McAleese hails her old pal 'matriarch Mary'
FIANNA Fail TDs were raising a celebratory glass last night -- although they weren't toasting a political resurrection of their fortunes as suggested by the latest opinion poll, but the launch of party matriarch Mary O'Rourke's autobiography.
A large crowd of family, former colleagues and friends packed into the National Library for the launch of 'Just Mary', an account of the 75-year-old's life but particularly her long political career.
The guest speaker was former president Mary McAleese, who pointed out that she and Mary had both shared the same surname, and that she wanted to speak at the launch "to repay a debt owed by one Mary Leneghan to another Mary Lenihan".
Mrs McAleese explained that she had visited Mary at her home in Athlone when she had the "then fanciful notion of running for the presidency. She gave me all the encouragement I needed", she said.
The former president paid tribute to the retired politician's "grace under pressure" when she suffered personal losses with the deaths of her brother, Brian Lenihan Snr, her nephew Brian Jnr and her husband Enda, adding that she "carried her sorrows with grace; four days after the tragic death of Enda she was back at the Cabinet table -- it wasn't for the distraction, it was for public service".
However, Mrs McAleese also acknowledged 'Mammy' O'Rourke's famous forthright manner, which no doubt had many people at the launch anxiously thumbing the index at the back of the book to see if they had been mentioned flatteringly or otherwise.
"She is mistress of the memorable one-liner," she said, recalling how Mary had once dismissed criticism of Bertie's famous anorak by opining: "The mid-90s was not a time for bling".
Among the guests at the launch were Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin, former PD chief Michael McDowell and Greens leader Eamon Ryan.