It takes real conviction and courage to stand for office

A Different View with Dave O’Connell

I will never forget the moment that Mary O’Rourke’s fate was sealed as an outgoing TD and Government Minister. It was the middle of May 2002, and the Westmeath count was running into the night.

There were three seats up for grabs with one each for Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Labour Party in the form of local political colossus Willie Penrose.

Paul McGrath was fairly assured of the Fine Gael seat, which meant that the only real battle was between Mary, based at the southern end of the constituency in Athlone, and her old rival outgoing Senator Donie Cassidy at the northern end of the county in Mullingar.

As it turned out, Donie edged home after Fine Gael’s second candidate, the late Nicky McFadden, took a big vote in Athlone to the detriment of her rival.

It wasn’t the local politics of all this that left a lasting memory; it was the sight of a sitting member of Cabinet being led from the count centre to a side room so she could shed her tears in private.

Mary O’Rourke was one of the most formidable and intelligent of politicians, well up for the rough and tumble of this bloodspot – but even she couldn’t be expected to soak up election defeat as though she’d lost a tenner on the favourite in the Grand National.

I know she’ s not enjoying the best of health now, but her mark – and indeed her family’s mark – on the political stage is a lasting one. And she was the best of company, a wealth of information and an unparalleled teller of stories, for publication or just for sheer entertainment, throughout a distinguished career.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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