In the normal course of events Brian Cowen, who has just turned 60, might well have been a formidable candidate in last Saturday’s election. It was not to be. He, like so many of his peers, called time on his political career almost a decade ago.
At that time he and his colleagues were the brunt of criticism, not all of it measured.
Some of it was viciously personal. Incredibly, toxic criticism persisted after he suffered a life-threatening stroke last July. He has been in hospital since and will be for some unknown time to come.
Politics is a tough game.
No quarter is asked or given but even so personal boundaries are generally recognised.
Speaking at an election count, Mr Cowen’s wife, Mary, and their daughters, Sinead and Meadhbh, took the opportunity to give an update on his recovery.
It is, they said, challenging but progressing. They also alluded to the cruel gloating his stroke provoked even if only from a tiny minority.
Their warmopenness reminded us all that politics is, at the end, a human process where kindness delivers by far the greatest rewards.