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Varadkar's halo slipped and an apology was appropriate

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Tánaiste Leo Varadkar leaving Dublin Castle after attending a Cabinet meeting yesterday. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar leaving Dublin Castle after attending a Cabinet meeting yesterday. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar leaving Dublin Castle after attending a Cabinet meeting yesterday. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

The role of Taoiseach exalted though it is, doesn’t come with a guarantee of canonisation. But if it did, Leo Varadkar’s halo would have slipped since the revelation he leaked a confidential document while in office,

His defence that his motives were entirely honourable, simply place him in the vicinity of the road to good intentions, and we know where that leads.

His apology for “my error of judgment” was therefore appropriate.

It may not have been illegal, — some might argue, his most serious error was to get caught — but he should not have done what he did. An act of public contrition was necessary.

In public life you don’t get to laugh with the sinners and cry with the saints, simultaneously.

The Opposition were always going to pounce.

Mr Vardkar’s actions had justly laid him open to difficult questions over the reasons and circumstances behind his decision in April 2019 to pass on a draft of the GP contract to Dr Maitiú Ó Tuathail of the National Association of General Practitioners.

They claimed this was a “serious breach” of trust and questioned his motive in doing so..

But given the national emergency, Taoiseach Micháel Martin had little choice but to take a pragmatic view of the matter.

Along with his apology, Mr Varadkar also owes the Government a debt of gratitude for its forbearance. Ordinarily, such an incident might have created far greater waves.

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Providing Mr Varadkar has laid out all the information, the case for maintaining a sense of proportion is clear. A Taoiseach has to be held to the highest standards of accountability.

But a lockdown, in the middle of a pandemic with the spectre of Brexit hovering over us, is arguably not the ideal time for launching political missiles.

Beyond the myopia of the Leinster House bubble, we must not lose sight of the fact our country needs a Government, more than the Opposition needs a head.

So while it was inevitable Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald would not pass up an opportunity to land a blow or two, with a particularly pugilistic Tanaiste on the back foot; her targeting of Micháel Martin in the process, does little to raise the bar of political discourse.

Ms McDonald accused Mr Martin of “weasel words” for saying that Mr Varadkar “hasn’t done anything like this before.”

The Taoiseach’s job could hardly be more daunting right now. The last thing he needed was to be backed into a corner by a partner in Government.

But to personally attack him for trying to keep the ship afloat in the teeth of a hurricane, goes against the spirit of solidarity.

But Ms McDonald is right to point out Mr Varadkar’s breach should not be taken lightly. Hopefully he has learned a lesson.

It’s equally important the Opposition recognises we are in a unique time: party needs must be balanced against an over-riding national interest.



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