Part One of Two
Of course, later on I’m sure that we will be just the smallest bit regretful that we didn’t give more time to taking it all in, our initial entrance into Leinster House. After all, for most of us, it is the first time we’ve been here. Sure, we are aware of the large paintings of Irish heavyweights of the past staring down on us as we wait to be handed our visitors’ passes; and of course it is impossible not to feel that clichéd, but accurate, ‘weight of history’ pressing down on us.
The real reason, though, for not remembering every detail as we enter from Kildare Street is that we are overwhelmingly conscious of why we are here. All of us are acutely aware that this is a potentially momentous day for the Hand in Hand children’s cancer charity. As we receive more and more referrals from outside the eight counties that we have traditionally served, it is obvious that it is now crucial that we should expand.
And that is why, on this encouragingly pleasant morning, we are at Leinster House.
A Little Background Music…
Our trip here had begun with a very unexpected end to last year. In fact, I don’t think that it’s an exaggeration to say that it sent Jennifer and myself off into the Christmas season on a very high note indeed.
The office had been locked up and there was one final thing to do, which was a meeting that Senator Fidelma Healy Eames had graciously agreed to after we had asked her for a few pointers on ways to raise the profile of the charity. I don’t know what we were expecting, to be honest. I had previously discovered, with some surprise, how much work the Senator had been doing and was uncomfortably aware of the amount of time and energy that she had given to various charities. I say ‘uncomfortably’ because I began to wonder if Hand in Hand was in the process of wasting both our time and hers, for she surely seemed to be doing more than her share; and I wondered if she felt that she would be spreading herself too thin by taking on more.
Well, she listened and asked questions. And not just by-the-rote, try-to-seem-interested, questions. They were perceptive, helpful and challenging; and best of all, they made us think. Within little more than half-an-hour her infectious enthusiasm had reignited our own as she there and then booked the Private Members’ Dining Room for March the 5th and offered to host a coffee morning for us whilst we tried to present our case to every TD and Senator that we could convince to attend.
So there we were, six of us: Jennifer Carpenter, the Development Manager; Niamh Bray and Dr. Michael Coughlan, both on the Board of Directors; Deirdre Whyte, an endlessly enthusiastic Hand in Hand volunteer; John Cloonan, the parent of a young man who had emerged from the shadow of cancer, and one of our most popular fundraisers; Deirdre Lennon-Herbert (love that name), a Dublin lady with a son who is halfway through his cancer treatment and has some very forthright views on how certain charities are run; and of course Your Under-appreciated Humble Narrator himself.
Yes, I don’t think it would be inaccurate to say that we were a little apprehensive. After all, it wasn’t beyond the bounds of possibility that no one at all would turn up.
In the event it was a repeat of last December: we went in expecting a moderate return and within a very short time were in the middle of something that was more successful than we could have hoped for. Indeed, it took all seven of us to work the room, trying to answer questions from the steady stream of TDs and Senators who had taken time out from their schedules to attend and listen to the thrust of our main proposals, of which more later.
Also very gratifying for us was a much higher level of interest from the national press than we had anticipated.
For us, it was now all to play for…