Last month marked the two-year anniversary of the date Leo Varadkar, right, was elected to high office, becoming the fourteenth Taoiseach of Ireland. And, even though the elevation to power of a young, openly gay, son of an immigrant hailed a new and tolerant era for a country which has, thankfully, grown tired of its one-time discriminatory, old-fashioned ways of the past, part of me remains concerned about his appointment. You see, I’m not sure if it’s down to the humidity or just plain stupidity, but it appears our Leo never ceases to miss a good opportunity to say something daft.
Now, don’t get me wrong, none of us are perfect. And I’ll be first to admit, I’ve said some pretty stupid things. However, one of the greatest attributes of getting oneself elected to public high office is having the gift of the gab. Indeed, choosing one’s words carefully, and speaking with knowledge, passion and compassion are all part and parcel of being a first-class world leader. In fact, you could say, given the ridiculous things some of our former Taoisigh have uttered, when it comes to the art of communications, the bar is really not set that high for our Leo. And yet, strangely, almost as if it were a force of habit, instead of raising it, he just limbos right underneath it.
Look, we all remember Bertie and laughed at the way in which he managed to mangle the English language, especially when he once described a gangland incident as a “fly-past shooting”. Bertie’s also on record as saying he wasn’t going to be “upsetting the apple tart” and he advised people to “stop throwing white elephants and red herrings at each other”. Now, while all of these little Bertie bloopers proved to be a highly amusing set of malapropisms, I have to say Leo’s gaffes are more cringeworthy, than they are funny. Take his latest clanger for example where, the day before he was scheduled to meet up with church leaders, the Fine Gael leader crassly compared Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin to a “secretly sinning priest”.
Now let me say that I am not a practising Catholic, rather I choose to engage in the parts of my religion that best suit me. Therefore, I’ve taken absolutely no offence whatsoever regarding Leo’s remarks. And, while I believe that from the point of view of a positive spin, Leo’s comments were enormously inappropriate, unlike Independent TD Mattie McGrath, I am far from being “horrified”. Yes, Leo wounded and offended a lot of people, but he didn’t really mean to launch an attack on the country’s main religion. Nor did his words, as Mattie so dramatically decried, hail the onset of an “open season on the Catholic Church” policy. Honestly Mattie love, do get a grip snowflake. Sure it’s as if you’re tripping over yourself to become offended these days. However, I would definitely agree with Independent Roscommon-Galway TD Michael Fitzmaurice’s more balanced views where he’s quoted as saying that “If this (Leo’s remark), was said about any other church or group in society, there would be uproar”. And he’s right. There would be, pardon the pun, hell to pay for the simple reason there are many religions that would go ballistic and probably declare war on anyone who so mercilessly ridiculed their clerical representatives.
So, while I believe Leo’s comments were unfortunate, poorly timed and highly inappropriate, I also believe they were delivered in the heat of the moment by an over-excited individual who really should know better. That said though, I do feel our leader’s disparaging comments were, on a personal level, highly unfair to Catholic priests. I do know there are many wonderful priests, especially those living among us in rural communities, who go way above and beyond their duties in an effort to serve their flocks. And, while certain scandalous acts perpetrated by some men-of-the-cloth in the past have been well documented, Leo’s stigmatising denouncement of all priests as a group, is not only cutting as it is immature, but dare I suggest it, his statement last week could also be construed as being highly defamatory.
Gender neutral uniforms offer kids more choice
I’d imagine parents everywhere are bracing themselves for the long queues to buy the kids’ back-to-school stuff. However, I wonder, when kitting the kids out for their uniforms, how many Roscommon parents think that purchasing skirts for the boys and trousers for the girls is a good idea? I only ask given St. Brigid’s National School in Greystones, County Wicklow’s recent announcement regarding their all-inclusive initiative to introduce a gender neutral school uniform policy.
Look, as far as I’m concerned, school should be a place where kids feel happy and comfortable, where they can be themselves without fear of being bullied or being treated as an outcast. And, if that means that some children feel their identities are better expressed by wearing certain items of clothing, albeit ones that are in line with the school’s policy, then sure where’s the harm in that? I mean, it’s not really that radical a move, now is it; rather it’s about offering students more choice and not pigeonholing those kids who may feel confused about who they are, into specific gender stereotypes.
No child is born homophobic. No child is born with a discriminatory bone in their body. However, as they grow and develop, it is my belief that they do form and adopt certain hostile attitudes, (which can often prove to be prejudicial), from other influences such as us, their parents, their peers and from society as a whole. Therefore, through exposing our children to a less restricting and more tolerant and humane perspective, we, as parents and educators are not opening them up to hate and homophobia, instead we are helping them to create a culture of acceptance, and that has got to be good for everyone, now hasn’t it?
Alleged thermal pollution at Lough Ree is worrying
I don’t know about you readers, but news that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is investigating what I’d deem to be a serious issue at the Lough Ree power plant, leading to a suspension of operations, has got me concerned about our wildlife and our marine life. I’m no expert but it doesn’t take one to know that the effects of thermal discharges on freshwater fish and our wildlife can greatly affect their reproductive cycles, wreaking havoc on their very survival. Let’s hope the situation is brought under control as a matter of urgency. Water is our most precious asset, and we must reduce the risk of it being polluted…for all our sakes!