Current Affairs Politics

Leo Varadkar, From Love Actually To A Spaceman Came Travelling

I rarely listen to Newstalk radio, which has turned into the Daily Mail of Irish broadcasting, its schedules filled with right-leaning or, in the case of the reporter-turned-presenter Paul Williams, positively reactionary hosts. However this morning I caught part of the Breakfast show with the aforementioned journalist and co-host Shane Coleman, as the latter listened to a snippet from an unknown TD’s favourite Christmas song, attempting to match the tune with the politician. In this case he was stumped by the chosen piece, A Spaceman Came Travelling, the 1976 high-concept dirge by Chris de Burgh. It was revealed that the submitted song was a seasonal favourite of An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, and as Coleman noted, it joins the Fine Gael leader’s long list of offbeat tastes, including his public enthusiasm for the 2003 romantic comedy, Love Actually.

You have to wonder how much of this “endearingly” suburbanite image is the real Varadkar, the affluent, middle-class yuppie, and how much is the purposely crafted image of his exorbitantly funded Strategic Communications Unit? There is a strong impression with the Dublin West TD that everything he does, from the socks he wears to the television programmes he publicises, is the result of a lengthy decision process by a committee of high-paid spin doctors. There is an artificiality to the present head of government that I don’t quite remember witnessing in previous holders of the office. Even with the self-styled chieftainship of Charles J Haughey. And yet, this is the self-same Taoiseach who has taken the most determined stance against the corrosive interests of the United Kingdom in Ireland’s affairs since the peace process negotiations and contests of the 1990s.

What do others think?

8 comments on “Leo Varadkar, From Love Actually To A Spaceman Came Travelling

  1. bullykiller

    A good question! I´ve been scratching my head too. One reason might be that it´s not just the Working classes that will be effected by the the Brexit debacle, but the more affluent classes will be also hit very hard indeed . I think we probably have a rare solidarity in Irish society, which is to be welcomed I suppose. I also think there is a genuine dislike of the more extreme right wing pompous colonialists in the British establishment who would be quite happy for it all to kick off again in the Six Counties and are fuming at Ireland having more clout than we used to have. Just thinking out loud here. It would be nice to read more opinions on this question.


    • Varadkar is something of a conundrum. Very right-wing, of course, in an Irish context at least, in the strand of Anglo-American neo-liberalism.

      I certainly think that the Brexit angst has given a lot of Irish politicos and journos, not to mention some of the middle-classes, an injection of sudden overt “greeness”. Apparently it was ok for the Brits to be nasty to the “Nordies” but when they started being nasty to the “real Irish” then the revisionist love affair came to an abrupt end. Or at least took a bit of a blow.


      • Yeah, difficult not to think that that is precisely the dynamic at work (there’s a ‘national’ interest and then for them there’s a ‘real’ national interest. Screw with one and no bother. Screw with the other and they suddenly wake up.


  2. In terms of the ‘most determined stance against the corrosive interests of the United Kingdom in Ireland’s affairs’, I was more surprised by Simon Coveney’s stance, hailing as he does from Cork merchant prince stock that still hankers after the gaiety of royal-themed sailing events in the shadow of Queenstown. The Brits have managed the extraordinary trick of even antagonising the West Brits (see also: Bruton, John). As for Leo Varadkar, I was acquainted with him in college (full disclosure: I was in FF) and it was obvious that he was driven by more than just a desire to drink too much and talk about loftier things than the fate of the parish pump. He relished the rubber chicken circuit that the rest of us viewed as comical. He fancied himself as Taoiseach from a long way out and I think that is reflected in that ‘artificiality’ you are picking up on. He’s never not being playing the role.


    • I initially assumed, like everyone else, that Varadkar and Coveney were doing a version of good cop/bad cop diplomacy with the British and unionists, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Both seem genuinely worried about Brexit, the effects of the UK exit on all of Ireland, and the threat of future political and economic instability.

      The irony that it took the British kicking over the Free State apple cart for southern nationalists to rediscover some basic and constant truths of Irish history will not be lost on northern nationalists.

      Of course, if the British exploited this they would do a deal which ensured the status quo between Ireland (26 Cos.) and the UK (Britain), which is what the FG-led government really wants. Talk of regulatory alignment, British-Irish inter-governmental structures and aspirations to a reunited Ireland, would all be set aside if the Dublin establishment could be mollified in other areas. Then it might be to hell with the north. But that is not possible now, or probably ever. Things are too enmeshed together. The Six Counties can’t be hived off.

      Hence the sudden greening of Fine Gael and company, to protect the “State”. And if Fine Gael is green where does that leave Fianna Fáil? Under Martin, apparently as the new FG!

      Brexit has turned the political world upside down.


  3. Sharon Douglas

    I don’t trust him any further than I can toss him. His “determined” stance is a sham. There is something in it for him and his cronies. There are no true republicans left in the Dáil, I fear.


    • But the irritation, annoyance and fear of Brexit has given Official Ireland, including Varadkar and company, a green tinge. Time will tell how permanent that will be. Almost certainly a passing thing. But if it advances the cause of Irish freedom by another few inches then it is worth it. There is a lot of temptation in the thought of being the Taoiseach who set Ireland on the road to reunification. Or even to a half-way house form of reunification. Varadkar is a super-ambitious politician and more than most, he would like to write his chapter in the history books.


  4. Wot? No Ravi Shankar? Not even a bit of k.d.lang?


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