Last night with Leo

There are a number of things about Leo Varadkar I don’t like, not least his pig-headed refusal to meet with Sinn Féin (a pig-headedness matched only by the north’s DUP Minister of Education Peter Weir, who refuses to allow a Derry school to close even though they have a suspected case of coronavirus).  But last night Leo Vardkar directly addressed the ‘nation’, and he was impressive. Very impressive.

Maybe his speech-writer deserves much of the credit, but Varadkar delivered his lines with the air of an empathetic, honest bedside doctor.

At the same time he pulled no punches. He repeated the warning that the present couple of hundred people who have caught the virus in the south would, by the end of the month, rise to 15,000. “This is the calm before the storm. Before the surge. And when it comes – and it will come – never will so many ask so much of so few.” He was talking about the doctors and nurses and care staff who would be supporting victims: “Not all superheroes wear capes, some wear scrubs and gowns.”

Compared to addresses given to the US by the self-congratulating Trump and to the UK by the bewildered Boris Johnson, this was a calm and unforgettable St Patrick’s Day address.

When and if we get through this crisis, will last night’s performance change anything? Probably not. Varadkar and Coveney were seen as doing a superb job in the Brexit debate; the voting day results showed the public had other plans. But no one can say that last night, Leo Varadkar didn’t rise to the nerve-shredding occasion.

Credit where credit is due. Maith thú, Leo.

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