Saturday 24 August 2019

Brendan O'Connor: 'Zombie Leo meets the people'

Leo Varadkar (Niall Carson/PA)
Leo Varadkar (Niall Carson/PA)
Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

Once seen, it can never be unseen. It's one of the most uncomfortable things you'll ever watch, like a particularly cringey scene from The Office multiplied by 10. It makes David Brent look like George Clooney. It actually makes Enda Kenny high-fiving his way around the country on election campaigns seem rather dignified and sophisticated. It almost makes Enda's air guitar moment at Bruce look cool.

Leo admits he's not great at the whole campaigning thing of talking to strangers. He's a guy who thinks it's weird to go to funerals of people you don't know. In other words, Leo is a person who thinks too much for election campaigns - too much self-awareness, or self-consciousness. And Leo never really had to campaign beyond his local hood of Castleknock and environs. He is a Taoiseach who has never had to win an election. He barely had to campaign to become leader of Fine Gael. Murph and co had the numbers all sewn up practically before Leo announced.

But last week, Leo had to go down the country and face the real people of Ireland. Cork was, to put it kindly, a disaster. He was called names - 'Vegan', there were tractors, bulls, meetings disrupted. It all came as a bit of a shock to him.

Imagine his relief then, when he hit Limerick, and he saw a busker, playing modern music. Here was something a modern Taoiseach could relate to. So over he went, flanked by Sean Kelly MEP, with whom Leo probably doesn't have much in common. The first thing you'll notice is the fixed grin plastered on Leo's face, trying to convince us, and himself, that he is enjoying this. And then, horror of horrors, as the busker James McKelvey sings Zombie by The Cranberries, Leo joins in.

You had to wonder if the real Leo had been replaced by some kind of zombie Enda Kenny. But that's not the really bad bit. The really bad bit is what happens when the song ends. Leo turns to the busker and tells him he's good. "And I don't do bulls**t," says Leo.

Now that is a very debatable statement. Ruth Morrissey for one, who ended up in court despite Leo promising that she - or women like her - never would, might disagree. Indeed, there are a list of people who might disagree, from children living in hotels to bereaved families in Waterford.

But that's almost beside the point. It's the awful attempt to be the cool teacher, the boss who's just one of the guys, that is unbearable.

And, of course, it goes without saying that anyone who doesn't do bulls**t doesn't go around saying, "I don't do bulls**t". Please Leo, don't ever try and be down with the kids or a man of the people again. We know your limitations. People who like you, like you for who you are. There's no need to do this bulls**t.

Sunday Independent

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