Saturday 21 April 2018

John Drennan: Lenihan a Romantic hero doomed to fail

IT says something about our national character, and it is not necessarily good, that the most common trait of the Irish political icon is that their heroic status is defined by failure rather than triumph.

Maybe it is that former colonies are not easy with success but Padraig Pearse set a template for Irish political iconography, which was further strengthened by the Romantic nihilism of Noel Browne. It could be argued that other icons such as Michael Collins and Donogh O’Malley had their successes, but their place in the affection of the national psyche was cemented by the poignancy of their early deaths.

On one level the tragic career of Brian Lenihan certainly dovetailed into Ireland’s love affair with the triumph of failure. Even before he finally secured the ministry that was to define him, Lenihan’s career was a study in elegant failure. He had been held back, almost to the point of openly voiced frustration, by Bertie Ahern’s dyspeptic attitude to overly clever members of the barrister class. Worse still, Lenihan had the added flaw of coming from one of Fianna Fail’s great dynasties and, like his mentor Haughey, the ward boss was steeped in distaste for those whom he believed had come up the easy way.

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