Monday 16 December 2019

Leo's heavy price for right thing

Liam Fay

Enda Kenny's head must be frazzled. Next week's reshuffle provides the Taoiseach with the opportunity to sack underperforming ministers. But, as he finalises his hitlist of those not up to the job, he's been faced with the disconcerting fact that even the must blundering and slothful members of cabinet have suddenly become whirling dervishes of ingenuity and industry as they fight to save their seats.

The feverish intensity of the backstage machinations by ministers and their aides was highlighted last week by Transport Minister Leo Varadkar in an interview with Radio 1's Sean O'Rourke.

Varadkar spoke with discernible distaste about the pre-reshuffle lobbying – "which I'm not involved in" – in a robust performance which served as a virtuoso act of lobbying in itself.

Varadkar is wise to throw some shapes. He is one of the few bright sparks in a cabinet made up of damp squibs and backfiring bangers, and is at risk of being punished for the distinction.

His rivals are apparently conducting a whispering-campaign against him, designed to stymie his promotion.

The chief charge against Varadkar is that he's not a team player. The evidence for this assertion is his intervention in assorted Justice Department scandals when, amidst cowardly silence from his cabinet colleagues, he described the garda whistleblowers as "distinguished".

Vardakar did the right thing. For his sins against party, Varadkar now finds himself in an absurd situation where Fine Gaelers are questioning if he is still one of them.

It's been a long time since anybody mentioned Kenny's promise of "a democratic revolution" in anything other than mocking tones. His government has consistently displayed greater devotion to self-interest than national interest. The reshuffle offers Kenny a final chance to change this perception. Ironically, therefore, the real question becomes: is he up to the job?

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