In short, I’m with Fergus O’Dowd, Fine Gael Spokesman on Transport and Marine, who tweeted last night, “Garret Fitzgerald attracted thousands of voters to Fine Gael including myself. He was a reforming and caring politician”, “Garret Fitzgerald vision of social justice and a caring ireland will be seen as the major reforming force in our time” and “Leo Varadkar must apologise and withdraw his insulting Dail comments with regards to Garret Fitzgerald, disgraceful.”
Of course Dr Garret FitzGerald’s time in office should be as open to scrutiny as any former Taoiseach, and by members of all parties. My own opinion would be that he should not by any means be viewed uncritically given that the economy did continue to deteriorate during the 1982–87 Fine Gael–Labour coalition, but that the country needed someone to take leadership on issues such as the need for social progress, even if the 1986 divorce referendum did not pass, and on Northern Ireland, such as the 1984 New Ireland Forum and in negotiating the Anglo-Irish Agreement with Margaret Thatcher, which Fianna Fáil under Charlie Haughey opposed.
But this is not really about Dr FitzGerald’s time in office. It is about a member of the Dáil using the opportunity of a debate on a reshuffle to refer in derogatory terms to a former Taoiseach. Whatever the clear distance between Dr FitzGerald and the party he led for ten years, this was simply a matter of discourtesy. Of course the Fine Gael parliamentary party are put out that both Dr FitzGerald and Alan Dukes are supporting the government, but this is no excuse, particularly in referring to Dr FitzGerald’s current writing. This was clearly a scripted remark, as Deputy Varadkar’s speech bookended with references to Dr FitzGerald. What exactly was he trying to achieve by it?