The actor John Cleese starred in a series of hilarious sales training videos in the 1980s. In one such video Cleese was a weak salesman who nevertheless was warm and friendly to his prospective clients, and they in turn loved him. In one scene Cleese is sitting in an office with one of his prospects and the client is enjoying a big cigar given to him by Cleese. The client tells Cleese how much he enjoys his visits and loves chatting to him. The phone on the client's desk then rings and he takes the call from reception. He seems irritated. After hanging up he says to Cleese:
"I'm really sorry, I'm afraid I'll have to take leave of you now. It's so annoying, you are my favourite visitor. But I've got to see a right bastard down at reception who keeps selling me tons of stuff!"
If ever there was a summary of Michael McDowell as a political creature it might be that he was similar to the successful but detested salesman at reception in the above video. McDowell was not always liked, he could be arrogant, aloof, egotistical, impulsive even. But he was visionary, skillful, single minded, and he got results.
Michael McDowell successfully tackled the insurance compensation culture in Ireland, created conditions for reduced insurance premiums, started the Garda Reserve, added many tough laws on crime and the gangland culture as well as anti social behaviour measures. Not all in the conservative legal World agreed with his tough measures, but McDowell came from a strong legal background himself and knew what could be achieved. I've also written before on how right he was to try to extend the licensing laws to provide many more cafe bars in Ireland.
Even in defeat and departure from politics McDowell was controversial and impulsive. An all or nothing man in many ways. I had thought he would be a great leader in the PDs but in truth he was a lone but skilled maverick. He was not always good at warming to and motivating people, both in his party and with the electorate. He did seem conscious of this as time moved along and I detected he was slowly working on improving his image. I still believe he achieved more in his post as Minister for Justice than anyone before him. Irish politics has lost a powerful, energetic and colourful character who also indeed provided much entertainment for the media.
To borrow from Theodore Roosevelt "...his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."