Her book has sold over 1,300 copies this week, has pipped Cheryl Cole’s ‘My Story’ to the top selling slot and is seemingly more popular than the latest release by former President Mary McAleese.
And so it is that ‘The Mammy’ of politics Mary O’Rourke is on another role with the release of her first title – ‘Just Mary, A Memoir’, which was published last month. The veteran politician was in Longford last week where a clearly excited fan base gathered at Eason’s on Ballymahon Street to have copies of the book signed by the former minister and deputy leader of Fianna Fáil.
Love her or loath her, O’Rourke has been one of the most successful and influential women in Irish public life for the guts of 30 years. She held four ministerial posts during her time in office and was also deputy leader of the Fianna Fáil party for a time.
In her memoir she writes with remarkable candidness and humour of personal and political events; of the many senior political figures with whom she worked with including Bertie Ahern, Charlie Haughey and Albert Reynolds as well as speaking openly about her beloved husband Enda and her brother Brian and nephew Brian, both of whom died before their time. She also details the successes and disappointments, the highs and lows and the ups and downs that accompanied her on a political and public journey that spanned the best part of 30 years.
Speaking during her book signing last week, she said that she was spurned into putting pen to paper the night of the 2011 General Election when her political life came crashing down in Kenagh. “That night, I came home from Kenagh Community Hall when the results of the election came in and it was clear that I was getting the heave ho from the electorate,” she said, adding that despite losing her own seat, she felt relieved that the Longford/Westmeath Constituency returned a Fianna Fáil TD, thus bucking the national trend. “We did return a TD in the Longford/Westmeath Constituency which saw the work that Peter Kelly, Albert Reynolds and myself had done, come to fruition – and I decided at that point, well, I might go write a book, now that I’m finished with politics for the moment - and that is what I did.”
Like all paths in life, O’Rourke’s had it ups and downs. She was the mother of two small children and was struggling to balance the work-home life and in later years she suffered greatly when her husband Enda passed away. Her brothers Paddy and Brian also died and last year she suffered another significant loss when her nephew and former Minister for Finance, Brian Lenihan passed away after a short illness.
“For me politics was like everybody’s path in life – it had hills and hollows and it’s about how you negotiate the highs and lows,” she added. “It was very difficult to keep the balance between work and home life and that is depicted in the book where I talk about how difficult it became to keep the home life going, and indeed my public life going. I had a good husband; Enda was great, he was mom and dad until I came home at weekends, so we managed between us. I lost Enda, my brothers Paddy and Brian and my nephew Brian, so yes I have had lots of losses – but everyone does. It was difficult to cope with those losses, but everyone gets it in life.”
With regards to her working relationship with former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds, the Athlone native said that she had “a very good working relationship” with him, despite their very public disputes at times. “Myself and Albert ended up very good (friends),” the former Fianna Fáil deputy leader explained. “We did have spats along the way - as most people would with their bosses from time to time – but I will always remember that it was Albert who started the push on the North to try to work it out and that will be forever to his credit. We all know that Longford loved Albert.”
Now, despite being out of political life, O’Rourke still holds stance on many issues and has been vocal in recent week’s on the upcoming Children’s Referendum. “The wording on the referendum is my making,” she said, adding that it was formulated during her time as chair of the All-Party Committee. “Now I am going to meetings and talking publicly about it and I am also a very active member of my cumman. The book helped me to reveal myself to myself and it was an emotional experience. In the end I came around to things that had happened to me and made my peace with God, so it was a good experience. It’s life and love now for me – my two sons and my grandchildren.”