In many ways Leo Varadkar is the embodiment of modern right-wing politics in Ireland: socially liberal, economically conservative. While we can welcome the former we should be extremely wary of the latter. The Fine Gael leader’s eventual championing of progressive causes was driven as much by electoral expediency as ideological principle, to which he was a very late convert. The Taoiseach clearly believes that by posing as a paragon of modernity he can draw in like-minded middle-class voters who might otherwise favour Fianna Fáil or the Labour Party while still holding onto his own fiscally cautious FG base. As with most of the news media that he has sought to flatter or manipulate, on those fundamental matters which dictate how our society and economy is structured, the Dublin TD is more of a reactionary than a radical. From last week’s Irish Times:
The Taoiseach said he disagreed with the use of the term “vulture fund” and criticised the practices of our own banks.
“I’m always reluctant to use the term vulture funds because it is a political term. What we’re talking about here is investment banks, investment funds, finance houses, there are lots of different things and lots of different financial entities there and the term is used, vulture funds.
“But you’ll know from the numbers that they’re often better at write-downs of loans than our own banks.
“Our own banks tend to ‘extend and pretend’ rather than coming to settlements with people.
“Increasingly they’re covered by the same regulations and the same consumer protections as the banks,” he said.
Varadkar’s expectation that he could be so egregiously disingenuous with little or no chance of a serious reprimand from the press illustrates which way the political wind is blowing in the country. It is also a useful reminder of how far on the right of mainstream politics he sits. One wonders if his more traditional Blueshirt deputy, Simon Coveney, would be so crass in public? Or if he would seek to contest terms related to the highly contentious question of house repossessions in front of the electorate, whatever his private thoughts?