Varadkar Doesn’t Represent Ireland’s Oppressed

Doreen Manning returns to lay down the law on Ireland’s new Taoiseach.

Ooooh, look at the socks on him. There he is, having a ‘sock off’ with Justin Trudeau. Oh look at him now, our fantastic new leader, out on a jog with the Canadian Prime Minister. Oh would’ya look at him all smiley on the cover of TIME Magazine? Couldn’t you just eat him all up? You’d love to take him home to meet your mam. Oh oh, look at him now, getting his picture taken with The Pixies! He’s so cool! There he is, in Number 10 Downing Street, just a couple of days after the Grenfell Tower disaster, referencing Love, Actually….Great! Isn’t he something to be proud of?!

Leo Varadkar photographed by Kevin Abosch

I’ll put this simply: no. No, he isn’t.

As the rest of the world fell over itself congratulating us, because of what WE as a nation did (NOTHING), as we weren’t given a choice in the nomination of the Giant Douche or the Turd Sandwich as our new esteemed representative on the world stage. Yet here we are, with the whole world telling us how great it is that we have a gay Taoiseach.

Gay or not, his past behaviours and actions as a TD and minister have been completely brushed over by international news outlets, but people living in Ireland know the full story, much more than what TIME Magazine are willing to expose in their luscious, let’s-lick-the-shit-off-Varadkar’s-shoes, interview with him. His first month as Taoiseach has admittedly been up and down, but becoming the fourth Taoiseach to appear on the cover of TIME Magazine is obviously a big deal, following in the footsteps of Enda Kenny (October 2012), Seán Lemass (July 1963) and Eamon DeValera (March 1940). But if his previous political actions and decisions are anything to go by, he will be following more closely in the footsteps of the aforementioned Kenny, carrying on a ruthless campaign of theft and humiliation against working class people and families.

His very recent comments on the housing situation are remarkably far and away from what a true representative of all the people would believe. Stating that most of the 90,000 people who are currently on the housing list awaiting suitable accommodation are already housed, he casually disregards the fact that a person in their 30’s, being forced to move back home to their parents’ house because their call centre job doesn’t pay them enough to afford them extortionate rent, or entitle them to Rent Supplement to assist them, wouldn’t traditionally be considered ‘housed’ by any reasonable government, particularly considering the chain of implementations and so-called ‘financial adjustments’ that previous Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Labour governments would’ve put into place to ‘house’ that person with their parents, with little to no chance of ever having their own property in their life.

Varadkar also recently accused Paul Murphy of blowing the Jobstown Trial out of proportion, asserting that he and the rest of the Jobstown protesters received a fair trial and were not victims of a conspiracy, despite the fact that over 180 Gardaí gave conflicting statements against the small group of protesters accused of false imprisonment for simply standing or sitting on the road in front of a fucking car. Sure, Leo, Paul Murphy and co weren’t the victims of a conspiracy orchestrated by the poorly organised Gardaí, one of whom was forced to admit on the stand that he didn’t understand the meaning of the word ‘unanimous’, used by Murphy when the crowd voted on whether or not to march Joan Burton’s car out of Jobstown.

Let’s also not forget his recent ‘hate campaign’ against people on social welfare, originally promising to regularly publish the names and addresses of welfare cheats; he’s still dealing with the fallout of delays in maternity benefits, with some families left on half income or none at all due to months of backlogs on processing maternity leave applications; he has flip-flopped on the possibility of rescinding US President Donald Trump’s invitation to Ireland, stating in February that Trump should not visit the country, but now claiming that he wishes to be friends with Trump; he appointed fewer women to junior ministerial roles than Enda Kenny did when he became Taoiseach in 2011, with 7 of the 34 positions being filled by women; he’s being hailed as the champion of women’s rights since announcing plans to hold a referendum on repealing the 8th Amendment, despite having previously stated that he’s categorically ‘pro-life’. Along with having worryingly outdated views on abortion considering he’s a doctor and a former minister for health; he has made little to no intention or indication that he will be dealing with the imprisonment without trial of Irish citizen Ibrahim Halawa (now in prison for almost 4 years, with his trial adjourned recently for the 26th time) in Egypt. As Health Minister he diverted €12 million of the €35 million allocated for mental health services to ‘other areas’ of the health service, money which was earmarked for hiring new staff in mental health services, at a time when suicide rates among men aged 18-24 in Ireland are the 4th highest worldwide. He has made no indication whatsoever of the possibility of closing Direct Provision centres, only increasing residents’ weekly allowance by a meagre €2.50, whilst still not allowing them to obtain any meaningful work or educational opportunities. His maiden speech as Taoiseach included the words, ‘prejudice has no hold in this republic’, I’m hoping those words will hang over him for the entirety of his tenure as Taoiseach.

So, with all that in mind, I say to people across the world, and across Ireland: stop excusing him. His being a member of the LGBTQ+ community does not exonerate him of previous or upcoming attacks on working class people and families. Like most politicians, he’s done nothing to help anyone but himself. He has targeted working class people at every opportunity, and he means to carry on doing so. The most important point I can stress is: do not give him credit for the work of others on the ground. He has not done the work of people who went door-to-door during the Marriage Equality referendum in 2015, trying (and sometimes failing) to convince the on-the-fence voters to be on the right side of history for the sake of their children and other relatives, who may have had to face a country that didn’t want to afford them the privilege of marrying the love of their life. If a referendum on the 8th Amendment actually happens, and passes in favour of repeal, allowing women, teenage girls, families the choice of a simple medical procedure, or an unwanted pregnancy, the grief of losing a wanted child by fatal foetal anomaly, being denied life-saving cancer treatment in favour of ‘saving the baby’ etc., do not credit Leo Varadkar. Instead, credit people like Tara Flynn, Ailbhe Smyth, Bríd Smith, the many hard-working activists of organisations such as Abortion Rights Campaign, ROSA, TFMR, Abortion Support Network, Coalition to Repeal the 8th Amendment, Need Abortion Ireland etc. They’ve been working for change for years, long before most of us had even heard of our new Taoiseach and his Trudeau bromance. Do not suggest that he supports the people in Direct Provision centres just because he increased their allowance; THEY’RE STILL IN DIRECT PROVISION. Fundamentally, nothing has changed for them.

The bravado and the sheen that he holds up for world leaders to see can only be held for so long. Eventually his hands will get tired, and he’ll let it down. Eventually everyone else will see what people in Ireland have seen for years: that Leo isn’t any different from any other political lackey, that he’s shooting for the top and has every intention of pulling the ladder up behind him, rather than leaving it there for others to follow in his footsteps. The brightly coloured socks, the photo ops with music legends, the embarrassing comments made at Number 10, the high society magazine covers; that means nothing to the people that he’s made empty promises to. The sooner people worldwide realise that Varadkar being Taoiseach means absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things for the people of Ireland, the better.