Friday 24 January 2020

Varadkar's Republic of opportunity

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

Editorial

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.

That said, it would be wrong to suggest that there are not significant social issues with which Mr Varadkar and his new Government must contend, the crisis in housing, perhaps, first among them. In this regard, it would be wise for the new Fine Gael leader to, in the first instance, reach out to the Fianna Fail leader, Micheal Martin, and his partners in Government, the Independent Alliance, to deliver in full the confidence and supply agreement which underpins the Government and make function properly the minority administration, given the range of urgent issues which faces the country. Equally, it would be also wrong to suggest that Mr Varadkar is unaware of these issues, as indeed are all of the politicians in Dail Eireann. In this era, it has also become commonplace to wilfully misinterpret the motivation of members of the Oireachtas, the vast majority if not all of whom genuinely have the best interests at heart of all of the people they represent - that is, all of the people of the State - and seek to make better their lives, communities and society in general. In this regard, Mr Varadkar, as Fine Gael leader and Taoiseach, is wished well in his role as leader in the business of politics, that is, the organised control over our human community. That he is a gay man, and the son of an immigrant, will ultimately be of little or no consequence as he sets about building a Republic of opportunity with the co-operation of others.

Sunday Independent

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