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'Mammy' O'Rourke on Haughey, Lenihan, Bertie, Cowen and Enda

The former Fianna Fáil minister gave a frank and entertaining interview to Ryan Tubridy on the Late Late Show last night.

Image: Screengrab via RTÉ Player

FORMER FIANNA FÁIL minister, senator and TD Mary O’Rourke gave an in-depth interview to the Late Late Show on RTÉ last night.

Not known to shy away from expressing her opinion, the former education minister gave a frank interview in which she talked about her fertility issues, post-natal depression, and the death of her late husband Enda in 2001.

Ryan Tubridy also quizzed O’Rourke, whose book Just Mary was published this week, on her time in the Dáil and in government asking her about her informal title of ‘Mammy as the Dáil’ during the last administration.

“I think to be a mammy is a wonderful thing,” she said.

But the people who say to me, I mean people who might try to say it to me in derision, I say ‘Why? Don’t you love your mother?’ and they say ‘Well, of course I do’. So I don’t know, but I take it as it comes.

O’Rourke also spoke about the time she turned down a specific spokesperson role with Fianna Fáil shortly after being elected. Then Fianna Fáil leader Charlie Haughey offered the Longford-Westmeath TD a role as spokesperson on women’s affairs in the early 80s.

But O’Rourke recounted how she declined the offer: “I didn’t want to be put in cupboard and women’s affairs written (across it) and every time there was a big issue about women, pull you out, put you back again.

I would be talking about women anyway in the course of things and taking up issues relating to women but I didn’t intend to be pigeon-holed as ‘Mary O’Rourke for women’s affairs’.

She recounted how later in the day Haughey rang her again to offer her a role as education spokesperson, shadowing then education minister Gemma Hussey.

On the death of her nephew Brian Lenihan last year, the 75-year-old said that it had a “huge affect” on her.

As well as knowing him from when he was a child, I served under the one roof, one workplace for 16 years. He was a very special person, very, very special. It’s just so lonely for Patricia and the two children, and for his mother, his sister and brothers. Very special, he was and is very special and nothing will change that.

O’Rourke said that she believed Brian Cowen’s story is “sad, very sad” and expressed doubt as to whether Cowen ever wanted to be Taoiseach in the first place.

You see to us as a party we wanted him as Taoiseach, we really did want him, and he – Bertie wanted him – he was propelled into it.
But now looking back, and of course hindsight is a great science, I wonder did he want it himself. I really do, in hindsight. I think that maybe he was happier being freer, not having the weight of all that upon him.

On Bertie Ahern, she added that her feelings on him were “mixed” over his success in helping to negotiate peace in Northern Ireland and the building boom.

He perhaps gave in too much to the unions maybe,” she said. “But at the time everyone adored it. I mean all the building, the construction boom, 80 cranes on the skyline of Dublin or all over but there was full unemployment. So there are two sides to all of these things.

O’Rourke added that all the “kissy, kisses” with German chancellor Angela Merkel did not appear to be working in the government’s favour but praised Taoiseach Enda Kenny for being a man “full of action”.

“But I wonder if in all the action… if the head going around doesn’t want to stall a bit and try to put it together,” she added.

Watch the interview in full on the RTÉ Player >

Mary O’Rourke: Current Dáil TDs are ‘not very bright or intelligent’

Cigarettes and alcohol: New details of night before THAT Cowen interview

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Hugh O'Connell

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