RECENT polls reveal that Leo Varadkar is the most popular Taoiseach since Bertie Ahern. Reasons cited include his youth and vigour, style and good looks.
Yet, unlike Bertie, he has yet to hone his political skills to ensure that any remarks he makes will not harm his reputation.
His comment in the Dáil on Tuesday that he would’t ‘write a blank cheque’ for the elderly to heat their homes is likely to do both. He was responding to Minister of State Jim Daly’s advice to the elderly to keep their heating on 24/7 during the cold weather.
Not only were the Taoiseach’s comments a public humiliation for a fellow party member that is bound to upset Fine Gael backbenchers, they could be interpreted as signifying him as uncaring of older people.
Few people would expect Mr Varadkar to sign a blank cheque but they would expect him to exhibit more empathy for the elderly and not make deeply insensitive and hurtful remarks directed at vulnerable people.
We should also expect him to be aware that many of the elderly, especially those living alone, are already fearful of using more fuel or electricity than they can afford. The last thing that should be done is to make them even more fearful.
Above all, the voice of the leader of government should be a reassuring and not a disheartening one.