Opinion:An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar: To share or not to share?

We live in a world where many choose to be candid online, laying out their entire existence for the whole world to scrutinise. That being said, do we really know the whole truth? And even if we don’t, ethically speaking, isn’t it the choice of the individual to decide whether such becomes common knowledge or not?

But when should the line be drawn at who can decide what the public can or cannot know about them? Say, if said individual was the leader of a country?

The Independent recently published an article addressing An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar’s refusal to revisit comments he made about his own drug use during his youth.

The article explores the politician’s somewhat transparent disclosure to Hotpress in 2010 in which he admitted experimentation during his college years while remarking that he has been “extremely law abiding since entering politics.”

Mary Mitchell O’Connor on drug use:

The Irish Independent article also highlights how Mary Mitchell O’Connor was the sole responder to a recent questionnaire delivered to Cabinet members with regards to their involvement with drugs. But isn’t it inevitable that she is going to admit to her clean history given her position as Minister for Higher Education, being in direct contact with the country’s future leaders? She also addressed the negative impact of substance use on student wellbeing.

Why is Varadkar not giving a straight answer?

It is imperative that figures in authority consider the implication of their actions on highly impressionable youths? Especially the likes of Leo Varadkar who undoubtedly possesses some definite form of intelligence to be able to conquer one of the most demanding college degrees while also leading the way in Irish politics from the tender age of 25.

It would seem reasonable to believe that Varadkar’s shyness towards republicising his past endeavours is an attempt to avoid popularising drug use. After all, two years ago, Leo Varadkar called on the country to reflect on the devastating reality that is our country’s heavy reliance on alcohol. And as such, the Public Health Act 2018 came into play to help tackle this ongoing issue by denormalising alcohol consumption.

Trump compared to Varadkar

Earlier this month, John Kierans for the Irish Mirror took the US president’s visit to Ireland as an opportunity to compare the two leaders. While there is a lot to criticise about Donald Trump- his misogynistic behaviour for one, there is the realisation that while employment rates in the US are on the rise, our Erin’s Isle is falling further into a slump of poverty. Maybe I’m wrong, but I imagine this would have little to do with whether a leader had a history of substance use or not, but instead be more reflective on their ability, or lack thereof, to competently tackle the issue at hand.

I would think that Leo Varadkar’s reluctance to fully divulge his past is not necessarily something that has to be continuously reviewed if there is nothing new to add to the context. There is a need to hold trust in our leaders, that they will continue to prove competence and pursue the people’s best interest.

Varadkar said what he had to say, and to me, his decision to refuse further discussion seems plausible because what really is the need to exhaust the topic when there are much more important matters for An Taoiseach to be kept occupied by, such as climate crisis. Often, it’s better to leave some things swept under the rug.