Michael Clifford: Hot under the collar over shirtless Leo

Briefly, in the last 24 hours, it looked as if some intrepid politics watchers may have collared their very own Dominic Cummings, as photographs circulated of the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar hanging out with some mates in the Phoenix Park, possibly breaching prevailing public health rules.
Michael Clifford: Hot under the collar over shirtless Leo
Leo Varadkar sunbathing in Phoenix Park

Briefly, in the last 24 hours, it looked as if some intrepid politics watchers may have collared their very own Dominic Cummings, as photographs circulated of the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar hanging out with some mates in the Phoenix Park, possibly breaching prevailing public health rules.

There were four males present, just within the limit for social gatherings under the current phase of emergence from the lockdown.

Three of them, including the Taoiseach, were 'topless'. This is within the laws of decency, as none of the men bore any sign of corpulence or rolls of excess fat that could have assaulted the notion of decency.

The Taoiseach appeared to be drinking from a can of beer. Despite the alcohol and the muscle on display, there was no sign of trouble. In any event, Gardaí were reported to be in the vicinity, just in case anything got of hand.

However, the location of this assembly was the Wellington Monument in the south of the park. This is 8km from Mr Varadkar’s Castleknock home, a full 3km beyond the allowable distance in the current phase. Gotcha!

Commentator, John McGuirk, tweeted “After his day frolicking in the Phoenix Park yesterday, in apparent breach of his own government’s 2-metre guidelines, the Taoiseach no longer has any moral authority to tell anyone to stay at home.” Others fumed in a similar vein.

One media outlet made a few inquiries from the Government people and word back was that far from breaking the rules, Mr Varadkar had assiduously observed them.

He has moved home temporarily to the lodge in Farmleigh House in the Phoenix Park.

Apparently Leo felt it would better facilitate working from home when such was required. The distance from the lodge to the Wellington Monument is well within the 5km limit. So there.

Not only that, the reason he and his partner, Matt Barrett, met their friends at the Wellington monument was to ensure that the friends didn’t travel more than 5km from their home either.

This leadership is far more Jacinta Ardern than Boris Johnson.

Then the curtain-twitchers stepped in. He might not have been breaking any rules, but is it right that a Taoiseach be out in public with no shirt on his back?

Mr Varadkar couldn’t invite his pals to the lodge so he had to sun himself in public. Do you want the man to go without his vitamin-D on a rare day off?

There is much to debate and even criticise in Mr Varadkar’s stewardship of the country.

He has, in recent months, done a relatively good job leading the country through crisis. But since assuming the top job in 2017 he hasn’t set the world alight as some thought he might.

Yet in the prevailing mood of populism and with social media perpetually alert to the possibility of outrage, the smallest transgression, the smallest quirk, the smallest departure from convention is blown up in an attempt to generate scandal or confer ridicule.

So it went a few weeks back when he had to check his notes on live TV — as if that was a deficit of management.

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