by Peggy Barragry, Dublin


12-13 May 2000, Cork

Cord was shrouded in mist as the afternoon train arrived in the station on Friday 12 May. Delegates to the NAMHI AGM were transported to the conference, where the Lord Mayor of Cork welcomed them. The order of business was under way.

The determination of each delegate representing and supporting our children with learning disabilities was almost tangible. Teresa Blake, BL, and Deirdre Madden, BL, gave well-informed addresses and advice. It was great to be reassured that our legal system is very well disposed towards ensuring the rights of every child, and will always try to ensure that all the children of the nation are cherished equally. ‘If we need to go to the courts, don’t worry about money,’ we were told.

We socialised on Friday night in the comfort of the Moran Silver Springs Hotel. Old friends renewed acquaintances and new friendships were established, while all the time information was exchanged. Máire and I were ‘overflow’ from the hotel, and the taxi lights revealed foxes and rabbits on their own nocturnal business as we made the short journey to our comfortable accommodation. A good view of life is very pleasing indeed, and the people of Cork are clearly blessed in this regard. Almost all the dwellings we saw are built on the hills. The very steep walkways are a reminder to keep fit in body, as well as in mind.

Saturday morning, bright and early, found the well-organised AGM ready for a busy day. The Minister for Health and Children, Micheál Martin, TD, gave a well-researched address and, comfortable on his own soil, took questions from the floor. His interest, involvement and competence were reassuring; they may well have added the positive thread which wove its way through the remainder of the day’s business. His standing ovation was well earned.

The scarcity of speech and language therapists featured largely in several motions. Many very constructive and thought-provoking comments from the floor will hopefully lead towards creating a more effective service to cater adequately for our children’s communication difficulties.

Continuing concerns for those in institutions were well voiced–I’m always reminded that ‘there but for the grace of God go I’.

Ann Donovan’s serene leadership of NAMHI has ended, and new President Tony Darmody donned the chain of office for the coming two years. Elections of the other officers and members of council followed. Brian Crowley, MEP, sped into the hall and, in his cheery fashion, delivered a lively and encouraging address, without a prompt in sight. Unite and use this clout to get our concerns to the top of the political agenda–that was his message.

After the afternoon’s business, many delegates made a dash for fresh air and a long walk to loosen up the muscles before the evening dinner dance. Those Cork hills tried their best to counter our good intentions, but happily, energy was sufficiently restored to allow for a very sociable evening.

Annie Ryan received the accolade of NAMHI Honorary Life Membership. Tributes to other long-serving and hard-working people, and renderings from several, including Cork’s Deputy Lord Mayor, as well as good food, wine, music and dancing, brought the evening to a close. I thought it odd that no one sang The Banks!

Next morning the shroud of mist had lifted, as had some of our anxieties, and we headed home.


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