It was recently reported that Tánaiste Leo Varadkar had attended a party thrown by his former colleague, Katherine Zappone, at the Merrion Hotel in Dublin on 21 July. This event was attended by 50 guests outdoors. Yet most people were under the impression that – since mid-June – only groups of up to six were permitted to dine outdoors.
That certainly seemed to be the impression that the vast majority of the Irish population and the hospitality industry had. In fact, everyone apart from Katherine Zappone, Leo Varadkar, and their friends from the golden circle of Ireland’s political elite seemed to share the same view that large events were indeed not permitted under Fáilte Ireland guidelines.
In response to criticism, Varadkar claimed on 6 August that: “I confirmed in advance directly with her, and with the hotel management on arrival, that the event was compliant with COVID regulations.”
He also offered a non-apology that is a slap in the face to the millions of ordinary Irish people who strictly adhered to coronavirus regulations in order to save lives.
“I want to express my regret at the fact that I attended that event that has led to this controversy,” Varadkar insincerely stated. “I want to say sorry to the hospitality sector in particular…I don't believe the guidelines were breached but I do accept that they were ambiguous and open to interpretation…”
Let us translate this apology from the Tánaiste: “I didn’t do anything wrong, but I’m sorry you think I did.”
We should spare a moment to consider the point of view of this much-misunderstood political elite. Yes, COVID-19 put the lives of millions of people on hold. But the really important business of the state could not possibly be placed on hold: the day-to-day mutual back-scratching and schmoozing for the personal advancement of careers.
This party, after all, was very important for Zappone, who was (successfully) lobbying for a position to which her appointment would be announced a few days later, without prior knowledge of the Taoiseach.
Numerous reports revealed that – despite claims by Zappone and by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence, Simon Coveney, to the contrary – the two had colluded to create a Special Envoy position for Zappone, which was never advertised nor open to competition.
The position – paid for by the taxpayer – entails a mere 60 hours of work per year for €15,000; equivalent to €250/hour, or nearly 25 times the minimum wage! By comparison, a worker on minimum wage gets little more than €19,000 a year for working full-time hours throughout the year.
None of this was meant for the prying eyes of the public. And when the ‘Merriongate’ scandal broke, Zappone was forced to decline the appointment; Varadkar issued his semi-apology; and the Attorney General announced that, in fact, outdoor gatherings of up to 200 people had been allowed as of 21 July. The Irish Hotels Federation and the Restaurants Association of Ireland, however, have said that they “did not believe” large organised events were permitted.
The same day, a new set of guidelines was published reflecting the Attorney General’s statement. Under these guidelines, outdoor events of up to 500 people are allowed, depending on the venue. Weddings, however, must still have fewer than 100 attendees, and communions and confirmations were still delayed.
In short: big, expensive parties were given the official okay, while the sorts of larger gatherings attended by the working class continued to be outlawed.
Despite the confusing nature of Fáilte Ireland’s guidelines, the Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael coalition of Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar have made one thing very clear: there’s one rule for the rich and powerful, and another rule for the rest of us.
The pandemic has exposed the utter arrogance of these ruling class politicians. We saw the same thing on display last year with the ‘Golfgate’ scandal, which led to three resignations, including those of Minister for Agriculture Dara Calleary and EU Commissioner for Trade Phil Hogan – the latter at the insistence of Martin and Varadkar.
Just last month, meanwhile, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar made it back into the news again for his arrogant belief that the rules don’t apply to him.
Varadkar was spotted at the Mighty Hoopla festival in London on the evening of Saturday 4 September – a festival that was attended by 25,000 people. This is the same weekend for which Co. Laois’ Electric Picnic festival was initially scheduled. But just days prior to this, Varadkar had told the music industry that the UK was not the country to take as an example for handling the spread of COVID-19.
NEW: Tánaiste Leo Varadkar told the live events industry that the UK’s reopening is “definitely” not an example to follow, just days before travelling to London to attend a music festival.— Gabija Gataveckaitė (@gabysayshey) September 6, 2021
‘Do as I say, not as I do,’ seems to be the motto of these establishment individuals.
The pandemic has forced millions of people to put their lives on hold. Holidays, weddings and funerals have had to be cancelled. Thousands of people have observed restrictions and lockdowns, despite the heartbreak that this has meant for many.
Ordinary people have been unable to comfort dying loved ones in their final days; to come together with family and friends to support each other in grief at funerals; or to share joyous occasions.
In effect, therefore, these ruling class politicians have dealt a collective slap across the face to millions of people.
Varadkar’s arrogance comes from the fact that he thinks he has nothing to fear. His political future is mapped out for the next four years, thanks to a deal struck between Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, and the Green Party last year.
But the ground is already beginning to slip from beneath their feet. Anger has built up and built up towards this illegitimate government. The latest Sunday Business Post poll places Sinn Féin 10 percentage points ahead of Fine Gael, while overall satisfaction in the government has fallen a further four points on the back of these crises.
As long as the capitalist class – which Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael represent – control the reins of the economy and government worldwide, corruption and cronyism will remain hallmarks of our supposedly ‘democratic’ system.
According to an article published in the Financial Times recently, 80% of young people (18-34) in the US, UK and Spain agree that things in their country are currently out of control. 70% of today’s youth in the UK blame the climate crisis on capitalism; and 80% blame the housing crisis – perhaps the most acute problem facing students and the working class in Ireland today – on the capitalist system.
An increasing number of young people and workers can see this corruption and know that capitalism is the culprit. Indeed, for the first time, 18-34 are not the age group with the highest voting intention for Sinn Féin, while FF-FG remain at a mere 32% for this group. This is because increasing numbers are intending to vote to the left of Sinn Féin, with Solidarity-People Before Profit now up to 7% of the voting intention.
Hundreds of thousands of workers and young people can see it is not enough to tinker with this system. The whole rotten edifice must be overthrown.
We, the Irish Marxists, know that the only road forward out of this mess is the road of socialist revolution – for the creation of a 32 county socialist republic.
We are building the forces of Marxism in Ireland and around the world in preparation for a new epoch of world revolution. Join us today!