independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

A politician with principles who believed in what he said

Too often our political leaders appear cynical – but Shane McEntee was an exception, writes Ronald Quinlan

I can't claim to have known Shane McEntee personally but I can say that I knew something of him, of his compassion and his concern for the people he served both in his constituency and across the country.

It was February 2010 and the controversy of the day centred around how the then Tanaiste Mary Coughlan had, it was claimed, let some 500 aircraft engineering jobs go, as a result of her refusal to deal directly with Ryanair chief Michael O'Leary's request that his airline be allowed take over Hangar 6 at Dublin Airport.

The story, which had been broken first by this newspaper, had taken a succession of twists and turns over the course of two weeks before reaching the committee rooms of Leinster House and the attention of the Dail's Transport Committee of which Shane, then in opposition, was a member.

With Michael O'Leary in the hot seat for questioning by TDs, it was always going to be a lively and entertaining discussion.

For Shane though, it was only ever going to be about the livelihoods of several hundred aircraft workers and their families.

And while the questioning from other politicians was peppered with humorous jabs at the Ryanair chief (who, it should be said, gave as good as he got), Shane simply appealed to him to allow an independent chairperson to be appointed to broker a deal to save the jobs.

Having been told by Mr O'Leary that there wasn't time for such a review as Ryanair was about to take the jobs overseas, the Fine Gael TD said: "There is always time. Never say there is not the time."

Told again that there was no time for an independent review, Shane made a more impassioned plea, saying: "There was time to negotiate in the First and Second World Wars and for negotiation in Northern Ireland." To those of a more cynical disposition, his words probably sounded just a little naive, and perhaps they were given the cold realities that define the interface between politics and big business.

Even though I can be something of a cynic myself, I can still remember feeling sorry for Shane that evening as he delivered his last-ditch appeal to the deaf ears gathered all around him in that room. Unlike so many of our political class, he actually believed in what he said.

Sunday Independent

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