Aoife Moore: Documents row shows just how far removed politicians are from ordinary people

Aoife Moore: Documents row shows just how far removed politicians are from ordinary people

Leo Varadkar leaving Dublin Castle after attending a Cabient meeting. The Tanaiste has apologised for leaking documents relating to an agreement reached between the Department of Health, the HSE and the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) to rival organisation the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP). Picture: Niall Carson/PA

In a country that has seen seismic changes in recent years, 90 minutes in Dáil Éireann last night confirmed to most in Irish society that nothing has really changed.

We heard much of "insiders and outsiders," "political games", and "favours for friends" of how a confidential document ended up in the hands of the former leader's friend.

To those watching at home who already think Dáil Éireann has nothing to do with them or would do anything for them went to bed secure in their notion.

By his own admission, Leo Varadkar has shown incredibly poor judgement at best and leaked a confidential document to "a friend", but not a friend-friend.

Notwithstanding his quick public distancing from his "not best mate or anything", who had "over-egged" his influence with the then-taoiseach, (no Christmas card from Maitiu, this year), it remains stark that the leader of the nation didn't tell one person in his Cabinet or anyone in his party that he was posting a document of this nature to a rival organisation — not least behind the relevant minister's back.

For all of Leo Varadkar's mitigation on the matter, he leaked a document he shouldn't have, in a manner he shouldn't have, and said he didn't know when he knew it was wrong.

In response to Catherine Connolly, the former taoiseach said: "The truth is, I didn't think about it," and therein lies the issue.

The Dáil heard last night that this story had shown the public "behind the curtain of insider politics" and whether you agree or not — this has severely damaged the image Mr Varadkar as a neutral arbitrator, who said himself that the NAGP was considered a rival to the IMO, but sent the document anyway.

The Irish government has a long history of protracted negotiations with the public sector, managing to annoy everyone from nurses to school secretaries and one can't imagine this will help matters going forward.

As Minister for Business, Mr Varadkar has responsibilities over collective bargaining and will be heavily involved in discussions with trade unions and who could blame the next people coming to the table having second thoughts about wanting the Tánaiste involved?

There will be much work to do for Mr Varadkar to build back his standing as the most popular leader in Irish politics and one public flogging will not shake the seasoned politician to his core, although might shake the notion that he is beyond reproach.

The whole affair represents a continuation of the crony style of politics that the former taoiseach has curated his image to reject.

The breath of fresh air in Irish politics that Mr Varadkar represented to many has been turned sour due to the old-style of politics that they will now rightly or wrongly attribute to him.

Errors in judgement are human and apologies are welcome but work must be done to build trust with a public who are increasingly turned off by politics as representatives consistently remind them that all is not what it seems.

"Jobs for the boys" and "who you know" has dominated the Irish political landscape for decades much to the detriment of those in society who need the government's help the most.

Whether true or not, the same smell that hung around the Galway Tent and the Oireachtas Golf Society hangs heavily on this incident and further drives the people most needed in politics away from Dáil Éireann.

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