Irish PM Leo Varadkar’s career ended because he went woke

POLITICS: Irish PM Leo Varadkar’s career ended because he went woke

Ireland’s prime minister, or Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar has resigned as both head of the government and leader of his political party — Fine Gael — causing a political hurricane in the country. 

The news follows a brutal referendum loss that saw more than 70% of the Irish electorate vote down proposals to amend the Constitution to eliminate the words “mother” and “woman” and expand the definition of family beyond those based on marriage. 

It was one of the biggest defeats in Irish electoral history. 

Varadkar acknowledged this when he said: “There are a lot of people who got this wrong, and I am certainly one of them.”

He’s had quite a long and eventful career, being one of Ireland’s youngest-ever leaders. 

Despite his conservative outlook in his early career, being openly pro-life and anti-gay-marriage, Varadkar transformed into the wokest and most progressive prime minister in Europe. 

Shortly after clinching the top job, Varadkar was featured on the cover of Time with the heading “An Island at the Center of the World.” 

Praising Ireland’s globalism, the magazine lauded him for his recent coming out of the closet and Indian background — his father hails from Mumbai. 

If he wasn’t jogging in brightly colored socks with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in central Dublin, he was marching at pride parades or jumping on the latest liberal bandwagon such as attacking Donald Trump.

(Ironic since the shock referendum defeat was basically Ireland’s Trump moment.)

He’s recently been very outspoken against Israel, referring to the country’s bombardment of Gaza as a “catastrophe” in front of President Biden at a St. Patrick’s Day reception in the White House. 

But despite his grand gestures, when it came to bread-and-butter issues he failed to deliver. 

As he oversaw acute housing and health crises, with child homelessness rising by more than 600% and more than two-thirds of young people (aged 25 to 29) still living at home, Irish voters quickly realized that despite talking the talk, Varadkar failed to walk the walk. 

His obsession with displaying trendy, progressive positions to an international audience ultimately cost him electoral advantages domestically, as his party’s base still remains nominally conservative.  

Having lost the 2020 general election, he was forced into a governing coalition with the opposing party the Soldiers of Destiny — Fianna Fáil — during the COVID pandemic, though he’d promised not to do so. 

His political fortunes were safe — for now.

Perhaps getting too comfortable in power, Varadkar became scandal prone with several unsavory headlines suggesting the beginning of the end of his political career.

“Leo the leak” became a well-known phrase in Irish political discourse after he was caught leaking a confidential general-practitioner document to a doctor friend of his. 

It was referred to the authorities, but the Irish prosecution service decided not to pursue charges. 

Indeed, Varadkar also grew a reputation for excessive partying, including during COVID restrictions when he jetted off to the United Kingdom to attend a music festival despite such events being banned in Ireland on health grounds. 

In recent months, immigration has skyrocketed in Ireland with several high-profile incidents such as the stabbing of three children by an Algerian migrant leading to riots in the middle of Dublin. 

Varadkar displayed a level of tone deafness that showed the opposite of leadership by attacking the rioters and other concerned citizens as “far right,” failing to bring the nation together. 

Already, in the wake of the shock resignation, the main political parties are calling for an election in which Sinn Féin, the former political wing of the Irish Republican Army, looks set to emerge victorious. 

But with Sinn Féin failing to offer a viable alternative, having backed the recent referendum and remaining relatively silent on migration, it’s still up in the air if it’ll be kingmaker in the next government. 

Whether Varadkar’s decision to go woke cost him his political career is open to interpretation. 

But his downfall has proven that going forward, Irish political leaders will have to deliver more than just empty slogans. 

Perhaps this is something all political leaders could take on board. 

Theo McDonald is based in Dublin and writes about economic and social issues.

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