Wednesday 22 November 2017

Leo is more Fine Gael than Fine Gael itself

Leo Varadkar is not really an outsider, says Brendan O'Connor. In many ways, for our generation, he is the first political leader who actually feels like one of us

Leo Varadkar newly elected leader of Fine Gael
Leo Varadkar newly elected leader of Fine Gael

Mine is a generation that grew up between two Irelands. There was the formal Ireland of our parents and the newer Ireland we inhabited. It was a duality we took for granted. The formal instruments of the State - politicians, people on the news, you could even include the Church as an instrument of the State - didn't speak like us, didn't share the same reference points, didn't have the same cultural hinterland as us. We took for granted that our generation was a huge counter-culture that existed within the prevailing old culture.

Largely they coexisted side by side. We didn't tend to trouble our parents too much by challenging them with the new world we lived in. The Church was not as all-powerful as it had been, and we tended to ignore it rather than rebel too much, as our immediate predecessors had to. We largely looked abroad for our cultural touchpoints. We just got on with it. There was us, and then there were the old men who ran everything, and we co-existed reasonably well, us in our state of what Fintan O'Toole has called 'internal exile'.

In recent years, things started to change. People of our generation started to take over the world of business, a new culture developed here driven more by the newer generation, by RTE, by music, by theatre. We had a few awkward conversations with our parents about things like homosexuality, and it turned out they knew a lot more than we gave them credit for and were more easygoing about things than we thought they might have been. Before we knew it, we had become the mainstream in many ways. And that's how it goes.

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