Let’s welcome Leo Varadkar. He’ll play a big part in our futures

The emergence of Leo Varadakar as Taoiseach is the latest sign of dramatic change of in the Republic.  It is a bit unsettling that although we are learning who he is we haven’t a clue what he is in traditional Irish terms.  Since starting out as a Fine Gael party nerd in his youth, he has risen without much trace, picking his causes with increasing care but making his mark with signature comments.  Thankfully none of them was about our constitutional obsessions.  He is a social liberal ( gay rights ) and an economic liberal  (neo-Thatcherite) who will tack in both areas. Typically speculation is rife about his economic sense of direction on the basis of a single quote: “ I want to lead a party for people  who get up in the morning.”

The recognition factors that still work in the North are disappearing fast in the south.  You only had to list Enda Kenny’s antecedents or Liam Cosgrave’s, (now well into his 90s), to feel the influence of the Irish political dynasty. In their own ways Charlie Haughey and Garret FitzGerald played against type.  Haughey used to complain that it was  he who was tarred with the brush of  dynasty (he married the boss’s daughter),  when it was FitzGerald the ideologue of a “new Ireland”  who was nationalist royalty. Garret was the son of a minster in the first Free State government  and a mother who was a Bangor Protestant who nevertheless loathed unionists. Both of them were inside the GPO in Easter 1916 and you can’t do better than that .

Like Macron in France, Varadkar has a virtually clean sheet and is part of trend of choosing fresh faces  to boost interest in politics  Fine Gael have taken the gamble  of picking a leader who can shoot from the hip rather than act like a stereotypical party grass root. He has no known form on the North. His  opening remarks were conventional and comforting. “Prejudice has no hold in this Republic “ is a great opening one liner.

A short time later, at his first press conference as party leader, Mr Varadkar said his immediate priorities would be Brexit and the relaunching of the Northern Executive, the public sector pay negotiations and a new capital spending plan.

Arlene and Theresa were quick to congratulate him. Good moves. I wonder what he’ll say to get the Assembly back?


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  • Fred Johnson

    Careful now Brian, many of the Unionists on here will no doubt say “Never heard of him” or “Never heard of FIne Gael”….Lol…passive aggressiveness, pretend not to hear of anything going on in your dominant neighbour so you can justify your Unionism. As if the rest of us don’t recognize the insecurity!

    Well they’re going to hear about him because this man will go a long way to deciding the fate of NI after Brexit. Remember, when the EU 26 are looking for guidance re NI they will be asking one man: Leo Varadkar.

  • Jag

    “Prejudice has no hold in this Republic”

    As long as you’re white collar, earning €60k-plus a year, owning your home outright or at least having a mortgage with a traditional (non-vulture) lender, have private medical insurance, don’t use public transport, prefer fee-paying schools, aren’t burdened with a disability or serious illness, don’t have special needs children, don’t live in a socially-deprived area, live in a “good neighbourhood”, didn’t object to water taxes and pay your RTE licence fee, then prejudice will not darken your door.

    But, if you’re anyone else….

  • Jag

    Last time I’ll mention his sexuality, but good God, it’s just 24 years since Ireland decriminalised homosexuality. Two years ago, we became the first country in the world to legalise gay marriage through a referendum, which had a huge impact on how the gays see themselves in society: equals. And now, and despite Gezza’s calls for a snap general election, we’ll have a gay Taoiseach probably for a year or two. It’s a novelty still, and one which Ireland can be immensely proud about.

    That said, Leo still is a bit of a twat.

  • Paddy Reilly

    The question that needs to be asked of Leo Varadkar and Matthew Barrett is, which one is going to be he-shuck, and which one she-shuck?

  • hgreen

    Do most people not get up in the morning?

  • Paddy Reilly

    Working people frequently need to catch up on their sleep on Saturday morning.

  • Jag

    Haha! Because Leo’s a gay, right? I wonder is it all a bit too icky for you Paddy. Personally, I find it better to avoid thinking too deeply about the sex lives of politicians, most of them are moulded from the politics-is-showbiz-for-ugly-people rule. Enda for example is a slim, lithe chap, but have you seen his wife (if not, take a shuttle into outer orbit, she’s so big she’s visible from space). That interview between Theresa May and her husband had me nearly throwing up. And closer to home, I can’t recall seeing a pic of Mr Arlene Foster, but imagining any coupling with Arlene should be bottled and sold as an emetic.

  • Fred Johnson

    Not early in the morning, no a lot of people don’t. Especially those who vote for certain hard left parties.

  • Ron Keegan

    “When Leo met Arlene”

    can we assume there will be cameras in the room when a confident, alluring, Arlene looks Leo in the eye and says

    “Peter will not marry Paul in Northern Ireland,”

    Just curious

  • Philip Murphy

    I’m happy to see Varadkar becoming leader. I hope he has the nerve to maintain his current outlook. His ethnicity or sexuality are irrelevant. All that matters is how he manages the country. I was very glad to see his attitude to welfare cheats. It’s an attitude we all should have as they are putting their hands in all our pockets.

    I believe he also wishes to see major infrastructural investment, for example the Dublin metro or DART upgrades. These projects are long overdue to get started and will be crucial if Dublin is to mop up more than a token handful of Brexit related bank moves.

    Ireland needs to focus intently on maintaining the economy. While a lot of people might be soft on the idea of a UI we will not sacrifice the economy for it, a la Brexit.

    The biggest signal I get from Varadkar’s election is that Ireland is urbanising. The rural vote is simply becoming less dominant. Urban Ireland has very different needs that have been too long ignored. Hopefully some focus will shift to our cities.

  • Ciarán Doherty

    You as condescending as you are economically illiterate, do the world a favour and stay in bed permanently

  • NewSouthernMan

    Leo will be very good for the Republic’s economy and it will continue to grow at >5% per year.

    Brexit will cause some economic pain, mainly in rural, low value add sectors. It will just accelerate the existing trend towards urban, high value add sectors and the UK will become a smaller and smaller trading partner.

    Without unification, the island of Ireland may end up like the Korean peninsula – the South much much richer than the North.

  • SDLP supporter

    If Leo wants to help the working just about getting by, mostly with young families, who are among the most hard-pressed in the Republic and in NI, then good luck to him.

    I have no problem with moving against ‘welfare cheats’ either as long as they hammer tax cheats. The background to the collapse of the Sean Fitzpatrick case was mind-boggling for the details of incompetence in the Office for Corporate Enforcement and successful prosecution for white collar crime is almost unknown.

    Incidentally, Brian Walker’s comments about Garrett’s old mum are a bit unfair. Maybe some one like Eamon Phoenix could enlighten us, but I have never seen any reference to her dislike of unionism. She certainly came from a blue chip unionist background: her father lived in Stranmillis House (behind the College) and at 1 College Gardens and was a business partner of James Craig’s father

  • Cináed mac Artri

    If that piece of ad hominem misogynistic bile is allowed to stand the moderators must be asleep.

    Come on Mick Fealty you’ve recently culled a pile of gobshites add the above crap to the reject bin!

    Yet perhaps (hopefully before departure) the, no doubt, lovely Jag will post a personal photo so that we may all be aesthetically enriched by gazing upon perfect human beauty?

  • Nevin

    According to this source, Mabel Washington McConnell was a suffragette and committee member of the Gaelic League so she may well have acquired an antipathy towards unionism.

  • Paddy Reilly

    Some people do get up in the morning, but apparently from the wrong side of the bed.

  • Madra Uisce

    The South is already much richer than the North

  • Jag

    Sssh, just because the average wage in the South is €37,500 (£32,000) and at this level, you pay €7,500 in tax, national insurance and other statutory deductions, taking home €30,000 (£27,000) a year.

    Average pay in Northern Ireland is £22,000 and at this level, you’re paying £4,000 in deductions taking home £18,000.

    In other words, you get paid 50% more in the South.

    Maybe we should start naval patrols around Dundalk to stop economic migrants on rafts departing from Bangor!

    On the other hand, maybe we have a Border Poll and people in Northern Ireland start to live better.

    (BTW, non-contrib state pension is £200 a week, and even if you don’t get up early in the morning and are on the dole, the basic dole is €188 or £160 a week).

  • Jag

    You make my point for me Mac! It’s pretty distasteful, isn’t it. Policians’ looks and their sex lives, partners, health, children and basic sexual proclivity shouldn’t be a novelty; they’re entitled to their private lives (unless it impinges upon their political work).

  • ted hagan

    The election of Varadkar as FG leader, and Taoiseach, only highlights a desperately backward, petty parochial and inward-looking Northern Ireland. Questioned by a reporter last Sunday on Radio 4’s Westminster Hour about the principle achievements of the NI Assembly, the DUP’s Christopher Stalford proudly replied: ‘Game Of Thrones’.
    Will we ever get a grip?

  • Ciaran74

    Too true. My English colleague asked me what the Ulster Unionist leader ‘somebody Swann’ and Arlene meant by ‘getting the best deal’ for NI under Brexit. And then he answered it – ‘you’ll get what the rest of us get’.

    No-one upon no-one in England gives a toot about NI and Irish particulars. And they are totally fed up with ‘special deals’. Even with a operating Assembly it’s a Dublin and London gig when it comes to the island of Ireland as they’ll get no sense/ agreement from the north unless nationalists and the Alliance can create common ground.

  • ted hagan

    I would certainly support a united Ireland, having lived and worked in the Republic 1997-2009 and enjoyed it. But let’s be clear-headed about this. I was on great wages but the cost of living was eye-watering (often shopped in Newry), the house prices were crazy ( better now, but getting dangerous again), the health service is far inferior to the NHS in that it doesn’t provide nearly the same depth of care services and there are serious (60euro) charges for GP visits (adults and children over 6) I think. Social housing is also seriously inadequate.
    You have to realise that the North has been seriously cushioned from some of the worst effects of austerity in the UK.
    Yes, I favour unity and believe it would be best for Ireland, inevitable in fact, but let’s look at it with honesty, not rose-coloured specs.
    As for economies? They go through booms, they go through busts. That’s in the capitalist rulebook.

  • ted hagan

    Like Korea? It’s grim up North, but not that grim.

  • grumpy oul man

    Especially those who vote for certain hard left parties.
    Oh please show us your reasoning on this, a bit of a offensive stereotype you’ve got there!

  • ted hagan

    ‘Urban Ireland has very different needs that have been too long ignored.’
    Really is that a joke? It’s rural Ireland that has been seriously neglected.
    Look at Donegal just for starters.

  • Jag

    Between 1997-2009, eh Ted? So you were responsible for the boom!

    True. rip-off Ireland was pretty awful in the mid-late 2000s, and then the crash came in 2008-9. Housing costs today are about the same as the North (around £150k nationally for an average home). Health for consumers is more expensive, that €50 GP fee is still there, and many (not all) medicines are more expensive than in the North. Food is cheaper overall though. Alcohol is more expensive. Petrol is cheaper. Insurance is more expensive. Road tax is more expensive. You pay around €200/year for refuse collection.

    Crucially though, there are no household rates.There is a house tax for home owners of around €250 a year.

    So, at say, 2 GP visits a year plus €200 for refuse and €250 for house tax, you’d be paying around 50% of the rates in N Ireland.

    Travelling between Ireland and the UK a lot, I think the average standard of living is far better in Ireland. It will probably drop a little when we reunify, but that will be short-lived and the North should come up to the South’s standard within five years.

  • ted hagan

    Hey! ‘Tolerance and respect’
    And all that phony SF guff.

  • SDLP supporter

    But I have never read anything which demonstrated her antipathy to unionism as such, Nevin. She was obviously a bit of a racy lady, she had been a secretary to George Bernard Shaw, and I remember Garrett saying that shortly after he was born she took herself off for an extended holiday at the casinos of Monte Carlo.

    She may have been a bit of a ‘trust fund babe’, judging by the pictures in GF, she and her kids kept in touch with their northern relatives who, like GF, lived in reasonable affluence.

    Still, as my old chief John Hume used say, being a unionist or nationalist is for most people an accident of birth.

  • AndyB

    My problem is how he ran the Department of Transport. Irish Rail was starved of funds, putting several railway lines at risk, and Bus Eireann almost collapsed due to inadequate subvention (guess who operates all the loss-making services that nobody else wants to run?)

  • LighterSide…

    Thank you for enlarging my vocabulary. I didn’t know what an emetic was. Now I do.


    As a Minister Leo has a great habit of speaking about his portfolio as if he was an impartial commentator, not the person directly responsible for tackling the problems. He’s very articulate and can speak off the cuff, in the mold of slick UK public schoolboy politicians like Cameron, Clegg, Farage, Johnson, which is a welcome change from the hopelessly stilted schoolteacher mannerisms of Kenny, but Leo is more of a communications guy than somebody who rolls up their sleeves and gets stuck in. When offered the chance to stay in Health by Kenny he chose to leave as that portfolio can tarnish a politician. I predict he will try and get a year as Taoiseach under his belt before calling an election which he will lose. Michael Martin will become Taoiseach, Leo will lose an FG leadership contest (the party members voted for Coveney by 2:1) and you will not hear very much about Leo Varadker after that.

  • Philip Murphy

    Bus Eireann almost collapsed because of arcane work practices, a belligerent inflexible workforce and we’ll above market rate wages for drivers. It should be allowed collapse and all bus routes should be tendered out with minimum service levels a la TfL. This is the direction we’re going in, thank God. CIE had 60 years to provide an integrated public transport system and completely failed.

  • Cináed mac Artri


    Too much invention in the language used, too much obvious pleasure taken in the insults you employed to now come back and try on claiming that you were satirising others’ opinions.

    It’s in you, at least have the wherewithal to own it.

  • Philip Murphy

    Not a joke at all. Dublin, for example, has atrocious transport infrastructure for a city its size yet we can reopen the barely used Western Rail Corridor AND build the M18 motorway parallel to it. Fibre optic broadband (FTTH, not VDSL) is being rolled out to every one off house in Ireland under the National Broadband Plan. The Constitution actually favours rural Ireland as constituencies must have at least 3 seats. This is biased towards rural Ireland, which is overrepresented in the Dail.

  • Jim M

    Leo needs to think how he phrases things. Is there a culture of entitlement? Yeah, sure, but there’s a fuzzy line between asserting what you see as your rights, and being a lazy hallion. Politicising it is short-sighted: I’m sure a lot of hard-lefties are grafters. Even the Tories seem to be steering away from talk of ‘strivers not skivers’, let alone the single-mum-bashing they used to do in the early 90s.

  • mac tire

    So your contention is that “those who vote for certain hard left parties” are shift workers?

  • Nevin

    Just a final brief aside from the FitzGerald papers [pdf file]:

    27 January 1915
    Letter from Mabel, 1 Richmond Terrace, Meath Road, Bray, to Shaw refuting his suggestion that she ‘played at Nationalism’. Details given of her difficult experiences after the expulsion of Desmond from County Kerry with her separation from her husband and children and the need to move house. ‘May England be broken by land and by sea; to my national hatred of her is now added a personal one that is no doubt more ignoble but as strong’.

  • Jim M

    He may have been sarcastically referencing something Leo said…


    .In all my reading of Irish history especially about the Fitzgeralds,i never once came across any speculation
    that Garret s mother loathed Unionists,Perhaps Brian can enlighten us.

  • 05OCT68

    To paraphrase economist David McWilliams,” instead of people from Northern Ireland complaining about the price of a pint in Dublin, they instead should ask themselves why are my wages shite”


    Sir, I’d be careful to equate Mr Varadkar with Mr Macron. Mr Macron was the establishment’s anti-establishment candidate during the French presidential election. He merely promised the status quo as change. The real candidate for change was, whether one agrees with his policies or otherwise, was Mr Melenchon. I am not versed in Irish politics, but if Mr Varadkar were to be similar to Mr Macron, Ireland will not change. If it does, it will be cosmetic.

    Again a parallel can be drawn to Sanders v Clinton. Clinton was part of the problem. When Sanders was removed from the equation, the only logical conclusion was to vote Trump. I truly believe that Sanders would have become the President if he were the Democratic candidate.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    How very puerile of you! How very Anglo Saxon of you as well! I guess your fantasising about the Taoiseach’s love life proves gratifying. Please share more of your fantasies about male/male coupling because you’ll be revealing a great deal about the workings of your juvenile mind.

  • Nevin

    I’ve added a link on this thread to the Fitzgerald papers.

  • Roger

    That’s a pretty disgusting thing to post.

  • Donal

    I feel pity for Simon Covenny as he had the popular vote. However his election win is the best outcome for Fianna Fail and Miceal Martin.
    Now there is no risk of anyone becoming a ‘Cork based’ Taoiseach other than Miceal Martin himself. Recall Fine Gael are in a minority coalition which as the promise of FF’s support for a few budgets only. If Leo reverts to his Right wing, conservative economic type and annoys enough people we could witness an earlier election and a new found surge in FF support.

  • Old Mortality

    Quite so, Jag. That’s particularly depressing news for the many ‘vulnerables’ in West Belfast and elsewhere who were so looking forward to a united Ireland in the not so distant future.

  • Old Mortality

    On account of his political views

  • Old Mortality

    ‘In other words, you get paid 50% more in the South.’
    But does it go as far? Even when sterling was a heady €1.40, it was always noticeable how much more expensive the RoI was compared to other Eurozone countries, even Germany.

  • The Living End

    and sure who gives a damn about all the culchies and fogies who rely on bus services eh? they should all just work harder and buy cars!

  • NewSouthernMan

    Yes Ted, there are differences in costs, health system, etc. Certainly everyone in the South would agree there is room for improvement!

    But we have one thing the North does not have – control of our own economic destiny and the pride of knowing we are paying our own way.

  • Old Mortality

    ‘Travelling between Ireland and the UK a lot, I think the average standard of living is far better in Ireland.’
    Your visits to the UK obviously don’t include venturing much south of Birmingham and you close your eyes when travelling through Cheshire.

  • NewSouthernMan

    OM, of course, an economic backwater is always cheaper to live in!

  • Old Mortality

    That sounds a bit facile to be reliably attributed to David McWilliams. However, it’s pretty certain that the average Dublin can afford fewer pints than his counterpart in most other European capitals. In other words, his wages are relatively shite.

  • 05OCT68

    The comparison was with NI.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    No. Let’s not welcome Varadkar at all. His campaign for citizens to clype on their fellows in order to stamp out a mostly imaginary benefits fraud, while shying away from any crackdown on very probably real, existing, business and banking fraud tells you all you need to know about his ethics i.e. right wing and tory no matter what he calls himself (that is if right-wingers and tories can be described as having ethics).

  • BonaparteOCoonassa


    One former social welfare inspector told the Irish Times the level of fraud was “miniscule” and described the Department’s campaign as “fraudulent advertising”. “Bernadette Gorman described the campaign as ‘Tory’ and class warfare. ‘I do not like the way the department is going. In my book it is all about his aspirations to be leader,’ she told RTÉ’s Today with Seán O’Rourke show. ‘Those figures on the side of buses are inaccurate. It doesn’t require a sledge hammer to crack a nut.’ Ms. Gorman also pointed out that almost 70 per cent of people on social welfare payments were old-age pensioners and the disabled.”

    Likewise opposition deputies, both right and left, in the country’s parliament attacked the campaign. Fianna Fáil’s Deputy Willie O’Dea saying adverts on would-be cheats were “ludicrously childish”.

    Eoin Ó Broin, Sinn Fein TD for Dublin Mid-West, also challenged the half billion euro figure put out by the Minister and his officials in the Department and stated that the actual amount recouped relating to fraud was far lower: just €41m. “He said that, after examining figures given to him from Mr Varadkar’s department, it appeared the total amount of over-payments to welfare recipients was also much lower than the €500m figure quoted by the minister. He added that it turns out that the figures quoted include estimates of what would have been saved over 52 weeks for some welfare types and 136 weeks in others, rather than what was actually saved. ‘These numbers are a joke and a blatant attempt to gain exposure ahead of a leadership race rather than a genuine attempt to tackle fraud,’ Mr O’Broin said.” (Irish Examiner)

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Come on now – it was very funny as well.

  • John Collins

    I have spent my holidays in Scotland, Cornwall and Norwich over the past few years. I have to say I see very little difference in day to day expenses in ROI and the UK

  • John Collins

    It can be attributed to McWilliams all right. I read him in the IT about four weeks back.

  • ted hagan

    To true. If the British government had any wit they would make unionists so pissed off they would decide unity was the better option.
    Maybe that’s started already.

  • ted hagan

    Don’t tell me you visit that heathen land?

  • England didn’t vote for Brexit because it was booming.

  • Philip Murphy

    Not at all. Do you think Bus Eireann runs the PSO routes for free? They get a large block grant and are provided buses free of charge by the taxpayer through the NTA. We can have better services than we currently have for the same money. How? The NTA indicates that a route or bundle of routes should be operated. They tender these and let a private operator run the service (to agreed minimum standards) for a fixed fee for an agreed time. The operator would be obliged to collect fares on behalf of the NTA but would not take anything from the fare box directly. This model is widely and successfully used across Europe.


    Thanks for that.

  • John Stafford

    WE have to pay for ourselves here in the republic, we don’t get 40% subvention from the English and Scottish tax payer.

  • Cináed mac Artri

    I’m sure that for some body shaming and misogyny are indeed a real belly laugh.

    Add in a bit racism, homophobia and sectarianism and I bet you could have yourself a real fun evening.

  • Brian Walker

    Garret told me once he had had relatives in Bangor. Might he have meant the general area? Perhaps some family members made the long trek from Belfast.

  • Philip Murphy

    I’d be economically right of centre and socially liberal. Varadkar comes closer than any Taoiseach to my views.

  • Nevin

    If Garret said Bangor I’m sure he meant Bangor. His McConnell grandparents were well-to-do Presbyterians; it’s quite possible that some of his relations, if not his ancestors, lived in Bangor.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Really encouraging I think that the Republic seems to have a leader without traditional nationalist baggage. But as I got a lot of stick for admitting, I hadn’t heard of him till last week! I think I may be not untypical of the wider public outside the Republic itself on that. But he seems a good guy, though the economic liberalism isn’t my cup of tea – let’s see how he gets on with N Ireland anyway. Being sensible and decent as he is is usually a good guide, so I’m optimistic.

  • Erewhon888

    Not a word I had come across in occasional Ulster-Scots forays:


    Inform on someone; tell tales.
    ‘the scam went on for two weeks until disgruntled neighbours clyped on him’

    Early 18th century: obscurely developed from Old English cleopian ‘call’, of Germanic origin.

  • the keep

    Forget about European subventions did we?

  • John Stafford

    No we’re a net contributor to the EU. We have been since since the early 00’s with a brief gap between 2009 to 2013 due to the recession. Did you mean the extra special funds the North gets from the EU to keep the peace.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Aye, well there are lots more goodies like that over here in Scotland. Gaun yersel, Jim.

  • Mike the First

    Wow, that first paragraph starts out with a massive straw man, and by the end of it you’ve convinced yourself it’s a fact.

    Rather amusing.

  • Gavin Crowley

    The Western Rail Corridor is an investment in Urban Ireland (Limerick and Galway), not a rural investment. The M18 is at least half for the benefit of the two terminal cities.

    Any over representation in the Dáil is very marginal.

    The Broadband point I would grant you IF it were already built.

  • Erewhon888

    I understood that perfectly well having grown up on a farm in County Antrim. What I don’t understand is why the notification from Disqus is a partial translation.

    A new comment was posted on Slugger O’Toole

    Aye, well there are lots more goodies like that over here in Scotland. Gaun yersel, Jim.
    5:16 p.m., Sunday June 4 | Other comments by BonaparteOCoonassa

    Have you or anyone else tested this translation capability of Disqus or is there some human referral aspect to Disqus’ reply monitoring?

  • mickfealty

    Can we avoid ‘political ventriloquy’. It’s just a way of traducing political opponents without recourse to listening to what they might or might not have to say on the matter. It’s man playing and therefore a sackable offence.

  • mickfealty

    He’s been warned. If he does it again, he’s off the time Mike.

  • Cináed mac Artri

    There are worse offences that should merit an “off”. Some unpleasant ad hominem misogyny has been allowed to fester on this thread for a couple of days now, without it would appear any intervention from the site ‘staff’.

  • mickfealty

    That’s probably because we’re all incredibly busy at the moment. Can you ping me a couple of links, and I will do the necessary?

    I’ve really no tolerance left for anyone cutting over the edge. Particularly at a time when the ‘leadership’ given by some of our mainstream politicians is resolutely taking us towards the gutter.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Weird, frightening! Maybe it was the MI5 monitoring service helping out?

    Actually on reflection, I think it was my editing the post later tae be a bit mair couthy, like.

  • Just keep up the good work all the best for coming Days how you can go on .