In the sport of Boxing there are many terms we often use to describe a boxer as he retires. Two of those terms are: staying in the ring too long and the latter is leaving at the top of the game. These terms could also be used in reference to Politicians. The former is usually the term used to describe those who refuse to leave even though all the signs are there for them to see. The aging POLITICIAN like the aging Boxer, with diminishing skills refuses to leave on his/her own accord. In refusing to leave they run the risk of being beaten into oblivion by their much younger stronger or more equipped opponent. The latter though is the POLITICIAN who like the SMART Boxer knows when to leave.
In Belize one politician who by his action is like the smart Boxer is Michael Finnegan. He sat down with Channel 7’s Jules Vasquez to discuss his retirement amongst other things, last week. Finnegan as many people may know has been contemplating whether or not to retire for some time now. In fact it was a surprise to many of us who know him, that he contested the last General Election. Perhaps it was only because of the timing of the calling of that election, that necessitated him contesting, since having to select a new candidate for that constituency would have created a few problems for the party and could have led to a loss of the seat for the party. Some of those problems could have been, but not limited to (1) the new candidate would have not been given enough time to be on the ground in order to acquaint him/herself with the dynamics and voters of the area (2) having a contested convention like in any internal party contest, would have created some sort of fallout, with the side or sides that lost and there would not have been enough healing time. That is the way all of us are as humans. We don’t take losing easy and end up feeling hurt and need time to get over that hurt.
Michael Finnegan is a GRASSROOTS POLITICIAN. He is a no nonsense politicians. Finnegan tells it as he sees it and holds back no punches. He is loved by the people of his beloved Mesopotamia. That love is a two-way thing with him and the voters. A young Michael Finnegan (Michael Myvette) has a relationship with the UDP or by whatever other name or grouping the party was known, dating back to the 1960’s. In fact among the present and past UDP elected politicians whom are alive, he is the longest standing member of the party. Finnegan always sings praises and gives thanks to his mentor the Honorable Uncle Dean Russel Lindo, for him not only being the successful politician he is but for him being the man he is. Michael Finnegan is not a man with any titles, certificates and diplomas hanging on his wall. What he is is a practical person, who was educated in the streets and alleyways of this country. He is able to handle himself equally as well in the BOARDROOM, BAR-ROOM or on the BASES. His story is about this boy from Conch Shell Bay, who with no formal education beyond PRIMARY SCHOOL, rose to the position of Elected Area Representative and Minister, because of hard work and paying attention to details.
Minister Finnegan, born Michael Myvette, was first exposed to politics by his mother Esme Dias, one of the founding members of the NIP.
Hon. Finnegan started his political career protesting the Vietnam War conducted by the United States, while affiliated with the Ad Hoc Committee for the Truth About Vietnam co-founded by Rt. Hon. Said Musa, future Prime Minister.
In 1970 Finnegan became a member of the United Black Association for Development. By late 1972 he had become estranged from UBAD president Evan X Hyde. In this period he changed his name to Michael Kwame Finnegan.
In 1973 Hon. Finnegan became a political protégé of Dean Lindo, founding member of the UDP. Finnegan then led the successful campaigns of future three time Prime Minister Dean Barrow for city council and then the 1983 general elections for the Queens Square Division area rep.
Finnegan served as senator for the UDP before being elected to office in 1993, when he became a member of the House of Representatives for the Mesopotamia constituency in Belize City.
Finnegan was one of only two UDP House members re-elected in 1998 (Dean Barrow, current Prime Minister, was the other); they were two of three successful UDP candidates nationwide. Finnegan has been re-elected with at least 60 percent of the vote in every election since.
Hon. Finnegan is loved for his down to earth approach and his ability to talk to the regular person on the streets as well as the lawyer or doctor.
Hon. Finnegan’s legacy as a defender of the poor and the often forgotten in our society will be etched in the history books for time immemorial.
In his sit down with Channel 7’s Jules Vasquez, he told Jules that he does not see himself as having the Physical and Mental Capacity to continue past the term he has been presently elected to serve as a Member of the House of Representatives. He said that he intends to serve out this term, unless there comes a point when he feels that he cannot go any further, then at that point he will retire sooner. In other words he is saying that he will not stay in elected office if he no longer has the feeling for it. A politician who stays in the game too long gets lackadaisical and lazy and then becomes ineffective and becomes a burden to the people who elected him/her. Knowing Hon Finnegan the way we do, we know he would not want to be that type of politician.
Finnegan’s retirement although it will create a void for the UDP to fill his big shoes, will create an even bigger problem for the PUP, as he will have the opportunity and time to work with the other UDP Politicians, mostly the up and coming ones, like he worked with the young Dean Barrow back in the 1980’s. The type of street smarts and personal touch that he has cannot be found in any textbook or taught in any Political Science Class. Without any doubt Finnegan is the best at what he does. All that political know-how will soon be at the disposal of the UDP to use to it’s advantage. We hope that Finnegan will find the time to write his MEMOIRS and perhaps a few articles for this newspaper, so that we could have all that wealth of knowledge he has. Readers may be wondering why we refer to the Hon Michael Finnegan as just Finnegan and not by his official title and if we are not being disrespectful to the good gentleman’s office. We say to them ,we refer to him as Finnegan because that is the way he prefers for people to refer to him. That is a part of his humble nature. He is not a person that is into titles. Finnegan may be retiring but at the same time we can say he is not retiring in the true sense as we are sure he will be around with some sort of role to play in the UDP.