Peter Mathews R.I.P

Shocked and saddened are words you often read and usually gloss over but that was exactly how I felt this morning when word filtered through that Peter Mathews had died.

We came from very different backgrounds and very different political perspectives but we both arrived at the Dáil on the same day, first-time TDs after the February 2011 election, with similar ambition on one major issue – challenge the bank-debt that had been forced on the Irish people.

For me it was personal, given that I had a young family on whose shoulders the bulk of this debt was loaded. For Peter though I think it was even more so, not just because he had kids and even grandkids of his own who would likewise now be forced to pay for the lack of backbone of our own government in not challenging this odious debt, but because he was himself an accountant and a banker and thus saw this as a huge stain on his profession.

Though he was a gentle individual, soft-spoken, on this issue he had a steely determination to right what he saw as a grievous wrong.

Given his background and his expertise in the area, given his obvious intelligence and drive, given he was a member of Fine Gael, a party that had run on a promise to tackle the bank-debt and come down on the bondholders, I thought he was a natural for promotion to the Cabinet.

That he wasn’t, that he was totally ignored, consigned to the back benches, speaks much for Enda Kenny and the Fine Gael leadership. They know how to deal with upstarts with knowledge and intelligence – silence them, side-line them, send them to Siberia with the resting of the nodding heads on the back benches. Peter though, a man of conscience, didn’t stay there very long.

In conversation with him afterwards I got the impression that this rejection by Taoiseach Kenny left a deep scar, not on Peter’s ego but on his belief system.

He was a staunch capitalist and the behaviour of banks and bankers during the so-called Celtic Tiger years had shocked him. He was also staunch Fine Gael but now his determination to do something about the damage caused to Ireland by bankers and the previous government hadn’t just been stymied – the very people in whom he had placed his faith to do something about it, on whose campaign promises he and they had been elected, were now themselves refusing to tackle the ECB and the EU on the imposition of this bank-debt on Ireland.

A pity, because as I witnessed myself at a meeting in the Central Bank organised by the Ballyhea Says No campaign (with whom he was closely aligned), when we rattled then Governor Patrick Honahan, he would have been a real asset, able to speak their language, cut right to the chase.

Ireland is today a poorer place without Peter. Condolences to Susan and his children on their loss.

Press ReleasesPaul Cotter