Leading article: The man who saved Italy's reputation

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The Independent Online

Publication of the exchange between the coast guard in Livorno and the captain of the stricken Costa Concordia, has made Gregorio de Falco a hero in Italy, and probably everywhere the transcript has seen the light of day. His advice, culminating in the abrupt instruction: "Get back on the ship... that is an order", epitomises all the qualities so signally lacking on the fateful night.

Here was decisiveness, practicality, responsibility, exactitude and concern for human life, all rolled into a few pithy sentences. No wonder his compatriots extolled him.

For Italians distressed by an accident that seemingly confirmed so many negative aspects of their national stereotype, de Falco restored a measure of dignity. But before lionising the coast guard as one-man proof that Italy is not that unhappy land, defined in Brecht's Galileo as having no heroes, it's worth remembering the riposte that came next: "Unhappy the land that needs heroes."