Saturday 18 January 2020

Leo Varadkar is actually The Minister for Nothing

Health Minister Leo Varadkar has signalled a more measured approach to the introduction of Universal Health Insurance (UHI)
Health Minister Leo Varadkar has signalled a more measured approach to the introduction of Universal Health Insurance (UHI)
Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

Leo must be wondering what all the fuss was about being Minister for Health.

Never mind Angola, it's more like the Maldives for Leo. Or some other popular honeymoon destination. He is basking in the warm glow, sipping on a cocktail of public love and approval. Even hard-nosed hacks have gone weak at the knees for him.

And don't get me wrong. We all love Leo, don't we? But this is getting embarrassing.

The more he tells everyone what he won't be doing as Minister for Health, the more everyone congratulates him. "Finally," we say, "a straight-talking honest politician who doesn't make any false promises."

In fact, he doesn't make any promises at all. It's a neat little trick, isn't it? Create no expectations at all and then if there is any improvement, he'll be god. You'd never guess he used to be a doctor would you?

So far, to the applause of everyone, Leo has said he won't be dismantling the HSE, he won't be bringing in Universal Health Insurance, and he won't be bringing in free GP care for everyone. Let's hope he doesn't get too much of a taste for this.

Next it'll be "I won't lie to you. I'm a straight-talking guy. I will not be doing anything at all during my 18 months in Health. I won't even be turning up for work. Isn't it refreshing how honest I'm being about it all?"

And we will fawn over him even more. There will be calls for him to be made Taoiseach straight away.

It's the Seinfeld approach to being Minister for Health. The sitcom Seinfeld, you will remember, was famously a show about nothing, but it was incredibly popular. Leo seems to be planning a Ministry about nothing.

Leo is probably annoying all his colleagues and various bruised former Health Ministers as we speak. "Guys, I really don't see what the problem is here. This is a breeze. The more things I'm not going to do, the more they love me. You guys were all obviously trying too hard. You just needed to go with the flow."

As for what he is going to do? Well, he says he's going to try and improve morale in the health service. Which is a noble, and, more importantly, unmeasurable goal. At the end of his 18 months Leo will be able to proclaim that one of his main goals coming into office was to improve morale among health workers, and he will be able to say that he did that. And who's going to be able to argue?

He's also going to try and make medicines cheaper.

Given that recent figures indicate we couldn't possibly be paying much more than we are for medicine, he might just manage that as well.

And he says he's going to set a realistic health budget. Now, far be it from us to say that Leo's colleagues in Government might try to teach him a lesson about Angolan customs when he comes looking for his realistic health budget, but let's just say some of them who might also fancy the leadership themselves may not be as heavily invested in Leo's fan club as the rest of us.

And they may not be as keen as Leo is for Leo to sail through his Ministry for Nothing unscathed. But look, let him find that out for himself. All in good time. For now, Leo, enjoy the Maldives.

Sunday Independent

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