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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: January 6, 2010 @ 7:51 pm

    Public and Private

    Deaglán de Bréadún

    We have had two startling insights into the private lives of senior politicians this week. First there were Brian Lenihan’s remarkably candid revelations about his impending battle with cancer of the pancreas. Now this evening we have had a searing statement from the North’s First Minister Peter Robinson about his marriage to Iris.

    In both cases, one can only feel enormous sympathy on a personal level. The reported suicide attempt of Iris  Robinson is a heartrending story which must arouse the compassion of everyone on all sides of the political divide.

    Both Brian Lenihan and Peter Robinson hold jobs of near-epic importance in the current situation, north and south. Lenihan is charged with guiding the Irish economy through one of its greatest-ever crises. Robinson heads up the power-sharing government which is the linchpin of the peace process.

    Traditionally, politicians have been asked to perform at their best, regardless of what is going on in the background of their private lives. The stress and strain on Robinson in his television interview was a sight to behold. Lenihan’s bravery in the face of a grave threat to his health and wellbeing has won the admiration of even his sharpest critics.

    In Robinson’s case, it does appear that the demands of his job contributed to the difficulties himself and his wife have experienced. In the case of the Minister for Finance, one can only speculate that, if he had not been working 14-hour days, his cancer might have been detected earlier. Who can say?

    But perhaps it is time to start looking critically at a political culture that devours office-holders and leaves them little time to look after themselves and/or their families. The work/life balance is more than a cliché, it’s critically important.

     Now, if you don’t mind, I’m going home for the evening.

    • Red Biddy says:

      Just when you think it’s safe to go back in the water…in response to 40 above…point of information Mr Chairman…’tho’ is an abbreviation NOT a spelling mistake…P the P’S blog seemed familiar …I may have been wrong…probably was it’s NOT a big deal… to me anyway…I consider not only is it uncivil to ‘diss’ someone because of their antecedents, it shows a distinct lack of breeding. Noblesse Oblige and all that. However the inability to show compassion/empathy for someone with a life threatening disease because of their pedigree is disturbing. Still as Freud might say ‘if it’s not one thing it’s your mother’…Unlike Joanna I am NOT a politician and do not consider I am fair game or that I have to tolerate other people’s incivility.Similarly when someone makes and outright attack on another accusing them of conduct tantamount to unprofessionalism I consider that not only uncivil but potentially defamatory. I now realise however that I may have confused blog etiquette with civilised debate…and find the personal insults and endless repetition tedious and not what I need at the end of a long day…suppose I’ll have to find a wittier forum…However to answer my own earlier question being Red BiddyI suppose I am more mineral than animal or vegetable …A bientot

    • kynos says:

      Perhaps the strain of office contributed more to Mr Lenihan’s unfortunate medical event than simply a less early detection. Stress cortisols are hell on the body. Saw a bit of Mr Robinson’s interview and Mr Lenihan’s both. Don’t want to create any links between the two other than both were exemplary in their words and both have my sincere sympathy. They represent, both, in their personal misfortune and fortitude, a lot of suffering people whose suffering has been brought on by the times and circumstances we live in whose voices are never heard.

    • Harry Leech says:

      Depression is terrible no matter who it’s visited on, but I think it’s a bit of a mismatch comparing Brian Lenihan’s battle with cancer to Iris Robinson (a woman who publicly compares gay people to child abusers and murderers) cheating on her husband (a man who, by the way, makes the Ian Paisley of the 1970′s seem like a liberal.)

      While I’m very sorry for the Robinson’s and hope that they can keep their marraige together, perhaps they’ll be a little slower to cast the first stone next time.

      As for Brian Lenihan, while I would never vote for his party, there’s no doubting his ability, his convictions, his braveness and his dignity.

      He is the only one in government showing leadership at present and quite possibly the only member of his party who doesn’t deserve to lose his seat. I hope he has a fast and complete recovery.

    • You rightly question “a political culture that devours office-holders and leaves them little time to look after themselves and/or their families”.

      In the Dáil, the real issue is our crazy political and electoral arrangements which require serving Ministers to spend inordinate amounts of time “minding” their constituency.

      Dan O’Brien and others have drawn attention to our mad insistence that ministers are members of the Oireachtas – “most ministers spend as much time on near-permanent re-election campaigns in their constituencies as they do formulating and executing policy”


    • Desmond FitzGerald says:

      Brian Lenihan and the Robinsons have the means to deal with the issues they face. They have the luxury of choices. The Robinson’s christian faith will be tested in a very public way.

      It’s easy to feel human compassion in both instances. However, we can’t forget that both make decisions that affect others and we can’t ever let any human sympathy get in the way of holding them to account for their decisions.

      Isn’t the link between both that statements were issued because of rumours doing the rounds and not actually because they wanted to be honest and upfront. Nor did either recognise that in their cases they didn’t – and don’t – have the luxury of deciding themselves where the line between their public and private is drawn.

      I hope Mrs Robinson’s apology extends to include the absolutely vile comments she made towards the gay community. It would be nice to see her have the grace to do something tangiable to right that wrong.

      My father pointed out one time about someone dealing with a massive issue, that having a backbone of steel wasn’t always something to admire, because steel snaps whereas something less rigid finds it easier to bend with circumstances and a little less steel goes a long well at times.

      I hope Lenihan and Robinson know when the time to bend and be flexible is. For their sake and ours.

    • robespierre says:

      I feel sorry on a basic human level for Peter Robinson. I am sure the betrayal after such a long relationship was extremely difficult to deal with. Going in to work with a bunch of murderous taigs must have made this all the harder.

      I am afraid I feel little sympathy or pathos towards Iris Robinson. The hypocrisy is disgusting. We are all prone to fall but as somebody with a number of friends who are openly gay I will shed no tears over any plight that besets her.

      I wonder whether or not her strict beliefs, had she succeeded in the alleged suicide attempt, could have denied her burial in holy ground? Would she have been condemned to suffer the fires of hell with the deviants she so detests?

      I am not however going to get too much on Iris’ case as the current Minister for Justice and EQUALITY in Ireland has had a number of pretty homophobic comments attributed to him in his public life over the past twenty years (google it) and his legislative record in office would make Kevin O’Higgins look like Che Guevara. I name the civil partnership and the blasphemy bill as two examples of his Catholic conservative orthodoxy.

    • barbera O'Shokenzy says:

      Irish Robinson is perfectly entitled to give her views on homosexual practice. Is it not extraordinary that so many relatively young men in homosexual liaison are dying tragically? Why is AIDS hardly mentioned any more? Why is the PC media so accommodating of the so-called “gay” agenda? Why does not the Irish Times great inquisitor Mary Raftery, for example, focus her investigations on what really goes on in Ireland’s “gay” community? Interview the wives of husbands who married women just to put up a “respectable” front while they carry on their “gay” lifestyle and let us know the abuse these women have suffered. I am completely certain that the inquisitor would not be able to tell us for certain that paedophilia is not widespread among practicing homosexuals.

    • Joanna Tuffy says:

      Red Biddy,

      You obviously meant your comment above for the previous blog post.

      You are a witty addition to this blog so I hope you don’t go away.

      Pomme De Pratai may have gone back to across “the (little) pond” but I hope she keeps dropping in too with her witty contributions.

      On the above life happens to us all including politicians. That culture Deaglán refers to is largely lives lived in the media spotlight. I have read that there was a programme about to be aired revealing all about the Robinsons before they made their statements. There I go having a go at the media again!

      The problem is not having to look after your constituencies as Michael Collins says above. These days with all that’s happening we are stuck in Leinster House more than is healthy dealing with multiple budgets, supplementary budgets, emergency legislation and sitting late into the night. And then we have like I had last night a 6 hour drive from Leinster House to my constituency 8 miles away! You need to be in your constituency just to get a breather for a start and to live in the real world.

    • Deaglán says:

      Joanna, I think Pomme de Pratai and Red Biddy are one the same person. Also Anna Livia Plurabelle. She reminds of the movie actor Lon Chaney – the man with a thousand faces.

    • Karma Chameleon says:

      Deaglan!…I’m wounded…! and I thought you were a ‘gintleman’…I have only one face I assure you…but I take your point, albeit a mistaken one…I hope you are not going to prove that little rapscallion ‘Fitz’ right and behave unprofessionally by revealing your sources…If I’m not mistaken there may be a few young turks plotting a coup on PC’s turf…Joanna…toujours charmant and correct as ever, message @ 1above has been ‘posted down the wrong chimbley’ as Kynos put it elsewhere… however I prefer not to be thought of as a ‘moody loner with a handgun’ I prefer karma chameleon…! :-)

    • barbera O'Shokenzy says:

      Of course, I meant to write “Iris” and not “Irish” Robinson @ 7 above.

    • Deaglán says:

      Don’t worry, Karma Chameleon/Pomme de Tayto/RedBiddy/WhateverYourHavingYourself: your secret identities are safe with me.

    • kynos says:

      Not keen on handguns. They’re only meant for killing people. Nasty karma about them. Prefer long guns. I’ve had a couple nice ones in me time. Something nice with a starlight collimator and LED x-hairs either in .17 or .22 lovely for pinhead accuracy. Otherwise prefer an unchoked 12 g.a. (never use the second barrel on a quarry that’s evaded the first most unsporting that’s not what its for it’s for it’s for a chance at a second target.)

    • annaliviaplurabelleredbiddykarmachameleonpommedepratai... says:

      How very COULD you ‘out’ me…what do you think it’s been like living with that burden…and that’s not the half of it? It was bad enough that I had to disclose it to officialdom but the International press? Just as I was slowly beginning to come to terms with my identity crisis…Ne’er a week into the New Year and already a victim of nomophobia…But you never read anything about that in the press DO YOU Huh?…

    • Deaglán says:

      Nomophobia? That’s a new one on me.

    • ? says:

      kynos you’re scaring me now…Deaglan are you coddin’ me..or is it a case of who’s codding who?

    • Deaglán says:

      You mean “whom”?

    • ? says:

      Correcto! I knew your inner pedant wouldn’t be able to resist that one! I suspect your inexcusable betrayal of confidence relates to ‘Anna Livia’s’ response… a la Newton’s 3rd law of Physics…to a gratuitous assault on the political pedigree/lineage of Brian Lenihan…however I would have been surprised had you not applied the ‘red pen’ which has had the required chastening effect…mea culpa…the ‘name game’ is just for my own amusement…I just like playing word games…Judas!

    • kynos says:

      ?. If I shoot at something with two legs I can almost guarantee you it won’t also have broad flat nails. How’s that for reassurance?

    • kynos says:

      Naw. Delete that “almost” there Deaglán :) Unless it’s a pheasant that’s just dropped a hammer on its foot. Pheasant. Not peasant.

    • kynos says:

      Ah no only joking even that don’t shoot living things anymore. Only birds in my sights are claybirds.

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