Why Is He Taoiseach?


From top: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar; Galway City Councillor Owen Hanley

This month Taoiseach Leo Varadkar unveiled a climate action plan nobody really believes in to do something that he never seemed to care about to appeal to voters who never elected him as Taoiseach.

It’s an odd intersection of politics where the news cycle is mostly going through the motions. That said there are some really good things in the Climate Action plan including the incorporation of climate duties under the role of Taoiseach as well as having a more rigorous review process of the government’s track record on climate and biodiversity action.

But in the end it felt like another peg in a premiership that hasn’t really done anything meaningful.

That’s not to fall into a political trap of criticising every aspect of Varadkar for the sake of it. The current minority government situation is stretched to a limit. And I even met him once and annoyingly he was likeable.

But I don’t understand him. Or why he does what he does other than that he’s doing it.

If I genuinely ask myself why is Leo Varadkar Taoiseach I have no answer.

Like too many in politics he was planning for the next job.He was a Councillor so he could be a TD. A TD so he could be Minister. A Minister so he could be Taoiseach. But now that he’s arrived here, what’s it for?

And specifically I’m talking about the role of Taoiseach.

I can understand why someone would want to be TD or Minister. Step up and take the extra influence for your area and get paid a bit better, even if it means more scrutiny and less family time.

But to want to be Taoiseach should surely offer such unifying personal reasoning that it’s obvious to everyone who sees them in action. Why else go through all the scheming and negotiating and double-speak required?

For the past two years Leo Varadkar has been primarily defending himself against charges by Fianna Fáil’s Micheál Martin that he’s all spin, no substance.

That criticism bothers me for three reasons. One is the fact that Martin’s substance is a decade of Fianna Fáil blunders that lead to a decade of recession and austerity.

Two, the hypocrisy of using a test-group focused line to death to criticise marketing spin is neverending.

And three, it let’s Leo Varadkar away from the main criticism the opposition leader should ask. Why you?

Why when homelessness soars to the highest in our nation’s history should you lead us?

What does your brief tenure as Minister for Health say about your vision for healthcare?

What are the new ideas and ambitious qualities you bring the highest role of governance in the land?

It wasn’t really a question the Fine Gael parliamentary party asked either when they ignored their own members and choose him as Taoiseach.

It’s undeniable that electoral success was their primary concern, and as they should have the right to as any party.

But now that success seems less plentiful we’re left to wonder did they ask themselves who is the Taoiseach they choose for us?

A directionless Taoiseach creates a directionless party. Hence, why Fine Gael probably got hit hard in some spots during the Local Election. In contrast the Social Democrats’ focus on quality of life and the Green Party’s message on climate action resonated with people.

Enda Kenny was elected during an unquantifiable crisis. He ran and was elected to be a prudent overseer. The ultimate civil servant. You can argue the merits of that.

But we don’t need a civil servant to lead the country today. The housing and homelessness crisis requires massive state intervention. Healthcare needs to see radical transformations to transition to a single-tier Slaintecare system.

Transport demands bravery as we see a modal shift that compliments our higher density living and supports rural Ireland.

Ultimately, all this leads to the thought that Varakdar is just another man who at 18 decided he deserved to be Taoiseach and did everything to achieve that without asking why.

What was he trying to fix? What problems in the world bothered him the most? Why is it he should lead the country?

As I’ve tried to stress I’m not going intentionally force false narratives about greed or ego. But neither do I think we should allow basic ideas of doing a better job or it has to be someone so why not me be good enough.

He’s neither incompetent nor the Taoiseach we need.

It’s a hard job, you get criticised all day, and you sacrifice a lot to do it. I’m sure he has good intentions and is trying his best.

But why? Where is it going?

And in the end what kind of Ireland will he leave behind?

Owen Hanley is a Councillor on Galway City Council for the Social Democrats and has a background in human rights law


30 thoughts on “Why Is He Taoiseach?

  1. Otis Blue

    All fair questions which I suspect Leo can’t answer. I think he’ll get bored by it all soon enough.

      1. millie st murderlark

        We’ll ask him to include some nice illustrations and an entirely useless infograph next time.

  2. eoin

    “What was he trying to fix? What problems in the world bothered him the most? Why is it he should lead the country?”

    I’d guess his main priority since taking office in 2017 has been to protect Ireland’s interests as our main trading/social/cultural partner leaves the EU.

    Is Owen doing politics for a laugh like? Why is Leo taoiseach? Why does he think any of them post the 1920s have wanted to be taoiseach? I’m don’t think any of them post the 1920s had any great welt vision for the country at all, but someone has to lead the carnival.

  3. Bob

    “voters who never elected him as Taoiseach”

    That’s not how general electrons work.
    If you’ve made it this far in politics without knowing this, we should all be worried.

        1. millie st murderlark

          True. Unelected Taoiseach is one of those things that makes me chuckle every time

    1. Ron

      And that’s part of the democratic deficit in this country. It’s designed to keep the electorate from having as little say as possible and you all accept that. Pathetic

      1. millie st murderlark

        By all means, lead the charge Ron. Otherwise you’re every bit as culpable as the rest of us.

          1. Papi

            Ron shoots from the hip, tells it like it is, not here to make friends, ain’t gonna apologise, lost a lot of good men out there, did I turn the oven off?

            oops, sidetracked.

  4. Stan

    I suspect he became taoiseach because he couldn’t bear have to work in the Health Service – either as minister or as a doctor.

  5. A Person

    A Councillor from a another party criticises a leader of another party. Seriously? What is he going to do – support him?

  6. PaddyM

    I dislike FG, I detest Varadkar, but:

    A directionless Taoiseach creates a directionless party. Hence, why Fine Gael probably got hit hard in some spots during the Local Election. In contrast the Social Democrats’ focus on quality of life and the Green Party’s message on climate action resonated with people.

    The Social Democrats got all of 2.28% of the vote in the local elections. FG got 25.26%, more than eleven times as many votes. The Woke Twitter party really need to take a reality check at some stage,

    1. eoin

      + 1

      For the European elections, FG took five seats (up one from 2014) and managed to get Fanny Fitzgerald elected despite her issues, as well as a total newbie beauty pageant person. Their nearest rivals were the Greens (2), FF (2), Independents (3) SF (1). I don’t think that’s what you’d call a “hard hit”.

  7. Termagant

    It bears thinking about. How DID such a vain hyperdefensive shiftless prat become the leader of one of the only two parties people actually vote for?

    1. Cian

      Because these are key attributes to becoming a leading politician.

      The problem, as I see it, is that the qualities that are needed to become a successful politician, and eventually, to become the leader of a party and NOT the same qualities that I would like to see in someone whose job it is to run the country. But this is how our democracy is set up. There is some solace that our leaders are every bit as awful as our European and American neighbours.

      1. Ron

        we don’t know what the attributes of a successful politician are Cian. We never had any

  8. Fizzie1

    Varadkar has too much time for none issues and pet projects and too little substance when it comes to matters that effect the majority of us.

    But he isnt alone our political class are blowhards, posturing and pontificating, the leader of SF is annonymous the leader of FF tired and uninspiring and as for FG, he represents Dublin South and the elites and liberals therein, he doesnt represent the community of Ireland.

    We need FG to sweep away the “whats in it for me” mentality and do what Kenny promised and bring opportunity, bring devliverable solutions on housing, health and broadband….. spirallig housing list fuelled by interest groups in the AHB Sector, not over priced dublin centric hospitals criminay mismanaged nor ridiculous half ass oBroadband declerations a child can see wont work.

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