Leadership and learning from mistakes of the past


Sir, – Diarmaid Ferriter tells us that “in critical times like these Ireland needs a new leader”, and praises Sean Lemass, the “ultimate political animal”, as a good example (“Ireland needs a new leader in critical times”, Opinion & Analysis, November 19th).

In his emphasis on personality he forgets, or fails to mention, the fact that before taking on the task of implementing the Whitaker recommendations on free trade, the governments to which Lemass belonged spent most of 30 years, beginning in 1932, promoting a self-sufficiency policy which nearly beggared the country and caused mass emigration. Perhaps what Diarmaid Ferriter calls “scary developments internationally” at that time might be blamed.

But in his term as taoiseach from 1959 to 1966, to quote Lemass himself, he was only “cleaning up disasters” in which he himself was involved. That task was carried on subsequently with varying degrees of success by politicians of different political persuasions until the collapse caused by the government funding and banking disasters of 2009-2010.

What Diarmaid Ferriter calls the “substance and leadership” we need now is a continuation of cleaning up the disasters wreaked on this country by the trebling of bank lending and the trebling of government expenditure that occurred during the decade or so prior to 2009.

It is critical to remember now, however, that whatever political personalities or “animals” are involved in leadership, as in the 1960s, they will need the support of media and academia to abandon previous disastrous policies.

Media and academia, therefore, need to emphasise day after day that, especially because of the scary developments internationally, we should not repeat the reckless and disastrous mistakes of the pre-2009 boom time period. – Yours, etc,


Sutton, Dublin 13.