In a world of ego and guile, he had true integrity
No fine thoughts or fancy speeches – Shane was simply a man who longed to serve the people, writes John Drennan
If there are two words that might define the deceased Shane McEntee, they are 'public service'. Of course, all politicians are public servants in one form or another but McEntee took on the role with an absence of guile or ego, which was remarkable within the environs of Leinster House.
And though an absence of cunning can sometimes represent a political weakness, in the case of McEntee, he made up for it with the prosaic determination of one of those old-fashioned catch-and-kick-style Meath midfielders he admired so much.
In a curious way, he secured the honest respect of journalists and his own political colleagues, on all sides of the fence, not because of fine thoughts or fancy speeches, but because of his utter integrity. Leinster House is a place where most of us don masks of one form or another but Shane McEntee was utterly sincere in his desire to serve the needs of his constituents as honestly as he could.
This created the curious scenario where if one was working on a story with him – be it pyrite or under-ground electric pylons, or some issue involving the lives of ordinary citizens – you would try all the harder to get the story in because you sensed that it mattered to him on a visceral, gut level.
Perhaps, in the end, it mattered too much.
But, the quiet intensity with which he approached his status as a TD, a messenger of the people, brightened politics and sometimes reminded us of the real truth that they are not all the same.
When he became a minister, McEntee was wise enough to appoint Liam Cahill, who counts among his accomplishments being a press man for Pat Rabbitte, as a departmental adviser.
The sanguine Cahill – who, despite his urbane appearance, also operates with his nose close to the ground – and the determinedly rural, occasionally intense minister outwardly made for an odd couple.
But, on watching them whispering together in the Dail canteen, or hearing the tales of the work they did to stimulate enterprise in the stony grey soil of the domestic economy from others, you would feel that, even in these dire times, whatever part of the country they were dealing with was, for that moment, in good hands.
And that certainty alone is the essence of public service.