Sunday 25 February 2018

Even if Leo does want to be a radical, the system will just grind him down

It remains to be seen whether Leo Varadkar is really a reformer, but the deck is stacked against big change, writes Dan O'Brien

Leo Varadkar. Photo: Frank McGrath
Leo Varadkar. Photo: Frank McGrath
Dan O'Brien

Dan O'Brien

Garda reform and Brexit have been two of the biggest challenges facing the current Government. The contrasting ways in which they have been handled speak volumes about the political system - both its strengths and its weaknesses. They also illustrate how constrained the next Taoiseach will be in his freedom of manoeuvre.

The defining difference between Garda reform and Brexit is that addressing the former involves discommoding a powerful interest group, while managing the latter does not (or at least not yet).

Ireland's political system is good at handling challenges like Brexit. The capacity for departments and agencies across the system to pull together, above prioritising the protection of their own turf, is a real strength and one that is not found in many other countries. While this 'Team Ireland' reflex can have a downside in sometimes engendering group-think, it is a benefit when big and complex challenges like Brexit have to be faced.

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