“Okay, Martin, ready to play ‘Isn’t Leo Brilliant For Going After Social Welfare Recipient Scum’?”

“Ready Bob!”

“If someone is claiming social welfare, are they thieving layabouts robbing us all of potential tax cuts for people who vote Fine Gael?”

“That’d be a Yes, Bob.”

“Good man, Martin!”

Remember, if you think someone is a welfare-claiming parasite and a scourge on our economy – because of course Mrs Thatcher was right and there’s no such thing as society – call 01-Snitchy-Snitchy-Snitchy. Or visit welfare.ie/scumbags.


I may be slightly misremembering the Department of Social Protection’s moronic radio advert about welfare fraud, but if you’re lucky enough to have avoided it, it pretends to be a game show where the unbearably chirpy host asks a welfare recipient questions about situations in which their welfare entitlements change.

The welfare recipient is asked something offensively basic like “Should you sign off if you get a day’s work?” and, presumably because they’re a welfare recipient and therefore thick, they get the answer wrong. The host then smugly corrects them and the audience joins in to chant “Welfare fraud costs us all!”

Even shorn of its nauseating Tory vilification of welfare recipients, it’s the sort of patronising, over-the-top sonic effluent which inspires in me an overwhelming desire to pound my radio into a molten sparking paste.

This idiotic dole-shaming rubbish is an insult to the intelligence of anyone who has the brains to realise that Leo Varadkar, Minister for Social Protection, is only throwing shapes because he really, really, really wants to be the next Fine Gael leader whenever Enda The Undead finally relents his iron grip on the keys to the Taoiseach’s office.

Still, it should be remembered by Leo (and by his rival Simon Coveney) that Mrs Kenny, the woman Donald Trump calls his friend “Fiola”, learned the Dark Arts from the Great Satan himself, Charles “some Chinese leaders go on into their eighties” Haughey, and I think we can all agree that Fiola is the brains of the Enda operation.

At the time of writing, it’s really looking like the only way Enda will ever relinquish power is kicking and screaming, and we all know the Blueshirts hate a scene.

As I write this, Enda is in Canada, schmoozing with Justin Trudeau, losing the head with the Irish Examiner’s Danny McConnell for having the temerity to ask if he’s ever going to retire, and making up fairy-tales about telling the Saudis to treat women like actual human beings. (I met a man with two women, which is coincidentally the worth of one man in Saudi Arabia…)

Enda later clarified that he actually had not raised women’s rights with the Saudis but he had mentioned human rights. And sure aren’t women human when you stop and think about it.

Kenny recently celebrated his place in history as the longest-serving Fine Gael Taoiseach, at 2,234 days in office passing John A Costello’s record. Me, I reckon Enda is playing a longer game, and I think I can confidently predict that he will retire as Taoiseach on Friday, the 14th of May, 2032, having – on that date – beaten Eamon De Valera’s record of 7,735 days in office.

And then, of course, there’s the presidency . . .

Joking aside, the battle to replace Kenny as leader of Fine Gael is well underway, even if there remains the awkward business of telling Enda that it’s time to get off the pitch and/or pot.

That’s why Leo is desperate to be seen to be tough on dole fraud. Last month he launched a campaign founded on the claim that over €500 million has been saved because of anti-fraud and control measures put in place by the Department of Social Protection.

Sinn Fein’s Eoin Ó Broin TD pointed out the actual amount recouped relating to fraud was far lower than €500 million, and was in fact just €41m.

Ó Broin added that it turns out that the figures quoted include estimates of what would have been saved over 52 weeks for some welfare types and over 136 weeks in others, rather than what was actually saved.

“These numbers are a joke and a blatant attempt to gain exposure ahead of a leadership race rather than a genuine attempt to tackle fraud,” Ó Broin said.

The Fianna Fáil leader, Micheal Martin, agreed, saying Leo Varadkar’s campaign overstated savings by more than 1,000 per cent. Martin added that Minister for Housing, Simon Coveney, “has been promoting his record on the basis of a claim on new builds which inflates the true figure by 100 per cent”.

Martin suggested “clearly those Ministers are actively trying to promote their images and enhance their profiles . . .  One can only conclude that Ministers are deliberately using misleading and untrue statistics, or they are failing to check their figures before issuing their various press releases.”

Martin and Ó Broin are absolutely right. Of course this is all about the leadership. Both candidates are desperate to look like leadership material.

In Leo’s case, there is still a sizable Fine Gael church gate constituency for whom he remains a bit too exotic a creature to consider seriously for the party leadership. They’re the sort of stout Blueshirt traditionalists who know exactly what the Sunday Independent is getting at when they run a photograph of Simon Coveney with his photogenic wife, and beside it run a photograph of Leo on his lonesome.

Homophobic dogwhistling is despicable carry-on. Leo Varadkar should be judged solely on his merits as a potential Fine Gael leader. Mind you, what is also despicable carry-on is the demonising of welfare recipients so as to make yourself a more attractive potential leader to Fine Gael’s Hang ‘Em And Flog ‘Em wing.

There’s a strong argument to made, of course, that being both willing and able to pick on some of the most vulnerable people in Ireland really does make Leo Varadkar the perfect candidate for the Fine Gael leadership.