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Hard to hate Varadkar for speaking his mind

Seatbelts for dogs, to save them from injury in car crashes? Who would come up with such a daft idea but Leo Varadkar, the politician with the infuriating habit of speaking his mind in public? Alas, he never said it. It turns out that he once, as Transport Minister, received a tweet from a member of the public who advocated some restraint for dogs in cars. He sent back a polite answer. Tongue in cheek or otherwise? Impossible to tell.

Almost equally hard to tell is whether all those straight-faced one-liners are designed to annoy his fellow politicians, some of whom may lack intelligence or humour.

His classic quip was directed, face to face, at Brian Cowen. He suggested that Mr Cowen as Taoiseach would emulate Garret FitzGerald, trebling the national debt and then retiring to write "boring articles" in 'The Irish Times'. The joke at the expense of a Fine Gael icon infuriated some but pleased others who appreciated that it contained a certain amount of truth.

More recently, and even more dangerously, he offended Mna na hEireann by raising the possibility of swapping work for childcare. Taoiseach Enda Kenny repudiated him thunderously. Politicians hate to have to do that.

For all that, he may yet become Taoiseach, notwithstanding the competing claims. He's young, handsome, smart, and it's hard to hate someone who keeps blurting out the truth.

Online Editors