Updated: 17/06/17 : 06:54:16
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Noonan left lasting thumb print on Sligo

By Eugene McGloin
Political Editor

MICHAEL NOONAN never went out of his way to claim personal credit.

He was in the wrong country. Half-arses have no shame in standing up in Ireland and taking credit for other's real and lasting achievements. 

Five Stars

The evolution in Ireland of a modern specialist Hospice movement is a case in point. Michael Noonan takes seven stars.

The founder of that movement in Ireland in the past three decades was the Dr Mary Redmond.

The renowned international authority on employment law was an inspirational figure. See link below.

Leaving as lasting a thumb print for me on that particular landscape was Michael Noonan. 

My first direct encounter with him had me laughing on the most solemn of days.

Only hours earlier the IRA had bombed Harrods in London and killed five.

Later, that dark December Saturday evening Noonan hosted a press conference inside Ballinamore Garda Station in Co Leitrim.

Kidnappers Ransom

Twenty four hours earlier Gardai had rescued Don Tidey of Quinnsworth (now Tesco) nearby from IRA kidnappers looking for ransom.

The Provos were engaged in a lot of similar pocket-shaking of the powerful 'n' rich in those days.

They had already kidnapped Ben Dunne (then) of Dunnes Stores in 1981.

Galen Weston, the boss of bosses at Quinnsworth was not at home when the IRA called in summer 1983.....but an elite armed Garda unit was.

The Tidey rescue was lucky as it unfolded, he was almost retaken by his heavily armed captors and might easily have been killed in that epilogue.

In the dark there was a fair bit of fire: A Garda cadet and an Army driver were killed in the rescue.

Early in the press conference, some foreign media wondered of Minister for Justice Noonan if they'd been, eh, pure lucky in finding Tidey.

He barely let the sentence finish but his surprise answer had me close to laughing out loud.

Had this questioner, asked Noonan, not been reading the local provincial media for the past month.....as if they do nothing else in London.

Cue Cards

He metaphorically pawed the chin of the pundit, poised for a knockout punch, and I recall winking at local TD the late Ted Nealon.

Nealon was one man for detail who might well have given Minister Noonan those winning cue cards.

Of course, local media in both Leitrim and Longford HAD reported for weeks on the (seemingly) slow army manoeuvre across the mountains from Drumshanbo.

The following summer Michael Noonan ensured the release from jail of Nicky Kelly, accused of a train robbery. 

He took risks and displeased some in the Gardai and some in (old) Fine Gael, a potent brew at any time.

The compelling case for Nicky Kelly's release had been well researched and presented in several articles by my late Sunday Tribune colleague, Derek Dunne.

When Noonan came to power as Minister for Health in 1994 he immediately seemed a person in the column of 'could' and 'would' do business.

There were lots of my written submissions went his way, some strangely went astray.

Good local TDs in his party, like Gerry Reynolds, Ted Nealon and Dinny McGinley kept the Minister's Programme Manager, the late Richard Greene on top of the brief.

There were 'outsiders' too, like all the other TDs and Senators from all parties within 50 miles. 

There was the late Liam Naughten in Roscommon, Mary Coughlan in Donegal, Mattie Brennan in Sligo, John Ellis in Leitrim.

Famed Man

There were other 'outsiders' -- Kathleen Reynolds and her husband Albert, Dermot Gallagher, Ireland's Ambassador in Washington, and Leitrim's most famed man in the western world, Gordon Wilson.

How could you say 'No?' That was wisdom Michael Noonan had learned, too, as he learned the ropes early on in politics, serving on local health boards.

It fell to that most pithy of parsers, Olivia O'Leary, to interview Noonan for The Sunday Tribune when his party came to power without an election in late 1994.

He identified the development of the specialist Hospice movement as a main priority as a Minister.

He explained why and restated his views when The Irish Times interviewed him.

Not once -- not once -- have I ever, ever heard RTÉ credit Michael Noonan for (a) his pre planning and (b) his delivery, which far exceeded his (Hospice) promises.

It was justice to hear his successor Brian Cowen stitch some deserved credit to Michael Noonan on the record, in Sligo nearly two decades ago.

Good Groundwork

Good groundwork for developing a modern specialist Hospice movement in Ireland -- lagging decades behind Britain -- came from an an earlier Minister, Brendan Howlin.

Howlin was the first ever Health Minister to insert the notion into a national policy document by his Department.

Doing so, Howlin ignored Official Ireland, some of which claimed that services would be merely duplicated.

There is no plaque in Markievicz House in Barrack Street to Michael Noonan. 

But it was there he fleshed out his local plans for those policy ideas he'd put before Olivia O'Leary in 1994.