Ballybricken made for one cold spot for the photo opportunity it hosted at noon on Friday last. But the photo op in question was more than worth the chill experienced on the city hillside.
Standing in front of a campaign poster pasted up specifically for the shot, Martin Cahill of the Cystic Fibrosis (CF) Association of Ireland and WIT Students Union President Shane Kelly happily struck a pose.
Both met to officially promote WIT’s RAG Week, which will donate half of its proceeds to CF Ireland, with local initiatives co-ordinated by the Irish Cancer Society receiving the other monies.
“The next time we meet we’ll have a decent cheque in our hands,” laughed Martin Cahill, while he and Shane held a CF Ireland tee-shirt. “Well that’s the plan anyway,” offered the WITSU chief in reply.
For the seconds he had stood with Shane Kelly for the shot, Martin, who is based in Dublin, spent the best part of six hours that day behind the wheel of his car.
If the only measure of a person’s commitment to a cause can be appropriated to a single action, then the aforementioned says all that needs to be said about Martin Cahill.
The nature of a journalist’s job means one is regularly exposed to the message of a specific cause as well as what motivates, energises and maintains such support groups.
And while it’s virtually impossible to espouse the cause of one group over another, human nature being what it is means some campaigns carry additional resonance. For me, CF ticks that particular box.
This genetic condition drastically reduces life expectancy, even if recent improvements in treatment has bought people with CF a few extra years and the prospect, albeit only for some, of enjoying a 40th birthday party.
A person with CF regularly experiences chest infections brought about by the build-up of mucus in the lungs. Diabetes, liver failure, infertility and digestive problems are four of the associated symptoms that a person with CF typically encounters.
CF Ireland’s 2008 campaign highlights the fact that one in 19 Irish people carry the CF gene, the highest rate in the world. In Britain, by contrast, the rate is one in 25.
Many will be familiar with the experiences of Noel Walsh, a Fiddown man born with CF, who died just over a year ago. Now his was a life truly lived.
Irrespective of the many difficult, draining days he experienced while waiting for the new heart and lung that he sadly never received, Noel’s thoughts were never wrapped up in his own fight.
His strong lobbying on behalf of MRSA and Families and the considerable sweat he shed on behalf of people with CF singles him out as one of the most extraordinary human beings I’ve ever encountered.
Be it through these pages, radio airwaves or television appearances, Noel covered all bases when it came to increasing public awareness about Cystic Fibrosis.
He highlighted the importance of carrying a donor card, which all hale and hearty folk ought to do. He lobbied with all his might for greater hospital hygiene, something that a patient should never have had to do in this first world economy of ours.
What he also demonstrated, day in day out was the extraordinary capacity of the human spirit. Noel never wished to be categorised as someone ill. He thrived in conversation about everyday life and never wallowed about the lot he ceaselessly faced. He just got on with it.
No cause could have had a greater ambassador than Noel Walsh, who wasn’t just any man. He was a man and a half, an incredibly funny guy, and the corner he came out fighting for merits regular highlighting in public fora.
Enormous credit must be extended to Shane Kelly and WITSU for embracing the CF Ireland cause, whose torch is so brilliantly carried by people like Martin Cahill.
Like WIT’s students, it’s incumbent on all citizens to do our bit to help those who need it most. People with CF need every ounce of assistance that we can provide. By doing so, we honour the late Noel Walsh and the cause he so wonderfully championed.