Tuesday 12 November 2019

Secret of my success... my bedside manner

Leo Varadkar
Leo Varadkar
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

He has been dubbed the minister who is "king of spin" - but just how does Leo Varadkar still stay so popular while waiting lists soar and the A&E trolley crisis worsens?

Leo believes it's partly due to his bedside manner - which he learned as a trainee doctor and GP.

It taught him how to communicate with patients and deliver bad news.

He revealed the secrets of his Teflon status during a Q&A with broadcaster Matt Cooper at the annual conference of the Public Relations Insitute of Ireland.

They include having a "very good press officer", Nick Miller, and a "couple of good people around me who I can run things by. They might say: 'Don't say that'."

He also told the gathering that "smart people" learn from their mistakes and he admitted making gaffes during his early days in politics.

The broadcaster asked the minister how he deals with the unpopular HSE, saying that on his TodayFM programme he encounters the frustrations of other journalists who find it difficult to get a proper response to queries.

The minister admitted he too has been the victim of "messy" episodes where the HSE would give him little notice about releasing a report.

"The HSE may not put anyone out to explain it. Suddenly, I have a microphone under my head asking me about a report I did not commission and have not read at that stage."

The HSE has improved in recent months and he now insists when he receives a report to be briefed on what kind of communications strategy is planned around it.

He also tries to include mention of the positive side of the health service during interviews. Around 20-25pc of his time is taken up in some form of communication. "A big part of the job of minister is explaining," he said.

He is now chairing the Fine Gael communications committee for theGeneral Election and canvassing in his own constituency once a week.

But the public are not in election mode, even if politicians are, he admitted. His party's election strategy is "top secret", he added.

His day can stretch from 8am to midnight and he cannot find time to read newspapers or watch television news, relying on staff to brief him.

He used to subscribe to 'The Economist' and read it at leisure over two nights - but this is no longer possible.

Irish Independent

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