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Leo Varadkar’s top 10 pop culture moments, ranked

by Megan Burns
22nd Jun 2020

From Mean Girls to Love Island, Leo has shown us over the years that he’s as up to speed on pop culture as the rest of us. 

As Ireland’s youngest ever Taoiseach, perhaps it’s no surprise that Leo Varadkar is quicker to drop in a pop culture reference than most other politicians. And although we’ve seen them crop up in his speeches during the pandemic, Leo has been referencing our favourite films and TV shows, as well as what’s happening on social media, since he came into office in 2017.

From the relatable to the slightly obscure, we’ve ranked our favourites of the many quotes and references the Taoiseach has made over the years.

10. Dermot Kennedy, ‘All My Friends’ 


Back in May, during a government briefing on coronavirus, the Taoiseach reassured us that “Not long from now, some summer night, we will see our friends again.”

If this sounded vaguely familiar, it’s because he was quoting Dermot Kennedy’s song ‘All My Friends’, where he sings: “All my friends, I’d love to stay, some summer night I hope I see you again.”

This one felt a bit cringey, kind of like an earnest teenager quoting song lyrics to impress the person they fancy, but I guess he was promoting Irish talent at least?

9. The Kylie Minogue fan letter 

Last year, it was revealed that Leo wrote a fan letter to Kylie Minogue on official government stationery before she was due to play a concert in Dublin.

“Dear Kylie,” the letter read. “Just wanted to drop you a short note in advance of the concert in Dublin. I am really looking forward to it. Am a huge fan! I understand you are staying in the Merrion Hotel which is just across the street from my office in Government Buildings. If you like, I’d love to welcome you to Ireland personally.”

This one also comes off as a bit embarrassing — who writes fan letters over the age of 12? We’re also not sure that elected officials are supposed to use their power to wrangle meet-and-greets with celebrities, but it worked, and Leo got to meet Kylie backstage.

8. Leo’s love of Avicii

Leo echoed the sentiments of many when he expressed sorrow at the death of DJ Avicii in 2018, although his tweet did give a strange mental image of the Taoiseach bopping along to ‘Wake Me Up’ as he walked the Camino.

7. Terminator 2: Judgement Day

Not perhaps one of the films that would come to mind when looking for advice during a pandemic, but Leo drew on it nonetheless when making a speech in March, telling us: “We’re not prisoners of fate. We can influence what’s going to happen to us next. There is no fate but what we make for ourselves.”

He roughly quotes John Connor, who in a moment of realisation in the film tells The Terminator, “The future’s not set, there’s no fate but what we make for ourselves.”

6. Speaking Gen-Z’s language

While most of us over the age of 23 are leaving TikTok to the kids, Leo at least showed a sense of humour by sharing this one made by Donegal woman Alive Diver on his Facebook page.

However, he did, rather unnecessarily point out that “that is not me in this video”, and emphasise that he’s not as strict as the video would have people believe, as “leaving the house for exercise is ok, as long as it is within 2km”.

5. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

“In the end, it’s only a passing thing, the shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines, it’ll shine out all the clearer.” Leo’s quote in his June 5 speech came from a climactic scene in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.

The quote actually is quite fitting, although we wouldn’t necessarily have chosen one from a raging battle scene to inspire the nation. After this, actor Sean Astin who speaks these words in the film, bet Leo 50 quid on RTÉ 2FM that he couldn’t get a Mean Girls quote into his next speech, which led to…

4. Mean Girls

Leo, clearly not one to back down from a challenge, did indeed get a Mean Girls quote into his speech on June 20: “Some have asked whether there is a limit to what we can achieve. My answer is, that limit does not exist.”

I mean, if you’re going to go down the road of quoting films, Mean Girls at least has plenty of iconic lines to choose from. At least he didn’t try to persuade us that “I’m not like a regular Taoiseach, I’m a cool Taoiseach”.

3. Irish dancing star

Back in May, Twitter went mad for American teenager Morgan Bullock’s Irish dancing, and Leo joined in admiring her talent. He even invited her to perform at the St Patrick’s Day parade next year, which was a gesture many were delighted to see.

2. Love Island

Remember last year when it seemed the whole country was rooting for Maura on Love Island? Apparently Leo was too, although he’s very non-committal in this clip, saying that he “occasionally” watches the show, but “not for long”.

I bet he was glued to it like everyone else.

1. Love Actually

Leo Varadkar's best pop culture

Leo’s best pop culture reference is his first ever one, on his first overseas trip as Taoiseach in June 2017. When visiting Downing Street, he couldn’t help but mention Love Acually.

“Prime Minister. Thank you very much for hosting us today here in 10 Downing Street,” he said in an address. “It’s my first time in this building so there’s a little thrill in it as well. I was reminded of that famous scene in Love Actually where Hugh Grant was dancing down the stairs”.

He added, with a touch of disappointment that it wasn’t actually filmed in Downing Street, however, so he wasn’t able to see the famous stairs.

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