herald

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Noonan's second chance is revised with a soft focus

There's just no way of predicting how life will turn out, is there?

Twelve years ago Michael Noonan resigned as leader of Fine Gael when the party won only 31 seats in the 2002 general election.

Today he's the most popular member of the Government.

It proves that people like strong government. Noonan's calm control is a lesson to wibbly-wobbly Ministers who fluff their lines and panic about decisions.

It also shows that it's never over until it's over. In 2002, he endured sustained personal attacks over his role in the case of Bridget McCole, who had contracted Hepatitis C from contaminated blood products.

The State denied liability and fought her the whole way to her grave. Noonan apologised several times, but it did him no good.

His 2010 interview on Frontline describing his efforts to care for his wife Florence during her decline due to Alzheimer's disease was a turning point.

Suddenly everyone - especially the press - realised that at the precise time they were attacking him for being cold-hearted - he was at home caring for his sick wife. He didn't earn just sympathy - but guilt.

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The journalists realised he wasn't the man they painted him to be. He was just a human being, like anyone else, who'd made a mistake. So it's been kid gloves ever since.

Perhaps too much so. My pet policy grievance is how interest rates on State Savings - including Prize Bond prizes - have been steadily reduced at the behest of the banks whose deposit interest rates are pathetic.

It shows that the Government is still putting the banks before the citizens, but there's hardly a word about it.

It's a peculiar coincidence that Noonan is following Brian Lenihan as Minister for Finance - who couldn't be criticised either due to his illness.

I believe Lenihan did the best job that could be done at the time - but the understandable reluctance to criticise either man for policies being determined by officials is not healthy.

If only the media could be more professional about their role in holding politicians to account. Based on personality or fashion, they hunt in packs after one Minister and fail to question another.

How about just be fair to all of them, rather than the love-hate binges?

It was the same with Albert Reynolds. He was subjected to constant sneering for his country ways while he was Taoiseach.

With the opportunity to witness the destruction his successors wreaked on the country, the snobs who jeered at him then realised that maybe he hadn't been so bad after all.

sneered

Enda Kenny is enduring something similar to Reynolds. For his entire time in Opposition he was sneered and attacked by the media who claimed he shouldn't be leader of Fine Gael, never mind Taoiseach. He's proved them wrong, and they can't forgive him for that.

Mistakes like the John McNulty issue get blown out of all proportion because in reality they're just an opportunity to prove the allegation that he shouldn't be Taoiseach at all.

Still, as we've seen, the wheel will turn and one day the guilt will kick in. Unlike Albert Reynolds, maybe Kenny will even be alive to witness it.

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