This was a lecture with a difference, however, as Boole 4 in UCC, the venue for thousands of inspiring/yawn-inducing lectures down the decades, was packed out to hear the Government’s 2040 vision for the country — a plan already bedevilled by accusations that it is a mix of the new and reheated, all spun in a blender by the much-maligned Strategic Communications Unit and given the Pravda treatment in the media.
The Taoiseach wasn’t having it. Queried about comments made by Public Accounts Committee member Shane Cassells, in which he referred to Leo Varadkar living in “some Russian creation” or “Trumpland” if he believed in “buying the news”, the Taoiseach said: “We all know what the opposition is at here, what they are trying to do is to distract from the plan.
“They know it’s a good plan, they have no alternative plan, so what they want to do is talk about the process around how the plan came about and they want to talk about the information campaign around it, but I want to talk about the detail of the plan because what this is about is a 10-year plan to invest in healthcare and housing and education, roads, traffic infrastructure, all those things and I think what people are much more interested in.”
A Friday morning 10am lecture? Dose.— Joe Leogue (@JoeLeogue) March 9, 2018
Arguably, that jarred slightly with what he heard in the lecture hall, where Tánaiste Simon Coveney spoke of “our national plan” which he said was “not owned by one party — it is the people’s plan”.
Project Ireland 2040, with all its laudable targets, is meant to transcend tit-for-tat political mithering, to instead be set on a course that will see it through to completion regardless of who is in office at any one time. Maybe the SCU might need to put some Fianna Fáilers on the Christmas card list.
Regardless, everyone was in good spirits. There was praise for the plan, praise for the government, praise from Simon Coveney for the Taoiseach: “Leo Varadkar is doing an amazing job as Taoiseach for our country.”
The Taoiseach even employed a lecture style for his presentation, complete with overheads andone-liners, such as comparing the majesty of the Paris Metro with our tardy efforts at delivering the Naas dual carriageway “in 1970-something”.
Afterwards, as they faced questions from wind-chilled journos, Leo Varadkar joked: “Has anyone seen Michael Creed? He’s gone AWOL, he’s gone back to college.”
It all felt very jolly and positive and you just hope, like the students heading into the Easter break with an eye on the exams, that they’ve done their revision.