Monday 17 December 2018

'Republic of Opportunity' remains just a big slogan

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar waves on stage with colleagues after his opening address of the Fine Gael national party conference in Ballyconnell, Ireland. Photo: REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar waves on stage with colleagues after his opening address of the Fine Gael national party conference in Ballyconnell, Ireland. Photo: REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
Editorial

Editorial

Some parents may recall reading the much-loved 'Winnie the Pooh' bedtime stories, by the English writer AA Milne, to their children. These featured the loving mother kangaroo, Kanga, and her vulnerable little baby, Roo.

And, since it is something of a mouthful, there was no great surprise to find Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's lieutenants calling the 'Republic of Opportunity' draft document by its initials 'RoO'.

Similarly, Mr Varadkar's 'RoO', as it was first unveiled, seemed rather small and helpless in a political sense. The Fine Gael policy wonks like to call it "a rolling political programme", which will, ideally and in fullness of time, be honed into party policies aimed at changing citizens' lives for the better.

In a sense, we are being invited behind the scenes to see policy and election manifestos being made. Now, that runs the same practical risks as public visits to a sausage factory have for future sales.

Mr Varadkar has been talking about "RoO-making" since he first used the term in his successful quest last April and May to lead Fine Gael. He deserves credit, and some forbearance, as he promises to think beyond the next general election, and do the so-called "vision thing" by thinking a decade ahead.

Yet this first draft of Mr Varadkar's big idea is a mixture of the vague and aspirational, the old, and the politically obvious. So far, it remains a slogan seeking a policy.

A long overdue honour for five brave gardaí

Back in a recent and very dark time, a small group of people in our security forces stood in the breach to defend Ireland's imperilled democracy. Some of them, and their families, paid a very high price.

As the years fly in, too many of these selfless people are forgotten. The memory of five gardaí - one of whom was brutally murdered, the others badly hurt - in a particularly cowardly IRA ambush at Garryhinch, Co Laois, in 1976, has been especially shamefully disregarded.

This goes back to a very dangerous time in our history. A hoax caller, warning of plans to murder the then-prominent national politician Oliver J Flanagan, lured the gardaí to a lonely bungalow.

A massive bomb killed 24-year-old Garda Michael Clerkin, from Co Monaghan, and injured his colleagues. It was undoubtedly the murderous work of the Provisional IRA, despite a formal condemnation from its political wing, Provisional Sinn Féin, at the time.

It breached the IRA's own so-called 'Standing Order No 8' banning attacks on gardaí. Nobody was ever charged or convicted, despite extensive investigations.

But at last, there will be some very belated recognition for the gardaí concerned. The prestigious Scott Medal will next month be awarded at a ceremony in the Garda Training College.

Credit is due to Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan, who lobbied on the issue since first elected as a TD in 1987, and whose father was the subject of the hoax threat. Some senior gardaí also worked for this, including the former Garda commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan.

Honouring Michael Clerkin and his dutiful colleagues must remind us all that our democratic institutions cannot ever be taken for granted.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Don't Miss