I have deep and sincere sympathy for the family, friends and colleagues of Deputy Shane McEntee. To lose a husband, brother, father or friend at this time of year in particular is very hard.
What makes it worse is the way in which it has been reported by the media in Ireland.
Mr. McEntee had other things to deal with apart from alleged adverse social media commentary. On a personal level his father had died, and a local man had died in an accident and that apparently upset him greatly. On a professional level he had voted for recent cuts. How much pressure was on him from the FG whip to do so? He was being lobbied by directly by people affected by cuts. He was concerned with environmental issues like ash die back and frustrated at how slowly the Dept. of Ag. are dealing with it – as am I. Last summer, a fellow FG TD called his remarks on unemployed youth “moronic.” What other issues were on his mind we do not know. Mental health is a very complex issue, but generally depression and suicide cannot be ascribed to just one thing. The needless speculation by our established media will not clarify that.
De mortuis nihil nisi bonum – speak no ill of the dead – is a very old maxim that can be taken to extremes, to a point of martyrdom on a media altar.
Brian Lenihan Jnr’s death was used to divert attention from the disastrous decision process on the bailout. Gerry Ryan’s death, now a tabloid staple sensationalist saga, means people are not looking at how grossly overpaid or politically/editorially interconnected our mediocre media caste is.
Mr. McEntee, in a newspaper interview in regards to cutbacks is reported to have said: “You could stay in a top hotel for €700 a week,” “People just have to get on with it” Fianna Fail then issued a statement calling on Mr. McEntee to “immediately clarify his callous and crass comments.”
If anyone took Deputy McEntee out of context, highlighted his comments, or turbocharged adverse commentary against this individual it was Fianna Fail.
So does anyone call for closure, censorship or greater control of FF or their press office?
No, but far be it from Joe Blog-er to comment or question.
An unnamed (quelle surprise) FG deputy has been quoted in the papers
“Parts of social media give a voice to nutcases who are full of anger and spit out vitriol.
“There is no filter – they give a platform to these people when often it’s just bile.”
It is ironic, or perhaps even hypocritical that the source was unnamed, after former Taoiseach John Bruton said those who tweet messages to radio or TV shows should not have their views aired unless their names and addresses are given: “In fact they are being delivered under the cowardly cloak of anonymity.”
Now it appears a rather disturbing and heavy handed attempt is being made to associate this reported suicide with social media and cyber bullying. In the wake of a number of recent high-profile teen suicides linked to online abuse, the Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said laws existed to punish those behind such harassment.
I think it is crass and callous to associate this death with that of the truly traumatic and tragic deaths of two teenage sisters in Donegal. The two events are utterly incomparable. I think it is crass and callous the way in which his death was reported, in contrast the restraint shown, for example, by the forum users at http://www.politicalworld.org could be a role model for the press.
But, quite cynically, some politicians, named and unnamed, will always attempt to use tragedy to their advantage. Some will, as we have seen, use this as a means to attack critics and divert criticism.
Mr. McEntee, for what I have no doubt were honorable intentions, ran for public office and was elected. In accepting public office, one must accept that one’s actions are subject to criticism and comment, and not always in a friendly, nice or reasonable way. He chose, or perhaps was forced by the party whip system, to vote to support cuts that adversely affected a lot of his constituents and others across the Island, supporting the Party over the people. Those cuts reduce income from a large amount of people on low incomes to bail out a few who are still in relative terms very, very well off. This creates an angry atmosphere, and his comments did not help.
People are, justifiably, angry with FG and Labour continuing on a road doomed to failure started by FF. There is also a real sense of dis-empowerment in general and a sense of betrayal by Labour in particular.
Apart from the internet, regular people with real grievances have no way to have their voice heard within the Irish media-political caste system.
In closing, I would just like readers to consider how many suicides could already be attributed to the cutbacks, house foreclosures, job losses and an avoidable depth of recession due to the failings of Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour? With cutbacks in respite care how many people will commit suicide or choose euthanasia so as not to be a burden on their families due to cutbacks?