Wednesday 13 December 2017

Varadkar's Republic of opportunity

Leo Varadkar. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Leo Varadkar. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins


The election of Leo Varadkar as leader of Fine Gael, with his expected election as Taoiseach to follow, has been correctly assessed to be a seminal moment in the history of this country. While Mr Varadkar would be among the first to eschew what is called identity politics, a tendency for people of a particular religion, race, sexual orientation or social background to form political alliances, it was particularly appropriate for him to recognise the significance of his own election, specifically his statement that it shows prejudice has no hold in this Republic.

In a low-key address upon his election, Mr Varadkar also referred to this country as a "Republic of opportunity" and signalled it as his mission to build an Ireland in which every individual is given the opportunity to meet their full potential and every part of the country an opportunity to share in our prosperity. This is a noble sentiment with which this newspaper wholeheartedly concurs. Mr Varadkar also vowed that every proud parent in Ireland today could dream big dreams for their children; every boy and girl could know that there are no limits to their ambition, to their possibilities, if they were given the opportunity.

In this era of corrosive cynicism towards politics and public life in general, the sentiment espoused by Mr Varadkar in his victory speech may be dismissed in a predictable fashion by some of his political opponents and many among the public in general. Indeed, his election was met with certain ungraciousness by the Sinn Fein president, Gerry Adams, for example, who said it "can only mean further hardship for ordinary people" and that Mr Varadkar as Taoiseach "will mean greater disadvantage". Mr Varadkar was only four years old when Mr Adams became leader of Sinn Fein, the political organisation of the Provisional IRA, a terrorist organisation which has wreaked havoc on this island. Meanwhile, the levels of inequality and social disadvantage in west Belfast, where Mr Adam's Sinn Fein organisation is based, remain at a shockingly high level.

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