Varadkar caught all by surprise – but Harris was first responder

World of Politics with Harry McGee

Early last week I was just back from the US having trailed Taoiseach Leo Varadkar for a week in Boston and Washington. Just as I was writing the column the news came through that Ciaran Cannon had announced he would not be standing again.

I got to write a few paragraphs about the Galway East TD at the end of the piece.

I woke up on Wednesday morning feeling very tired. And TBH, as my daughter says, I was hoping that the rest of the week would be quiet.

Well, dear reader, my wish wasn’t granted.

At about 11.30 on Wednesday, my phone began pinging like a safety belt warning in your car does after you’ve ignored it for more than a minute. Big news about to be announced at midday. Everybody began scrambling on the WhatsApp groups and within minutes we knew what the big announcement was…Leo Varadkar was going to step down as Taoiseach.

In fairness to them, RTÉ was the first to get the news up, being a minute or so faster than anybody else.

That was, to put it mildly, sensational. Events afterwards continued at dizzying speed. The first big event was the emotional Varadkar announcement shortly after Noon that he was resigning as Fine Gael leader with immediate effect.

My phone started pinging like crazy again as soon as he finished speaking.

Most of the messages came from friends. What is the real reason he is leaving?

As if there was an ulterior motive, or a hidden scandal, or something that was vaguely whiffy.

There was none.

“In the absence of anyone trying to stab me in the back, I have decided to fall on my own sword,” he quipped.

It was one of the few times I ever heard him make a successful joke.

Pictured: New order…Taoiseach-elect Simon Harris addresses the troops at the Euro convention in Athlone.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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