14 June 2011

Another sad week in politics

Further contributing to 2011 being a double-sized episode of "Reeling in the Years" comes this week's sad news of the passing of Brian Lenihan. This is sad news because the premature passing of anyone before their time is to be regretted, and not because of any particular positivity I felt towards him as a politician.

Indeed it has been unpleasant to watch the unfolding cavalcade of hypocrisy in the media, who have in the course of the last week rushed over themselves to eulogise on the talents of a man whom until so recently they vilified for being the source of all of Ireland's problems. Partly motivated, no doubt, by a genuine wish not to speak ill of the dead or to lay criticisms on someone no longer able to defend themselves, and partly, perhaps substantially, stemming from the desire not to be seen to be so publicly negative, his cannonisation has been fast-tracked more swiftly than that of John Paul II, and with even less merit.

Only time will tell whether he was simply the wrong person in the wrong place at the wrong time, or if his actions represented the willful and consistent protection of his party and their financial backers at the expense of the citizenry of this country. Either way his actions as Minister for Finance were disastrous for this nation, and his tragic death at such a young age does nothing to diminish that.

My own experience these last three months have, however, softened my attitude towards Brian Lenihan the human being, as opposed to Lenihan the politician. Any illness involving the pancreas can be incredibly debilitating, the pain I experienced was like nothing I can even describe. I spent days in hospital connected to a morphine pump, injecting myself every six minutes at the worst of times, and even the best of times were still a nightmare. How Brian, with pancreatic cancer, was able to get out of bed every day let alone attempt to deal with the worst financial crisis this nation has ever faced is something that I find nothing short of amazing.

Whether his decision to carry on as Minister once he had been diagnosed was based on a desire to focus on his work as a way to retain a semblance of normality in his life, or because there was simply no-one else in cabinet who was willing or capable of taking over (much like Mary Harney's inexplicable retention of the Health portfolio long after her party had ceased to exist) is something that we probably won't know for many years. While I feel that this decision to carry on was wrong for both man and nation, I can't help but admire the strength of the man for being able to do so.

I certainly could not have.

Vincent Browne has a good article over at Politico.ie that's worth reading. It makes a difference from all the hyperbole in the Irish Times and Independent.

Update 15/06/11: Browne has an even better article in today's Irish Times.

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