independent

Thursday 23 May 2019

Not what we expect of the poster boy

Opinion

Leo Varadkar was under fire for a letter he wrote to Kylie Minogue
Leo Varadkar was under fire for a letter he wrote to Kylie Minogue

Niamh O'Connor - Straight Talking

The problem with Leo V's fawning letter to Kylie is that he's supposed to be the poster boy for a new Ireland.

It isn't that he pulled rank to meet a popstar versus a sporting icon, as was suggested in the Irish Times in the last week.

It's that we're supposed to be shot of the bad old days when it was who you knew, not what, that opened golden circle doors.

It's because when Leo landed the top job, the era of a them-and-us political establishment was supposed to have come to an end. The memories of Charlie Haughey in his Charvet shirt telling the public to tighten its belt, or Padraig Flynn on The Late Late Show complaining about having to run three houses on expenses, could finally be consigned to history.

Leo's leadership was supposed to herald a line in the sand between the past and present.

He represented the generation that knew it was OK to be in a same sex relationship, and that no woman should have to carry a baby that couldn't survive to full-term in Ireland.

At least, that was until his four lines to Kylie before she played Dublin last year offered a glimpse of the real man behind the mask, rather than the one Ireland so badly wanted him to be.

'Dear Kylie,' he wrote, 'Just wanted to drop you a short note in advance of the concert in Dublin. I am really looking forward to it. I'm a huge fan! I understand you are staying in the Merrion Hotel, which is just over the street from my office in Government Buildings. If you like, I'd love to welcome you personally. Leo V. Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister)'. From the official masthead at the top to the English translation at the bottom, everything about it smacked of the cute-hoor culture.

The office of the Taoiseach isn't Leo V's to get what he wants, or to schmooze celebrities like it's some kind of perk. The office belongs to the people and it's supposed to be used to get what needs doing done.

Take - for instance - Arklow, an average Irish town, hit by a series of serious setbacks in recent weeks. It would take Leo less than an hour and a half to get there in the state car that costs around €300,000 a year to run. It's a longer jaunt than a trip across the street, but it would mean a great deal.

How creepy on his part, by the way, to let the former Neighbours star know that he knew exactly where she would staying and - in the same line ­- exactly how big a fish he is. His 'request' to meet had all the subtlety of a corrupt despot in a south American regime, or Tony Soprano maybe. Yes, Leo is entitled to a personal life and to downtime, but he needs to be reminded that his work and private life are separate entities. To add insult to injury, the Freedom of Information request was twice blocked. You don't get to censor the truth just because of who you are either, Leo V.

Sligo Champion

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