terrible trauma | 

Taoiseach describes how loss of his two children 'changed him' as he talks about Covid battle

'You do have to get up again and you do have to get out there again and meet with people'
Taoiseach Micheál Martin

Taoiseach Micheál Martin

Paul Hyland

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has described how the loss of his two children “changed” him as he said protecting lives is his first priority in the battle against Covid-19.

Mr Martin said he is “worried that death is becoming a metric” and his number one priority is preventing people from getting seriously ill and dying from the virus.

He said he has noticed a shift in public discourse to “how many deaths can we tolerate” which he is not comfortable with.

“We all have personal experiences in life. It does give me a sense of the finality when death occurs to a family, the devastation the occurs to a family,” he told RTÉ’s Brendan O’Connor programme.

In 1999 the Taoiseach’s son Ruairí was born and he sadly passed away five-weeks late from a cot death, while his daughter Léana died unexpectedly at the age of seven.

“When Ruairí died… I think you’ve a lot of anxieties after that. Your certainties are removed a bit in life. You’re full optimism as a young person; something like that hits you, life is no longer full of those kind of certainties and it makes you a more anxious parent.

“You have to try and deal with that, and you live with that and I think it has changed me yeah,” he said.

The Taoiseach said on both occasions, family friends helped him and his wife to deal with what he described as a “terrible trauma”.

“A lot of people out there have had terrible trauma in their lives.

"The important thing is that family and community and the need to get out there, engage again. You do have to get up again and you do have to get out there again and meet with people.

“Never forget, always remember and just engage with people,” he added.

This time next year, Mr Martin will step down as Taoiseach and Leo Varadkar will take up the post as part of the coalition Government agreement.

He said he plans to take up the role of Tánaiste and “it’s important to have that transition” of power.

“To show that we have that maturity to do that as parties.

"When you look across Europe it’s all coalitions…over time it shouldn’t be seen as a big deal that we have this transition in Government. That you’re a deputy prime minister in the second half of a government. That has happened far more frequently in other countries than it has here,” he added.

Mr Martin said the Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, is leading a coalition government despite his party only achieving 25pc of the vote in the last election.

In the latest Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI opinion poll - published earlier this month - both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael captured 20pc of support, while Sinn Fein remained the most popular party overall at 35pc.

This week Fine Gael TD and Finance Minister Paschal Donohue suggested his party and Fianna Fáil should contest the next general election on a shared platform.

However, Mr Martin said he believes individual parties will and should contest that election based on their own policies.

“It has to be around policy, it has to be around ideas, it has to be around orientation. What way do you believe Irish society should be organised?

“I believe in enterprise, I believe in individual entrepreneurship and allowing that to emerge, I’m not so sure other parties do as much,” he explained.

He added that he thinks politics is “too dominated by opinion polls”.

“As a leader of a party I do lot of political interviews and it’s always on the latest opinion poll and there’s not enough discussion on the substance and on the policies and ideas,” he said.

Meanwhile, regarding his relationship with the Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar Mr Martin said they are different but they “get on well”.

“I’d like to think personally I’m easy to get on with on one level… on a personal level. Politically people might disagree with my approach in respect of issues and so on.

“I think the three party leaders – Eamon Ryan, Leo and myself - have a good capacity to cut to the chase early. Get in touch with each other early if there is a problem and it’s a good relationship from that point of view,” he added.

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