Excellent piece in the Irish Indo today by Lise Hand about Leo “The Lip” Varadkar’s impertinent comments on how we should all take a holiday next year….sure the 2012 budget “won’t be all bad” he says.
With half a million people unemployed and claims of one fifth of the population living in deprivation, the Tourism and Transport Minister said that people should be able to afford a holiday next year.
Cue gnashing of teeth from a put upon electorate, and rending of garments in Government Buildings.
In the Dail yesterday morning, Sinn Fein’s Mary-Lou McDonald made political hay, noting that Leo wasn’t on the frontbench.
“Perhaps he is on a weekend break,” she sniped.
“In a very brash and unacceptable manner the minister told the population at large to cheer up and take a vacation, although he may be really telling them to take a hike.”
Across the chamber in the hot seat, Eamon Gilmore didn’t exactly knock himself out running to his colleague’s defence.
“I understand that while attending a tourism event yesterday, he made some remarks which were aimed at encouraging domestic tourism. This is what he does; it is part of his job,” explained the Tanaiste, before hastily changing the subject.
It’s entirely possible that the first thing which Enda Kenny types into Google search every morning is the trio of fearful words, ‘Leo’, ‘Varadkar’ and ‘Controversy’.
For he’s Leo the Lip, a chap born with a silver foot in his mouth. His pronouncements can make money-markets shiver and cause a stampede of frothing citizenry clamouring to talk to RTE’s Joe Duffy.
But the only person who appears to sail peacefully through every political squall is the Transport Minister himself. There never seems to be a bother on him, no matter how many fists are shaken in his direction. There was the time he drew the wrath of his own party bluebloods upon his head by insulting Garret the Good while excoriating the failings of then-Taoiseach Brian Cowen, claiming, “he is a Garret FitzGerald. He has trebled the national debt and effectively destroyed the country.” He said the Taoiseach should “enjoy writing boring articles in The Irish Times in a few years time” – another reference to FitzGerald.
Merciful hour…..sacrilege, indeed.
Then there was the time a few months back when he sent investors into a tizzy by declaring it was “very unlikely” that Ireland would be able to go back to borrowing on the bond markets in 2012.
“I think it might take a bit longer. . . 2013 might be possible, but who knows?” he mused aloud (always a dangerous activity for a minister who is trained in matters of medical health and recovery than those that pertain to economic recovery).
And recently he threw a toy or two out of the pram when his cabinet colleagues sneaked legal changes through the Oireachtas (Irish Parliament) to allow their ministerial cars to use the bus lane, writing bluntly on the paperwork: “As approved by government against my advice and that of the department.”
And Leo the Lip was in the thick of it again yesterday as a result of remarks he made during a speech at a tourism function on Wednesday night, when he claimed households would still have a few quid with which “to take a holiday” after the Budget, because, hey, “it won’t be all bad”.
Not that Leo himself was in penitential mode. Earlier on RTE’s ‘John Murray Show’, he had stuck to his guns. He said had been referring to the fact that there’ll be no cuts to income tax, “so people’s pay packets will be the same in January as they are now”, he reckoned. “Maybe I’m totally naive about this, but I think that’ll give people a bit of a boost in the New Year to see for the first time their incomes aren’t going down.”
And as he arrived at the Burlington, he just couldn’t see what all the palaver was about at all. He’d just been doing his job.
“I am the Minister for Tourism, I was speaking at a tourism event,” he shrugged, sporting a ‘what’s-all-the-fuss-about’ face.
“It’s part of my job to promote holidays and holidaying at home in particular and I’ll continue to do so.”
But did he understand that people are angry? “I understand that people are angry because people have lost their jobs, people are struggling with mortgages,” he replied.
True. But he didn’t seem to grasp that they were seething over what he perceives to be a logical statement, and what they perceive to be a gobsmacking lack of empathy with their predicament.
He’s certainly not lacking in smarts — correctly he was hopping over the bus-lane manoeuvre because he knew it smacked of elitism, which it does.
But he should be smart enough to steer clear of let-’em-eat-cake pronouncements. Or he’ll soon be heartily sick of eating humble pie.