Bill Clinton's heartfelt tribute to Irish friend killed by recession
Published 20/03/2011 | 05:00
WHEN former US president Bill Clinton addressed the human fallout of Ireland's economic crisis before an audience in New York last week, he paid a moving tribute to one of the most high-profile casualties of the recession.
"A good friend of mine was one of the young, phenomenally prosperous Irishmen who took his life and it made me think about this all over again," Mr Clinton told the audience at the Irish America Magazine Hall of Fame event.
This is believed to be a reference to his friend Patrick Rocca, who committed suicide just over two years ago while under severe financial strain.
The brother of former Miss Ireland Michelle Rocca, Patrick -- who also counted Alan Sugar among his friends -- lent Mr Clinton his helicopter to travel for rounds of golf when he visited Ireland.
His death was widely seen as a symbol of the end of the boom and was said to have deeply affected Mr Clinton.
The former president told the audience at the New York Yacht Club that the circumstances around his friend's passing had provided an acute reminder of the emotional and psychological cost that the recession has had in Ireland.
"The thing that has troubled me most, believe it or not, about this whole economic crisis in Ireland has been the rise in the suicide rate -- not just among the young, where it was already too high, but among those in their prime working years, who feel somehow that their whole lives have been robbed."
He said that the country should not be defined solely by its economic state.
"The thing we loved about Ireland had almost nothing to do with whether it was financially successful or not.
"We should remember that what we loved about Ireland was how green and beautiful it is, how beautiful the poetry and the prose are and how wonderful the music and the dance are."
Mr Clinton said he was convinced that if everybody had "30 lucid minutes" before passing away, almost nobody would use them to think, "how cool it was when we got rich".
Instead, he said: "We would think about who we liked and loved, how the flowers smelt in the springtime and what it was like when our children were born or we gave our daughters away at the altar."