People say that social progress often comes in fits and starts rather than following a smooth curve, well Leo Varadkar’s appointment as the new leader of Fine Gael represents one such jump. It heralds a new era in Irish, and indeed global, politics as he is set to become the first leader in the Western world to, openly, bear a surname that is an anagram of the word ‘aardvark’. The momentousness of what this represents for our progress as a society can not, and should not, be underestimated.
He is also gay and harbours a somewhat callous and Thatcherite attitude toward ideas surrounding social welfare. And, with these three defining traits, that is very much the order with which they should be regarded.
As Ireland basks in its global victory lap, lauded for its ostensible open-mindedness, the homeless crisis which grips the nation, like some horrific genital wart that you hope will simply disappear if you ignore it, grows ever worse. Yet, despite Leo Varadkar’s seeming ambivalence, the people sleeping on the streets can surely warm, if not their bodies, then at least their hearts, with the knowledge that the person who is now tasked with largely ignoring their plight is an emblem of social progress.
A Fine Gael representative, Martin Girth, speaking in Leinster House today said “Leo’s appointment as leader of the party last Friday represents the culmination of years of gradual progress in social attitudes within Ireland. We are no longer the mono-culture, sheltered nation we were even 30 years ago; today we are a world pioneer of social advancement, we are a country where people’s sexuality is irrelevant to their office. The Ireland of today is inclusive and diverse and we seek to reflect that in our party.”
“Leo is gay and that’s fine.” Continued Martin Girth, “The intern who changed the toner on the machine I used to print this speech has around three different colours in her hair and it’s widely rumoured within the office that she is a lesbian, and that’s fine too. I myself am heterosexual, although once when a bulldog was licking my face its tongue accidentally sort of went in my mouth while I was trying to speak and, I think because I’d had some caffeine and my vascular system was somewhat pumped up, I may have become slightly aroused, and this, as I’ve repeatedly told my wife, is also fine. This is the Ireland of today.”
When Mr. Girth was pressed as to why a press conference ostensibly called to lay out policy was so heavily focused on sexuality and how that in any way bears relevance on Mr. Varadkar’s competence to tackle the myriad issues that still blight Irish society, including the homeless crisis, he stumbled (speech-wise, physically he remained as erect as he’d admitted to being near that bulldog) “Well, I… I suppose because it’s what everyone has been talking about and I presumed it was important… Have I mentioned that he’s also half-foreign?”.
With that the assembled journalists began to forlornly disperse from the confines of Leinster House, passing through the streets of Dublin, past the many cardboard-clad shop-fronts that provide temporary shelter for all too many of the nations citizens.