Vaccinated O’Rourke eager for a ‘tight, tight hug’ from her grandchildren

Former FF minister initially thought April 1st second jab appointment was ‘a big fat joke’

Mary O’Rourke, former Fianna Fáil government minister, at her home in Athlone after getting her second Covid-19 vaccination. Photograph: Alan Betson

Mary O’Rourke, former Fianna Fáil government minister, at her home in Athlone after getting her second Covid-19 vaccination. Photograph: Alan Betson

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The former Fianna Fáil politician Mary O’Rourke says she cannot wait to give her grandchildren a “tight, tight hug” now that she has received her second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.

The former minister said she had hoped her second shot being scheduled on April Fool’s Day was “not a big fat joke” but it wasn’t: she got the vaccine at her doctor’s surgery in Athlone on Thursday.

Now fully vaccinated, she longs for closer contact with her six grandchildren, once the vaccine takes effect.

“My son Aengus is my care-giver in my social bubble, dropping in food and newspapers to me but the children don’t come in,” she tells The Irish Times.

“They stay in the garden sometimes and wave in and blow kisses at me. This is part of life but it is horrible. I want a tight hug – a tight, tight hug – which they will give me, I know.”

At 83 years of age, O’Rourke falls into the over-70s age group currently being vaccinated.

One humorous consequence of the vaccine rollout has been people discovering the ages of friends and neighbours, which some may have preferred not to disclose, she says.

“It was just kind of fun. I never mind telling my age. Why should I? Most people in Athlone would know the age I am. I think some people are a little bit precious about their age,” she says.

O’Rourke lives alone and says reading and watching rugby on television have sustained her through the monotony of lockdowns.

“It is the never ending, day by day by day. Things don’t change,” she says. “I won’t go out. I am quite terrified. I feel that the only safe place for me is here in my own home.”

She has also used the pandemic to catch up with old friends, inside and outside of politics, by digging phone numbers out of her old diaries and just calling people “out of the blue”.

“The stories I have unearthed – I am getting it all. I find the telephone powerful,” she says.

Politcal ‘anorak’

The former Seanad leader still follows politics closely, declaring herself “an anorak” about it.

“I know what happens politically and all the moves, pretended or otherwise, about Micheál and the carry-on of Hazel Chu [the Lord Mayor of Dublin]. Can you get over that she wants to be chairman of the Greens and run for the Seanad as an Independent? That is a delightful prospect.”

She thinks Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar are “settling into a groove” but believes Varadkar “has his own flank to watch now with all the business of the leak and that”.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan is “the quiet one”, she says, but now that he has his climate Bill “he is happy with that and he is musing about that”.

O’Rourke thinks the Government “are, in the main, managing”, but she wonders about the eventual fallout from the cost of the pandemic and the vast sums of State support being paid out.

“An end has to come to the money that is going out. It is billions and billions. It is all very cheap money but eventually it will have to stop and be paid back,” she says.

To “anti-vaxxers” and people reluctant to follow her lead and get the vaccine, she says: “Don’t be silly. How could you not trust something that is going to do so much good worldwide?”

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