From hero to zero on live TV – the dressing down of Tony Holohan shows Leo Varadkar’s cheap, nasty and populist streak

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Now that Tony Holohan has been exposed in Leo Varadkar’s eyes as the head of an out-of-touch elite with ill-thought out theories, presumably he won’t be getting the Freedom of the City of Dublin anymore.

ine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Green Party councillors will surely get a diktat from Government Buildings telling them to vote down the proposal to honour a patriot. Dissent is no longer acceptable under this administration, so they had better do as they’re told.

Unleashed from his self-isolation, the Tánaiste cut loose on the public official whose advice his government accepted unquestioningly just a few months ago.

From hero to zero on live TV.

Not content with being the smartest boy in the class, Varadkar wants to be the smartest doctor on the ward too.

While the caretaker Taoiseach Micheál Martin stands by, the real Taoiseach openly attacks Holohan and the State’s public health experts for suddenly putting forward reckless proposals that are not thought out and experimental.

Varadkar’s patronising characterisation of the members of National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) as “good people”, but only from a medical, scientific or civil service background, was him at his populist worst.

“None of those people, for example, faced being on the Pandemic Unemployment Payment yesterday. None of them would have to tell people they were losing their job. None of them would have to shutter a business for the last time,” he stated cheaply.


Who around the Cabinet table has ever opened, let alone closed up, a business? The vast majority of them are career politicians, some of whom have never had a job outside of Leinster House.

When he became Taoiseach, Varadkar botched his own Cabinet reshuffle because he didn’t have the balls to simply demote well-remunerated ministers to the backbenches.

And the Tánaiste is really going to tell us this Cabinet is in touch with the reality on the ground?

This is the Government that voted through pay rises for its own ministers while nurses were given a round of applause.

This is the Government that appointed yet another batch of political advisers on the same day it cut the Pandemic Unemployment Payment for workers who had been put out of their jobs.

The Tánaiste claimed the politicians see “the bigger picture”.

The bigger picture now is the public are left not knowing who to trust.

The chief medical officer who people got to know, admire and trust has effectively been struck off by the Government as someone to deliver sound advice.

This Government does not want dissenting voices. Varadkar wants a group akin to the Fiscal Advisory Council, who just come in after the event and give an opinion that’s too late to influence any outcome.

Micheál Martin would want to be sure his theory is right on this occasion and that he doesn’t end up doing another state of the nation in a month’s time, shutting down schools and cancelling Christmas.

Not even during the economic crash did we witness a public servant getting such an extreme dressing down. The public servants who claimed there was no liquidity problems with the banks and who were complicit with the banking sector and political leadership in the loss of our sovereignty were never humiliated in this fashion. Often, they got hefty pay-offs or even were moved aside on the same pay.

Instead of taking Nphet’s advice on board but not accepting it, Varadkar’s calculated takedown displayed his nasty streak.

Rather than being honest with people and saying the Government feels there is an acceptable level of infection and death, the Government has muddied the water by blaming Nphet for giving bad advice.

Nphet has given its advice in good faith in line with its role and the scope of their expertise.

On a basic level, the public dressing down was highly unprofessional and does nothing to reassure the public there is a functioning Government in control.

The curtain was pulled back and the audience got to see the squabbling amongst the cast of characters.

Frustrated about the way things are going within an inadequate Government, Varadkar decided to take it out on Tony Holohan.

Varadkar has polarised views on who people will trust: the politicians or the doctors.

Trust in neither will be the result.

The blame for a lack of back channeling with Nphet is the fault of the Government.

Holohan had his Patrick Honohan moment. Ten years ago, the then Governor of the Central Bank got fed up with the lies being told to the people and came out to say the State would need a bailout.

The chief medical officer came back to his role, saw Nphet’s advice not being taken seriously and a Government failing to implement its own plan to live with Covid-19 through an utter lack of engagement and enforcement. So Nphet put forward a short, sharp shock to the political system and public at large.

Tony Holohan certainly overplayed his hand, but that didn’t justify Varadkar taking it upon himself to destroy a man’s credibility and character.

A decade ago, Varadkar was still a renegade opposition TD, firing off the soundbites, like telling Brian Cowen: “The Taoiseach is no Seán Lemass, Jack Lynch or John Bruton. He is a Garret FitzGerald. He has trebled the national debt and effectively destroyed the country.”

The young Varadkar was back on display last night. He hasn’t grown up.

Leo Varadkar is no Garret FitzGerald either, he doesn’t have the class, nor the intellect, to realise you don’t gain respect by beating someone into submission.

The only comparison you can draw for Varadkar last night was him having his Pee Flynn moment on the telly, when a politician became utterly convinced of his own bombast as the public watched on uncomfortably.

Source: Irish News