THE phrase may have been discredited somewhat since it was employed by Charles J Haughey in his last speech to the Dail as Taoiseach, but it can truly be said of Limerick’s Dan Neville, who is to stand down as a TD when the next election is called, that he has done the State some service.
Had he chosen to put himself before the electorate one last time, he would have done so after another stint in the Dail during which his standing both locally and nationally grew noticeably. Elected party chairman last year, he has become something of a Fine Gael scion and the tributes paid to him across the political spectrum this week reflected the respect that has come his way.
Retirement has clearly been a difficult decision for him, all the more so because he was unable to rely on the wise counsel of his beloved late wife, Goretti. On page 2 of this week’s edition we publish a photograph of Dan taken by the Leader at the very moment his re-election to Dail Eireann was announced in February 2011. As his supporters erupted with joy, there was an utterly poignant look on the face of the victorious candidate, and it would not be difficult to conclude that the moment of victory was bittersweet, coming as it did a little over two years after Goretti’s passing. The immense role played by the partners of hard-working politicians is rarely acknowledged as generously as it should be and in that moment Dan Neville’s expression spoke volumes.
His constituents will acknowledge the work he has put in over the years, on behalf of those who elected him. Quite rightly, though, the tributes paid to the Croagh-based deputy have in many cases focused on his heroic work in highlighting how suicide has become one of the great scourges of modern life.
More than two decades ago he campaigned against the decriminalisation of suicide, and he has been relentless in continuing that good work, through his efforts on behalf of the Irish Association of Suicidology.
An interview he gave to this newspaper recently, in which he discussed why he has been so driven in shining a light on suicide and seeking to destigmatize it, received a major reaction from readers. Dan explained that, contrary to what many had assumed, he was not motivated by the suicide of a family member or close friend. Rather, he recognised that such tragedies were having a devastating effect on communities the length and breadth of Ireland and someone in public office had to do all in their power to raise awareness, in the hope that suicide would become less prevalent if mental health issues were properly faced up to. That battle continues and thankfully Dan Neville will continue to be at the forefront of it. His retirement is well earned.