by Frank Schnittger
Tue Mar 17th, 2020 at 11:45:58 PM EST
I don't agree with his economic policies, and his party has just been roundly defeated in a general election by a people yearning for change. But every now and then it's nice to see some basic competence in your leaders. Leo Varadkar didn't announce any radical new measures in this broadcast to the nation and to the world on St. Patrick's day, but he got this speech just about right. The detail can come later.
For the full text, see here.
One of my roles, during my business career, was to act as speech writer for three consecutive Managing Directors of Guinness, three wildly different personalities. In writing a speech you are trying to connect with quite a few different audiences, and it is easy to try to cram in too much detail to appeal to them all.
Whoever wrote Varadkar's speech did a good job. They spoke directly to key demographics, addressed widespread concerns, and yet didn't drown people in the minutiae of policy proposals. There wasn't any hint of trying to justify previous policies, of scoring party political points, or of playing blame games. Spokespeople for Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein couldn't find any fault with the speech, and moved swiftly on to what needs to be done next.
Ireland's approach to the crisis depends crucially on voluntary and conscientious compliance with hygiene and social distancing guidelines, on avoiding unnecessary journeys and social contacts. But we also need to keep the health and social care services and supply chains up and running. Building a national consensus around what needs to be done is crucial to achieve those goals, and so far Varadkar's small minority caretaker government has hardly put a foot wrong.
Crucially he didn't try to gloss over just how tough things are going to be, predicting 15,000 cases within two weeks. It will be easy for people to lose heart seeing the inexorable rise in positive tests and fatalities despite their best efforts. You have to give some hope without raising false hopes or expectations.
There's a long and very hard road to go, but at least we have started on the right foot.