Last week our WRH attracted national kudos for the unrivalled standards it has achieved in the management of its A&E in particular – currently it’s out on its own and deservedly so and great credit is due to management, consultants, nurses and all the other care workers involved. I write this story not from a vague general interest in the well being or otherwise of our local hospital but from the perspective of one who in recent weeks had a ‘personal engagement’ with the aforementioned services at the hospital. So in many ways the positive announcements in respect of the work of the WRH didn’t come totally as a surprise to me having been such a recent beneficiary of their skill and care. As we can be quick to criticise failings and shortcomings, sometimes with justification, it is also fair that we equally acknowledge the good and caring work that goes on 24/7 in so many areas of the health service.

I had reason a few weeks back to go through the A&E process and given the general public perception as to their reputation in terms of their overcrowding and the ordeals of endless waiting, of systems being overwhelmed, in no way was I relishing the prospect.

While not going in to the nitty-gritty of the particular situation (nothing too serious, by the way), I was pleasantly surprised and impressed by the level and thoroughness of the care from all involved from the very much in control, hands-on consultants to the very attentive medical team of doctors and nurses as well as other supporting ancillary staff and well fed into the bargain! Later I was invited to be a ‘guest’ of the hospital for a number of days and again the level of care from every medical and supportive professional there continued to be impressive where your well being was the focus of their attention as it was of the many other patients in their care.

Yes, I am indeed happy to have this opportunity to pen this good news health service story. Given my personal experience, I was therefore not surprised at the national credit accorded to the WRH last week. And I’m in great form myself!

Reflections on Two Gentlemen

About a month ago now, the passing of a good man who made a valuable contribution to his country gave me cause for reflection on a number of fronts. Firstly, I speak of the death of Tomas Mac Giolla to whom fitting tributes were made in national and local media including this one, so I need not dwell on the biographical details here. Nor do I wish at this time to engage in a political polemic. I first made the acquaintance of Tomas Mac Giolla in the early 80’s and became increasingly impressed with the man as I became aware of his contribution to a maturing of Irish society – the factors that drove him, the relevance and reasons behind his socialist spirit and most important of all, the journey he among others, but principally Tomas began, to lead his party away from the barren road of narrow nationalism – of Us and Them. He pointed the way as early as 1963 – he knew then that politics, not violence was the way forward. We all waded through much- too much, for that lesson to be fully realised.

I said I would endeavour to avoid the polemic, so who is the second gentleman alluded to above?

Well on hearing of Mac Giolla’s death at the goodly age of 86, it caused me to recall a memorable lunch I had with two remarkable men in the mid-1980’s. The second gentleman I speak of is none other than one architect of modern Ireland, Dr Ken Whitaker who is happily still very much with us at 94 years of age. I was at a conference in Dublin aimed at promoting the greater use of Irish in the public service and the semi-states. It was held in Carysfort College in Blackrock. Ag an sos don lon we all headed for the seomra bia/canteen. As chance would have it, I fell in line behind Tomas Mac Giolla in the lunch queue, at that stage we were ‘nodding acquaintances’, then I noted the man ahead of Tomas was somewhat familiar, I wondered if it could possible be the Dr Whitaker. So when ‘we three’ semi-detached group had our lunch trays suitably laden. Dr Whitaker invited us to join him for lunch.

Yes we had plenty of caint and comhra as we chatted about cursai an lae/affairs of the day. But what stays with me from this encounter was the mutual respect bothWhitaker and Mac Giolla had for each other and clearly knew each other. Both had lived through the formative years of the modern Irish State- Whitaker born in 1916 and MacGiolla in 1924. They were of a generation and they cared for their country, each in their own and very different ways, both shared their pride as Irish men.

Rising Sun of Modernity

As the sixties dawned and the rising sun of modernity slowly but surely jutted its welcomed head over the horizon, the new-broom Taoiseach, Sean Lemass, another remarkable man had the imagination, the courage and the foresight to appoint Dr K. T. Whitaker as his Secretary of Finance who set about his planning for a better and modern Ireland, creating a real economy away from the dead-hand of past and moribund sterile policies. The other guest at his memorable lunch (memorable for me!) at about the same time in the early sixties was also clearly signalling that the sun was also rising for a new approach to politics and the sheer futility of tilting at windmills. None of this was discussed of course during our as Gaeilge lunch but I think, unspoken, it was at the basis of the mutual respect they had for each other, that both had striven, albeit in different spheres and ways for a better Ireland. I was indeed privileged to have broken bread with such wonderful gentlemen.

Go Seachtain Eile, Slán.