Pat Leahy: Varadkar ends 2017 on a high thanks to Brexit talks
Taoiseach’s judgment in Fitzgerald episode overlooked by public amid Brexit gains
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. “He will go to Brussels next week with his stature enhanced both domestically and in Europe.” Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters
You gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em. Toughness is a necessary quality in a political leader, but judgment is essential. The last topsy-turvy three weeks in Irish politics have been testament to that.
Toughness is necessary, but not sufficient. From the outset of the Frances Fitzgerald email controversy, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was intent on demonstrating – to his party, to voters, to Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin – that he would not back down, that he would assert his authority. There was a political logic to that, but because he failed to see the wider political context, Varadkar’s resolve clouded his judgment. The episode ended in a humiliating climbdown and a political defeat of much greater proportions than was necessary had he exhibited better judgment and seen the inevitable from the start. For the first time, it shook his party’s confidence in him.