Time for Taoiseach to reveal his true colours

Varadkar needs to negate a reputation for not delivering on what he promises

Leo Varadkar will  have to find new Fine Gael voters. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Leo Varadkar will have to find new Fine Gael voters. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

 

Given the precarious arithmetic of the Dáil there was more than an outside possibility that Leo Varadkar might have had the distinction of being Ireland’s shortest-lived taoiseach.

But as the Dáil reconvenes today, the political atmosphere feels a little more calm and distinctly mid-termish. There’s no sense of an election any time soon - well, in the absence of a major political catastrophe. There’s a sense that now is the time for Varadkar to show what kind of taoiseach he is.

It’s not as if the summer was short of events. There was the flooding in Donegal, the continuing cruelty inflicted on homeless families living in temporary accommodation, a wider housing crisis and the sudden resignation of Garda commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan.

There is no doubt that on some, if not all, of those issues the Government has been put on the back foot. Arguably, what has hurt Varadkar’s leadership the most have been the consistent criticisms that the Government has been all about spin and communication and image.

The locus of attack has been the new strategic communications unit. But in the fast-breaking, shallow and uncurious age we live in, the image-obsessed media has been partly complicit.

It is too early to judge the Taoiseach who is hardly a wet week in the job. He does have a reputation for not delivering what he promises and, if Fine Gael has any hope of surviving into a second term, he will have to negate that.

Varadkar will also have to find new Fine Gael voters. It’s hard to see how all that new generation, those who backed the marriage referendum for example, can be persuaded to become Fine Gael voters.

Government is a complex business: There are hundreds of big projects, hundreds of political problems and hundreds of the little things that can slip you up.

The more immediate problems on the horizon are housing, the October budget, the never-ending crisis and budget deficits in the health services, and the referendum on the Eighth Amendment.

Fianna Fáil has already signalled pushback, as Pat Leahy reports on Paschal Donohoe’s plans to widen the tax bands - the Opposition wants the commitment to lower USC rates in the confidence and supply agreement honoured.

That’s the nature of parliamentary politics - propose, oppose and dispose. There will be lots of turbulence but, surprisingly, the signs are there will be no election for at least a year. Here is The Irish Times editorial view on the political landscape.

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