Now that Leo Varadkar is our new leader and monarch of all he surveys, a profound conundrum emerges. What is his first name? Is ‘Leo’ an abbreviation of León, Leopold, Leonard, Leonardo, Leonidas or, wait for it, Lionel? Or is it a stand-alone name? The matter is of concern to those involved in philological and political linguistics.
Does his name have its origins in Leo the Lion, who was MGM’s (the film makers) famous mascot? Or is he called after a successful Mexican wrestler, also named Leo? Perhaps he acquired the tag because of interest in the Louisville Eccentric Observer, which is commonly referred to as ‘The Leo’, much in the same way that the Cork Evening Echo is known as D’Echo. And let’s not forget that ‘leo’ is a contraction of leotard, a unisex, skin tight, one piece garment that modestly covers the torso.
Some specialist linguists suggest that Leo’s real name is Ashok, which is his dad’s name, but that he doesn’t want to use a foreign sounding moniker in case he loses votes.
‘Ashok’ in Hindi communicates the idea of ‘someone without sorrow’ –which is, of course, a most appropriate description of Leo-Lionel’s response to the difficulties he’s facing over the distribution of mini-minister jobs in his new cabinet.
A scholarly Cork newsman and expert in the philosophical language of Sanskrit told us that ‘Ashok’ was a timeless god in ancient India who oversaw all that can and will ever happen (The same newsman finds solace in the Hindu celestial gods whenever he has to report on a Fine Gael Clonakilty and Beara selection convention).
What’s more, he (the god Ashok, not the hack) reacts cautiously when faced with a dilemma. But, if angered and forced into a confrontation, Ashok is someone to be feared.
Indeed the invocation of Ashok can be heard on the odd occasion outside late night chippers. It is a term particularly used by pugilistic teenagers who are attuned to Hollywood-style urban lingo. They’ll warn their mates with comments such as: ‘Don’t f… with that guy, he’s “Ashok”!’
The expression indicates that the offended party is strong, combative, quarrelsome and best avoided. A loose translation would be: ‘yer man is kinda annoyed, so watch your step.’
To be ‘Ashok’ conveys the idea of omnipotence, undisputed power, absolute sway and even Divine Right. Nevertheless, on a Friday night the word can be misunderstood as ‘in shock’ which, in turn, can provoke a mob-demand among aggressive chip eaters to stamp on the opponent’s head!
Of course it is irrelevant in the normal run of things whether or not our Taoiseach Leo-Leopold-Lionel is called after the god Ashok. However, when he allocates flunkeys to this job or that job, or to no job at all, knowledge of the Ashok effect can be very helpful, especially for someone seeking appointment to the Appeal Court.
In the meantime, although Leo the Omnipotent is currently busy exercising spiritual, mental and political control over his camp followers, he would do well to brush up on Irish history – his grasp of which is decidedly dodgy.
His shortcomings became embarrassingly obvious after he declared that as the new leader of Fine Gael he was proud to be elected as leader of the party of Collins, Griffith and Cosgrave.
Immediately, an incalculable number of local history societies and kids in Fifth Class pointed out, in no uncertain terms, that the Fine Gael party was formed on September 8th, 1933, more than a decade after the demise of Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins!
However, to Leo-Lionel’s credit, he boasts of having some understanding of the Civil War (Irish), to judge by a daring comment that he made during a Dáil debate on November 24th, 2011.
On being asked by a Sinn Féin deputy if the Free State had murdered Republicans at Ballyseedy, he answered as follows: ‘Deputy Ferris raised the issue of Ballyseedy, for example, and I have been there. I can say, in clear conscience and without any doubt in my mind, that the events at Ballyseedy constituted an atrocity.
‘I can also say that people who were murdered, or executed, without trial by the Cumann na nGaedheal Government were murdered. It was an atrocity and those killed without a trial by the first Government were murdered. That is my view.”
It’s something he can build on. Clearly the Ashok effect is kicking in!
As Squire Hockey used say, we have a great little country, a fact reinforced by the huge sum of €378,000, plus an annual ‘pinsin’ of €126,000 that Dame Indakinny will receive on retirement from the Dáil.
Play it again
Can anyone explain why Fianna Fáil, like a broken record, persists in trying to convince us that one of these days it will collapse the government? Don’t they realise that hammering home repetitive threats that nobody takes seriously is counter-productive and not the best of strategies?
Here are some examples: Last March, it was the water issue and FG’s promise to introduce a system of ‘excessive usage’ that prompted the threat. Fianna Fáil told their partners to drop the plan, suggesting that the prospect of a snap election was a ‘real possibility.’
Recently, the party menacingly informed the nation that it would block legislation aimed at increasing the outrageous wages of ‘super-junior’ minister, Mary Mitchell. Cue references to ‘a snap election’.
And, last weekend, we had the declaration that the party will ‘pull the plug’ over the appointment of former Attorney General Máire Whelan to the Court of Appeal.
Nobody takes seriously Fianna Fáil’s ‘cry wolf’ tactic. It’s as plain as a pikestaff that the party has no desire to trigger a general election, a viewpoint ably put by The Phoenix magazine. It suggested that FF policy was based on a Mickey Martin plan of inaction whereby there would be no general election until the polls put the F&Fers well ahead of Fine Gael.
Problem was that every time Fianna Fáil got an edge in the polls, the advantage didn’t last. The superior position was always temporary and eventually the party frittered away its lead. Martin now is being accused of promoting a flop of a strategy.
Rank-and-filers no longer express admiration for the way he miraculously escaped the opprobrium heaped on his colleagues in the wake of FF’s pauperising of the State. He’s no longer coming across as a charismatic leader and certainly not the person to bring the party out of the doldrums.
The sad fact is that Martin is perceived as an unimaginative leader glued to a half-crocked political life-support machine whose plug nobody has the guts to pull.