The tragic death of Gary Speed has flushed out some hateful and unhelpful rubbish about what motivates people to end their own lives.
Here in Ireland columnist Kevin Myers of the Irish Independent has consistently used the lexicon of crime to characterise suicide. Suicide was decriminalised in Ireland in 1993, the last country in Western Europe to make this change in the law.
Mr Myers has previous for this offence.
In 2008 I was moved to reply to him by way of a piece in his own newspaper.
I have previous in bringing public figures to account for their hurtful and harmful opinions on suicide.
In 2002 I broke the story of the Irish general election. At a public meeting in Letterkenny McDaid, a medical doctor and the local TD for the ruling Fianna Fail party and then Minister for Tourism and Sport recounted a conversation he had had with a women whose son had completed suicide.
He related that the woman considered her deceased son to be “a selfish bastard” and, in telling the story to the assembled crowd McDaid said “and I agree with her!” It made the front page of the Evening Herald in Dublin the next day. Given it was my by-line I was invited onto national radio to defend the piece for its veracity. The Tourism Minister had a lot of friends in the media. However, the piece was strong, it was stood up, and McDaid apologies, despite some local initial spinning in Letterkenny in election week about what he actually had said.
The outburst cost McDaid his place at the cabinet table.
It was, effectively, the end of his career as a politics holding high office.
Four years later his views didn’t seem to have evolved.
Writing at the time for Daily Ireland my piece here, once more, tried to inject the human and the heartfelt to counteract the hurtful and the boorish.
At that point in in 2006 I had not embarked upon writing “Preventable Death” that would be published in the spring of 2008.
Writing that book, listening to scores of bereaved relatives (none of whom thought their loved one was “selfish”) left me exhausted and depressed throughout most the rest of 2008. I also interviewed dozens of men who had, at the last moment, pulled back from the edge of completing suicide. Once more I couldn’t characterise any of these men as selfish.
I had hoped that I had heard the last of the “selfish suicide” nonsense.
Fresh from his outburst about workers that have the temerity to go on strike here the Top Gear guy offered his “analysis” on people who complete suicide.
He lamented the trouble it caused for commuters when people choose to die under the wheels of a train.
When I read this I got so incensed that I wanted Jeremy Clarkson to be taken out and educated in front of his family.