independent

Friday 25 April 2014

Sean MacBride memoir knocks Noel Browne health halo askew

LIAM COLLINS LEFT-wing health hero Noel Browne will be portrayed in a new book as a destructive, inefficient, irresponsible and childish politician who was bent on fighting with the Catholic church and bringing down the government of which he was a minister.

Browne, who is credited with ending the scourge of tuberculosis in Ireland, will be lambasted in the soon to be published memoirs of Sean MacBride, who was Browne's party leader when they were members of the inter-party government.

The memoir, titled That Day's Struggle also alleges that Browne met IRA figures in the west and promised to give them guns - at a time when the IRA was dying out.

MacBride, the son of Maud Gonne and a former Chief of Staff of the IRA, was horrified when he heard of the so-called "discussions" between Browne and the IRA.

"I didn't have any direct relationship with the IRA, but the IRA understood what the government was trying to do and were not trying to create difficulties or indulge in armed activities," he wrote in his previously unpublished memoir.

MacBride, who was a major figure in Irish political life up to his death in 1988 , was at school in Paris when he was told that his father, Willie MacBride, had been executed after the 1916 Rising. MacBride Senior was later immortalised by the poet WB Yeats in one of his best known works.

Sean MacBride claims that Noel Browne, who was appointed Minister for Health on his first day as a TD, orchestrated "a systematic effort to pick a row with the bishops" over his Mother and Child Scheme. "He did say . . . 'if I can really pick a row with the Irish hierarchy, I'll be made.'"

He also says Browne wouldn't attend cabinet meetings, claiming they were a waste of time. He "manoeuvred himself" into becoming a martyr and because of his "irresponsible" handling of the issue, the Mother and Child scheme failed.

MacBride concluded that Noel Browne "definitely decided to bring down the government" and his aim was also to wreck the party of which he was then a senior figure.

Browne has long been a darling of the Irish left wing. The Mother and Child Scheme was introduced to provide free medical care for all mothers and children up to 16. But it also split the church when it was opposed by the powerful Archbishop of Dublin, John Charles McQuaid, who believed that children's health care was a matter for parents rather than the State.

The fallout from divisions in government did eventually lead to the fall of the inter-party government led by John A Costello in 1951. It also led to the demise of MacBride's party, Clann na Poblachta.

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