Tuesday 25 October 2016

As FG fears to speak of contests to come, Leovision is still a touch blurry

Published 22/08/2016 | 02:30

Leo Varadkar gives the graveside oration at the grave of Michael Collins Photo: Robert Maxwell / Maxwells Dublin
Leo Varadkar gives the graveside oration at the grave of Michael Collins Photo: Robert Maxwell / Maxwells Dublin

Leo Varadkar is "just a little" fed up of people linking his every move to the Fine Gael leadership - but at the same time he keeps fuelling the fire.

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As he stood at Michael Collins's graveside in Glasnevin yesterday he opened with few phrases as Gaeilge.

The minister has been brushing up on his Irish in recent months and it seems he has been reading a bit of history over the summer holidays too.

He mused about how Collins (the symbolic father of Fine Gael) and Arthur Griffith (founder of the original Sinn Féin) would not have been "natural friends" but were "bonded together by extraordinary circumstances".

He said the country should look to "complete their mission" because "it is a legacy we should all be proud to work for".

It was the type of speech that one might expect from a Fine Gael minister honouring Michael Collins, so when Mr Varadkar said afterwards that the content was nothing to do with leadership, he may well have been genuine.

However, until the day Enda Kenny's replacement is chosen, everything Mr Varadkar and his challenger Simon Coveney do will be judged in that light.

"I don't think the speech actually talks about leadership at all," he said.

"It talks about vision and it talks about really the legacy that our founding fathers, Collins, Griffith and others, left to us, and that revolutionary generation should be an inspiration to all politicians no matter how they intend to serve."

But leadership and vision are intrinsically linked.

Mr Varadkar only gave a snapshot of the direction he believes the country should move in - balancing taxes that encourage industry with investment that empowers people. It actually sounded a lot Fianna Fáil's 'An Ireland For All' election slogan.

He also had a subtle message for Fine Gael that they should learn from their own communications mistakes during February's election campaign, while quoting poet Ezra Pound.

The story goes that Griffith told Pound you "can't move 'em with a cold thing like economics".

"Pound disagreed with this advice, and challenged it in his writings, but he missed a deeper wisdom. Griffith prefaced the advice by saying, 'it's a question of feeling'.

"In other words, you had to inspire someone to believe in your economic vision; you had to appeal to their heart as well as their head.

"Cold economics and policy on its own was not enough. There is a lesson there for politicians today," he said.

Leadership is a dirty word in Fine Gael right now but there's nothing wrong with aspiring to be at the top.

Maybe it's time the contenders to be the next Taoiseach told us a little bit more about their vision instead of giving speeches laden with double meanings.

Irish Independent

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