This Broadsheet.ie column appeared online on June 19, 2018
As part of the hoopla to mark Leo Varadkar’s first year as Taoiseach, Fine Gael produced a nifty infographic setting out some of the new leader’s biggest achievements.
The list offers an interesting insight into what the Taoiseach cares most about or, to be more accurate, what the Fine Gael pollsters tell him that his potential voters care most about.
Pride of place goes to the very frequently hyped national framework plan, Project Ireland 2040, followed by “Brexit Leadership” and the “8th Referendum”.
At the other end you find “and gardai” shoehorned into a claim about hiring more nurses and teachers, followed by curiously worded item on housing, though the word itself fails to make an appearance.
To avoid embarrassing Leo by putting a figure on the number of houses and apartments built over the past year, the copywriters had to come up with some phrasing that managed to convey the idea of progress, without breaching the standards in advertising code. The result is this extraordinarily clunky and impersonal boast that: “There were 4,700 exits from homelessness in 2017”.
If ever a single phrase summed up Orwell’s description of political language “… as giving an appearance of solidity to pure wind”, it is surely this.
It reads as if it came from the pen of someone who writes real estate ads. You know the ones, where “open plan apartment” means the bed is between the cooker and the lavatory and “close to nightlife” means the place is directly over an all-night, bikers’ bar.