Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is becoming increasingly erratic in his Dáil responses. This morning I feel obliged to question why.
Based on his last two ‘performances’ in the house, it appears that the only tactics remaining at his disposal are to either obfuscate opposition questions with carefully-crafted statistics or just, plainly and in full view of the Oireachtas Report cameras, insult the TD asking the question.
Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou MacDonald was on the receiving end of a childish jibe from him yesterday when, following her reasoned and logical statement of the facts, she asked whether he would commit to a social housing scheme that matches the very real need on the ground rather than the existing plans which are a mere drop in the ocean. Varadkar opened his response expressing the hope that Mary Lou’s fundraising campaign in the US last week went well. Quite apart from the irrelevance of that particular ‘quip’, it was delivered in an arrogant and condescending tone, worthy only of a cornered dog with a broken leg! Are Fine Gael under pressure? Is Leo himself standing on one leg atop a slippery political slope looking down at the decimation of Fine Gael at the next general election? Why has his public image all of a sudden become more important than addressing the issues – or at least engaging in debate?
Lack of Empathy
Varadkar had previously attempted to downplay the significant number of children (3,000 – let me spell that out – three thousand!) currently classified as homeless in Ireland. Ireland compares well with other OECD countries, he reported. What he failed to report is that most countries have their own particular way of classifying exactly what ‘homeless’ means – rendering the comparison disingenuous. What he also appears to be failing at is empathy. To stand up in the Dáil and try to spin that phenomenally disastrous figure as comparatively favourable demonstrates in the man a complete lack of empathy for the reality of the situation on the ground. If there is empathy within him, it appears to be taking a back seat – that seat being so far back that even his own back-benchers have to look over their shoulders to find it!
One wonders if he was a family man (with children), would he be more capable of seeing child-homelessness for what it really is – an unqualified national catastrophe! This is not to cast aspersion on his stated sexual orientation but rather to point out that a father (like myself) immediately and without hesitation gasps at the thought that even one child is homeless in the Ireland of 2017. A father (like myself) gasps in horror at the thought that, less than six weeks from Christmas, even one child will not be sleeping soundly in their own bed waiting for Santa to come down the chimney. How much pressure is on those parents to mask the reality of a devastating situation – in an effort to provide the best Christmas possible for their kids?
Streets of Dublin
A father (like myself) will not tolerate the leader of the country obfuscating direct and reasoned questions on critical issues. A father (like myself) will certainly not tolerate a Taoiseach more interested in spinning his own image (and attempting to undermine the opposition) in the face of an imminent general election. He should be busy addressing the even more imminent housing and homelessness crises.
I feel another ‘Irish Water’ coming on – in so much as there is now a ground swell of anger across the country in respect of homelessness. One hopes the streets of Dublin will once again (and soon) be filled with the revolutionary voices of fathers and mothers who (like myself) gasp at the thought of even one child being homeless at this particular time of year. Christmas is almost upon us Leo. Get the finger out! Your statisticians may tell you that 3,000 homeless children compares favourably within the OECD but in my book you have knowingly compared apples with oranges. 3,000 is 3,000 too many!