-elected
            And once you’re re-electable
            In the main parties you’re on your way up

      1. Lurch

        He’s trying alright, very trying indeed.
        Blocking environmental legislation to beat the band.
        Climate Action Bill (PBP) – blocked by FG
        Waste Reduction Bill (Greens) – blocked by FG
        Community Energy Bill (SF) – blocked by FG
        The list goes on.
        FG are a disaster for the environment.

    3. Iwerzon

      Can someone just simply go back to their medical practice after 10+ years absence? Is there not new medical stuff that’s happened in that time that Leo missed out on? Does he not have to sit a re-entrance exam or anything?

  5. newsjustin

    “Instead, the government admits that over the coming decades it intends to rely on a relatively “low price trajectory for oil”.”

    This makes no sense, I’d like to see it in context. A low oil price won’t encourage fuel switching. A high oil price will. So if Government are going to rely on something to do the climate action for them, it’ll be a high oil price.

    “In the world of Leo Varadkar and company, being three-times worse than your European peers in polluting the planet is to have “green credentials”.”

    You’re missing the point there. A country can have BOTH low carbon intensity of it’s agricultural produce (I.e. emissions per litre of milk or per kg of beef) and still have 32% of our ghg emissions from agriculture (compared to 11% in the EU) because Ireland does a lot of agriculture. While other EU countries do a lot of other things. I’m not necessarily sticking up for the agri sector or the Governmnent here, just clarifying.

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