Varadkar gets it off his chest

February 23rd, 1999

Mary O’Rourke’s outburst reveals either a breathtaking ignorance of European law and politics or, worse still, a calculated and cynical attempt to conceal the Taoiseach’s responsibility in this regard

Sir, – Responding to the European Commission report recommending that the abolition of intra-EU duty-free sales should go ahead, Mary O’Rourke, Minister for Public Enterprise, asked: “Who governs Europe, the member governments or the Commission?” (The Irish Times, February 18th). Mary O’Rourke knows exactly who runs the EU.

The Council of Ministers voted unanimously to abolish duty-free from 1999. Among these Ministers was Bertie Ahern TD. The Commission is therefore mandated to do so unless the Council of Ministers (i.e. the governments of the member states) decides otherwise. A U-turn on the policy is being resisted by three of the EU governments.

Mary O’Rourke’s outburst reveals either a breathtaking ignorance of European law and politics or, worse still, a calculated and cynical attempt to conceal the Taoiseach’s responsibility in this regard. Like Tory Euro-sceptics, Irish Ministers travel to Brussels to sign agreements without dispute or argument only to come home and blame our misfortune on perfidious foreigners and unelected bureaucrats.

Meanwhile, the single-market project continues to be scuppered by the legal smuggling that is dutyfree and Ireland remains unprepared for the adverse consequences that the end to dutyfree shopping will have on the cost of our air fares and the profitability of our passenger shipping routes (notably Cork to Cherbourg).

The Minister really should know better. Shame on her! – Yours etc.,

Leo Varadkar

June 3rd, 2002

As we write, candidates for the Leadership are already sowing the seeds of Fine Gael’s next election defeat by trading votes for votes with senators determined to make it back to
Leinster House at any cost

Sir, – We are the two Young Fine Gael delegates who successfully proposed the new system for electing the Leader of Fine Gael. We feel shocked, appalled and betrayed at the decision of the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party to elect a successor to Michael Noonan under the old, undemocratic system.

More than ever, Fine Gael needs to consult members and councillors across the country about the future of the party and its leadership. Clearly, the rump 31 TDs and the 14 unelectables from the fag-end of a Senate have learned nothing from Fine Gael’s mauling at the polls.

As we write, candidates for the Leadership are already sowing the seeds of Fine Gael’s next election defeat by trading votes for votes with senators determined to make it back to Leinster House at any cost. The decision of the parliamentary party to decide the future of Fine Gael alone and behind closed doors is a disgrace and demonstrates their contempt both for the loyal Fine Gael membership and the 400,000 or so electors who voted for them. Shame on you all. – Yours, etc.,

Lucinda Creighton, Vice-President, Young Fine Gael;

Leo Varadkar, Dublin West Constituency Organiser

February 4th, 2003

Perhaps, if war is inevitable, the only moral option Europe leaders can exercise is to join a multilateral coalition to topple Saddam (a good day’s work if ever there was one)

Madam, – There has been much debate about US motives for war against Iraq. Is it about oil, weapons of mass destruction, control of the region, humanitarian or value-driven interests, toppling Saddam – or merely unfinished business?

In reality, it is all of these that have given rise to the impetus for war. Only in 20 years’ time, will we know which was the greatest factor.

If, at that time, Iraq is a democratic state whose liberated people have grown as rich as Europeans or Americans from their massive oil reserves and whose wealth, sophistication, democratic values and large conventional army have allowed it to become a democratic Arab superpower, then we can rest assured that the West’s motives were honourable.

However, if Iraq in 20 years’ time is a state united in name, but in reality dismembered into three regional-ethnic fiefdoms falling under the sphere of influence of neighbouring powers, with US bases outside Baghdad and in the northern and southern oil fields and with an impoverished people whose oil wealth flows to the West, we will be in no doubt as to what America’s motives were.

Perhaps, if war is inevitable, the only moral option Europe leaders can exercise is to join a multilateral coalition to topple Saddam (a good day’s work if ever there was one) and ensure that the Iraq that follows becomes a testament to the just cause of the campaign. – Yours, etc.,

Leo Varadkar

August 20th, 2003

Dividing Ireland into a country of those who pay for everything and receive nothing and those who pay for nothing and receive everything, with only a small minority in between, would deal a fatal blow to what is left of Ireland’s social contract

Madam, – I welcome the publication of statistics on third-level access from secondary schools. Parents, students and the public at large have the right to know what policy-makers have known for years about entry to third level.

However, the Minister for Education must not be allowed to manipulate these statistics to promote his ambition of bringing back college fees and removing State funding from fee-paying schools.

It is not surprising that fee-paying schools top the league tables when it comes to college access. This is much less a reflection of the quality of these schools than of the background from which their students come. Fee-paying schools are attended disproportionately by young men and women from professional, educated backgrounds.

They come from families with no farms or businesses to inherit and no trades to follow into. Attending college is expected of them and in many respects is the only option. Thus, it is not surprising that the State schools which do feature highly in the league tables are located largely in middle-class areas with a high concentration of professional families. Admittedly, this is less apparent outside the cities.

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Removing State support from fee-paying schools and reintroducing college fees would not improve access to third-level education. Rather, it would drive many middle-classes families out of fee-paying schools and restrict them to an even wealthier and more privileged élite. The statistics would get worse, not better. Furthermore, it would cause even more people to ask why they should continue to pay so much tax when the Government is forcing them to pay fees to go to school and college on top of paying for their own health insurance and pensions.

Dividing Ireland into a country of those who pay for everything and receive nothing and those who pay for nothing and receive everything, with only a small minority in between, would deal a fatal blow to what is left of Ireland’s social contract.

Mr Dempsey should look for more imaginative solutions. As secondary school numbers fall and college places continue to rise, why not reserve 10 per cent (or so) of places for students from disadvantaged backgrounds and for adults looking for a second chance to get a college education?

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