Friday 19 January 2018

'He seemed to have the weight of the world on his shoulders'

Daniel McConnell

Daniel McConnell

Irish politics is poorer for the passing of a hard-working minister who didn't care for plaudits, writes Daniel McConnell

Having worked in Leinster House for the last five years, I would have known Shane McEntee but not particularly well.

We'd stop on the steps outside the Dail chamber, or along the corridors, and exchange a few words.

Affable, warm, courteous and engaging, he was a man that always seemed to have the weight of the world on his shoulders.

In more recent times, his pretty daughter Helen too became a fixture around the Dail.

Last weekend, I had a 20-minute conversation with Shane, the last time I spoke to him.

Having lost his mobile number, I dug his home number out of the phone book and rang him shortly after 8 on Friday night.

Having been tipped off that the Government was to announce a €50m fund to help those affected by pyrite, and knowing he had been involved in the process, I called him to discuss what was being announced.

I had been told by those who gave me the tip that the 56-year-old junior minister had played a major role in bringing the redress fund to fruition. He was believed to have been the main force in getting a solution, but he did not get the credit that would merit.

Typical of the man – Shane had no interest in claiming credit for the scheme's creation.

Time and time again during the conversation, he reiterated he wasn't concerned about plaudits or credit, he genuinely seemed more concerned with helping those in need of assistance.

"Listen, Danny, I don't care who gets the credit, I am just delighted this has been sorted. Those poor people have suffered enough. That is all that matters," he said.

He added: "A lot of work has gone into making this happen and many good people have come together to see it over the line. I am happy that there has been a resolution on this matter."

As we were finishing, I commended him on his efforts and asked could I get his mobile number for the future. Without hesitation, he gave it to me and said goodbye.

The following morning I spoke to Sandra Lewis of the Pyrite Action Group about the story. I asked her which politicians had most helped them achieve this significant redress.

She named three – Clare Daly, Catherine Murphy and Shane McEntee.

After his death was announced on Friday, Sandra and her husband Peter paid a generous tribute to him, saying that he seemed to care more about the problem than some of the victims themselves. "He spoke out about it when nobody else wanted to, he was a true friend to us," Peter said.

I was genuinely shocked when I heard Shane had taken his own life.

A gentleman, he will be missed and Irish politics is poorer for his passing.

Sunday Independent

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