I don’t know if Shane McEntee is the first Irish government minister to take his own life, but I do believe he is the most prominent victim of the savage austerity programme inflicted on the Irish people.
For reasons nobody will ever know, the junior agriculture minister felt it was no longer possible to continue living, but the facts seem to suggest that he was unable to cope with public criticism in the aftermath of the recent savage budget.
From what I’ve heard of Shane McEntee, and from speaking to people who knew him personally, he seems to have been a thoroughly decent individual. A spear carrier, admittedly, rather than the leading actor, but a solid man with a good heart.
Enda Kenny is reported to be shocked by the loss and I believe he probably is. For all his weaknesses, Kenny is not cast in the same mould as some who have gone before him and even though I constantly lampoon him in these pages, I don’t believe he’s either corrupt or cynical, unlike some of his colleagues.
Could it be that this appalling loss might finally bring home to our government the reality of their policies? Perhaps they might finally realise it’s not a game of numbers, but a deadly-serious process in which people live and die by the decisions of Enda Kenny’s cabinet.
As I said, I don’t know anything about Shane McEntee apart from the fact that he leaves a wife and children, and that he was known to be a kind-hearted man.
It’s very hard to escape the comparison between this genuine man who suffered mental anguish and those politicians before him who created the problem and who showed not the slightest concern for the harm they caused.
There’s no point in platitudes. Shane McEntee’s family will suffer their loss forever. A husband and a father has been lost and can never be replaced, but perhaps in his final moments, he might have salvaged something from the tragedy if it causes Enda Kenny, Michael Noonan and the rest of them to reflect on the real, tangible consequences of the actions they are taking in order to placate international financiers.
Maybe it’s time we got back to real, human values, as they did in Iceland, and put our people’s welfare ahead of demands laid down by the ECB. Here in Ireland, we love to talk about our sense of community. It’s what we base the so-called Gathering on, so maybe it’s time we acted on it instead of reciting empty formulas all the time.