Alastair Campbell went out of his way this week to heap praise upon Bertie Ahern's forgotten statecraft in Northern Ireland.
In doing so, he reminded us of the public man's unique vulnerability to oblivion and her works.
Dermot Meleady's absorbing new biography of John Redmond offers similarly wry asides on the ironies of historical reputation.
But John Redmond: The National Leader is not a portrait of decency incarnate before the fall, rather an elegant and meticulous account of the Home Rule ideal.
Meleady's Redmond is no mere Irish Kerensky or Stresemann, barricading the doors against the wild men.
In these pages, we see Redmond the consummate legislator, the indispensable parliamentary presence who forces Westminster to address the needs of evicted tenants, Irish speakers, schoolchildren and political prisoners.
He is the man who finesses the various permutations of the Home Rule idea with legato fluidity.
He tells the Americans that he wants Home Rule Ireland to have all the powers of California vis-a-vis the federal congress, and he tells his people at home that they must never make the best the enemy of the good.
Even though Meleady details Redmond's life-long equivocation about the two nations thesis, he also shows us how Redmond exercised every sinew in his last waning talent on Ulster.
Redmond thought about county-by-county opt-out, rolling plebiscites, temporary partition based on the minute Poor Law union boundaries, county splitting, and sundry other gambits besides, only to be defeated each time by the sectarian geography of Tyrone and his own emotional ambivalence about unionism.
Such is the vivid reconstruction here of the pressures on Redmond that the reader rather gasps by the end when thinking about how he kept things together for so long.
It was Redmond's fate to face two of the most formidable British prime ministers of the century, one of whom disliked extended discussion of anything other than Roman history (HH Asquith), and the other of whom found it hard to tell the truth about the time of day (David Lloyd George).
Then came Carson and Craig, the twin towers of modern unionism.
By 1914, Redmond was also finding that his public meetings were being disrupted by chair-throwing viragoes (Maud Gonne MacBride), and by threats from the hard men of Cork city to drown Joe Devlin in Cork harbour.
The overall impression created by this kind of portrait may remind readers of Melville's character, Benito Cereno, the prisoner on a slave ship, "one of those paper captains ... who by policy wink at what by power they cannot put down".
But that said, we see here how pressure can polish as much as pulverise, and Redmond would not yield until the last moment.
Readers may remember that during John Bruton's premiership from 1994 to 1997 he was taunted in some quarters for admiring Redmond.
How could it happen, asked this chorus, that the prime minister of a sovereign Irish republic found succour in the works of the man who had to be removed before independence could be realised?
If Meleady's portrait does anything, it exposes the bitter root of this critique.
Any Irish prime minister should be proud to be associated with someone who did so much to improve the material lot of his people, and who mixed with such easy authority with President Roosevelt, Frederick William Borden of Canada and Andrew Fisher of Australia.
And all the Taoisigh who came after him could have done with something of Redmond's sensitivity to the corrupting potential of the Ne Temere decree on mixed marriages, a doctrine that was given formal and disastrous constitutional protection by the Supreme Court's holding in In Re Tilson, infants in 1951.
Meleady reminds us of the cultural depth that died with the Home Rule project.
Redmond's second wife was Protestant, as were many in William O'Brien's extensive political network.
(O'Brien himself married a Jew, and this was enough to provoke revolting slights from the American Fenians and from Arthur Griffith at home).
And even the raging Dillon knew enough of how the world operated to warn de Valera that his brand of republicanism would provoke "a civil war in Ireland as bitter and relentless as that which reduced the country to a desert in the 17th century".
Pearse's famous aside about the possibility of shooting "the wrong people" will always be screened through Dillon's words.
In deference to his hold over the Commons at key moments, Asquith used to refer to Redmond in private as "our Leviathan".
Dermot Meleady shows us the aptness of this characterisation as well as the full travesty of the later Castle Catholic slur.
After all, the King James Bible tells us that the Leviathan "holdeth all high things: he is a king over all the children of pride".