THIS week marked the first anniversary of Leo Varadkar’s elevation to the office of Taoiseach on June 14th, 2017 and it has been a mixed year for him as he tried to win over the public and show that there is substance there as well as style. If the opinion polls are to be believed, he is succeeding, because he was up against it – even within his own party with plenty of critics among the grassroots.
While he swept to power as leader of Fine Gael with a huge majority of parliamentary party support, Mr Varadkar did not win over the majority of the party’s grassroots who preferred the more conservative Simon Coveney, who subsequently became Tánaiste after Frances Fitzgerald was controversially sacrificed. It would seem that grassroots Fine Gaelers are warming towards Leo now and that the party is in a better state of preparedness to fight a general election, probably within the next year.
As well as the Frances Fitzgerald resignation over the Sgt Maurice McCabe controversy, the Taoiseach had other embarrassing episodes, especially regarding the much-maligned Strategic Communications Unit he set up and was derided by opposition politicians as a propaganda machine for Fine Gael and the government. He eventually had to bow to the pressure to disband it.
Then we had that tall tale – reminiscent of his predecessor Enda Kenny in his heyday – he told in in Washington about how he helped prevent a wind farm being built near US President Donald Trump’s golf resort in Doonbeg; a story he had to furiously backpedal on afterwards.
The main achievement he can point to in his term of office so far is finally having a referendum on the repeal of the 8th amendment, which previous governments had been afraid to face up to. However, there are still a lot of other important areas where better progress needs to be made, especially the public housing and health areas, as well as Brexit.