Friday 23 August 2019

Even in our era of outrage it's hard to offend just about everyone


Editorial Comment

It has often been remarked that, for a politician so famously obsessed with image and spin, Leo Varadkar has a dreadful habit of putting his foot in it.

Since he became Taoiseach Mr Varadkar has proved remarkably gaffe prone though his ill-advised comments usually prove more embarrassing than damaging.

There was his cringe inducing reference to romantic comedy film 'Love Actually' on his first official visit to 10 Downing Street.

Then there was the St Patrick's Day trip to Washington when he told an audience on capital hill about the time Donald Trump called about a planning issue at his golf resort in Doonbeg.

That Varadakr initially claimed he'd contacted Clare County Council to 'do what he could' about the windfarm that was vexing the future proesident went down badly in many circles.

His tale of thinking the Trump call was a 'piss take' by one of his aides went down like a lead ballon in others.

There have been others but few have ever proved as damaging as Mr Varadkar's comments about Micheal Martin last week.

In an extraordinary intervention Leo Varadkar launched a bitter and sarcastic attack against the Fianna Fáil leader whose party props up his own embattled administration.

'He [Martin] kind of reminds me of one of those parish priests who preaches from the altar telling us how to avoid sin while secretly going behind the altar and engaging in any amount of sin himself,' said Mr Varadkar.

Mr Varadkar initially looked quite pleased with himself but one imagines it didn't take long for his mood to change as news of the reaction to his snide remarks began to filter in.

As one would expect the Catholic Church were quick to respond to Varadkar's remarks with senior clerics describing the comments as 'very hurtful' and ' deeply offensive'.

That they came ahead of a scheduled meeting between Mr Varadkar and the leaders of various churches and ethical organisations did not help matters.

While the Church's reaction was expected and understandable Leo probably thought his apology was enough to get him off the hook. After all the Church's power isn't what it used to be.

How wrong they were, for the Church was far from the only group that Mr Varadkar had offended.

'Sinning priests' have victims and they too came forward to condemn Varadkar. Several surviors of clerical abuse said they were 'shocked' by the Taoiseach's remarks.

'His words have seedy, dirty connotations, and that association doesn't sit well with me at all. I wouldn't call it political banter; it's below the belt' was what Co-founder of the Aishlinn Centre Carmel McDonnell-Byrne had to say.

Then there was the political fallout. Fine Gael are already struggling in rural areas - where the impact of the looming Mercosur beef deal will hit hard - and back benchers are furious that Mr Varadkar, already seen as an urban elitist, would further alienate the party's traditional conservative rural base.

Gaffes happen in politics but it's a rare thing when a politician manages to offend absolutely everyone in one fell swoop.

Enniscorthy Guardian