Thursday 14 December 2017

A man who can make us believe

Michael McDowell has what it takes to drive the radical reform of Irish politics from within, writes Brendan O'Connor

Watching Michael McDowell's contribution to RTE's Ireland's Greatest series on Monday night was a stark reminder of everything that is missing in Irish politics. Both the subject of the programme and the storyteller exhibited the very qualities that we are all crying out for in this country. Many of us felt that John Hume was a shoe-in to win the Ireland's Greatest title after Miriam O'Callaghan's passionate outing on The Late Late Show, but since Monday everyone I've spoken to says they'll be voting for Michael Collins, even without seeing the rest of the series.

It was almost painful to be reminded of what a remarkable man, among other remarkable men, Collins was. Envy for our ancestors was the primary emotion elicited by vignettes of Collins speaking in public, surrounded by thousands of people, without a PA, but making up for it with passion.

We were reminded, too, of Collins's competence -- how he went away and learnt his trade -- both as revolutionary and statesman. Embedding himself in the heart of the empire, finding out how these things tick, and all the time studying warfare, organisation and politics. He coupled his learnt knowledge of how politics and empires tick with an innate knowledge of what makes people tick. But communication and competence would have been nothing without the sheer force of Collins's patriotism. His passion, not to die for his country, but to make a country worth living in, was almost alien to us, given what we're used to these days.

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