The Telegraph

Whatever may lie behind the decision, Ireland’s Taoiseach has plenty to resign over

Published: 20 March 2024

Just days after returning from the US, where he strutted his stuff with Irish America on St Patrick’s Day, Leo Varadkar has dropped the bombshell of his resignation as Taoiseach and leader of Fine Gael.

The “political and personal” reasons he alluded to at a brief press conference are as yet unclear but, he told us, it was as good a time to resign as ever. “Politicians are human too”, he said, in a voice throbbing with emotion, which has started off the rumour mills in a torrent of speculation. Certainly, his decision seems to be a surprise to him and everyone else, but he says he’s staying on in the Irish parliament so some of the wilder speculation might be without foundation.

Certainly, he has plenty to resign over. It was under his leadership that the government a couple of weeks ago lost two atrociously badly-framed referendums that were essentially pointless but were very Varadkar – designed to appeal to Dublin’s metropolitan elite. They horrified a large section of the population who saw them as an attack on the family, not least in taking the words woman and mother out of the constitution. The outcome was among the most humiliating referendum results ever for any government.

Varadkar’s critics felt he was essentially a political lightweight without deep convictions, driven by fashion and the urge to show Ireland as a determinedly progressive little country.

His first speech in the US was revealing of his ignorance about Ireland’s traditions and history. With Ireland in a crisis with immigration crisis, which has been badly handled, he explained at a Boston event for the Irish diaspora that St Patrick was “a migrant” and “a single, male, undocumented one”.

“The story of St Patrick teaches us that migration is nothing new. It has always been part of our national story,” he said.

Critics unkindly pointed out that young Patrick was a Briton brought to Ireland as a slave, and not through a process of regular migration.

Words without substance. Classic Varadkar.

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