Taoiseach draws inspiration from John A Costello’s ‘vision and leadership’

Varadkar delivers annual commemoration for former taoiseach in Deansgrange Cemetery

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said John A Costello’s “vision and leadership” in culture and the arts still provide guidance today. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said John A Costello’s “vision and leadership” in culture and the arts still provide guidance today. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

Leo Varadkar has said he thought of a guiding principle held by one of his predecessors, John A Costello, when he took over as Taoiseach last year.

The Taoiseach said Mr Costello’s vision for government was that everyone should work “for one purpose, and one purpose alone: namely the good of all sections of the people”.

Mr Varadkar was speaking at the annual commemoration for Mr Costello in Deansgrange Cemetery, Dublin, on Sunday.

Mr Costello became taoiseach of the first coalition government in the State from 1948 and 1951, and served again as taoiseach in the second inter-party government between 1954 and 1957. He died in January 1976, aged 84.

Mr Varadkar is the first sitting Taoiseach to speak at the Costello Commemoration, now in its third year. It is organised by Barry Ward, a local Fine Gael councillor and general election candidate for the party in Dún Laoghaire. Broadcaster David McCullagh, who wrote a biography of Mr Costello, and former tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald previously gave orations.

Headlines

Mr Varadkar recalled the newspaper headlines when Mr Costello took over as Taoiseach.

“The impact of ending 16 years of Fianna Fáil rule can be seen in the newspaper headlines of the day. The headline on the first page of the Irish Independent was ‘Mr Costello is Taoiseach’. The Irish Press went for something different and ran with: ‘Mr de Valera is no longer Taoiseach’.”

Mr Varadkar also said Mr Costello’s “vision and leadership” in culture and the arts still provide guidance today. Mr Costello’s first government also established the IDA in 1949, he said.

The Taoiseach also said he organised a seminar earlier this year for his TDs and senators to mark the anniversary of Ireland becoming a republic in 1949.

“One of the speakers was the historian Dr Ciara Meehan and she dismantled the myth that Costello had made the announcement in Canada without careful thought and advance planning.

“It was a deliberate statement about who we were as a country. When the Republic came into effect on Easter Monday 1949 it was celebrated at midnight with tens of thousands of people gathering in the city centre.

“A 21-gun salute was fired from O’Connell Street, and there were light displays and open-air céilis into the early hours. I’d like to mark the 75th anniversary in 2024.”