Few of us reach the allotted three score and ten without making mistakes. Some are significant, others less so, but all are revealing.
Last week’s criticism from Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister, Michelle O’Neill, of her colleague, Stormont health minister Robin Swann, for asking for British army help to fight the coronavirus, is such a moment. Mr Swann, understanding the sensitivity of the situation, said he hoped his decision would not be “considered divisive”.
It may be that the Sinn Féin deputy leader comes from a culture where independent decision-making is unknown, but her intervention seems more an example of tribal opportunism than a positive contribution to confronting the pandemic.
It certainly will not build the sense of collegiality or urgency needed at this moment. It is hard, too, to imagine that someone fighting for their life, even in South Armagh, would check who was handing them a ventilator before they chose to use it or not.
Of course, Ms O’Neill knows all of this, but that she chose another path underlines why Sinn Féin was unable to attract Dáil allies to form a government. One step forward...