“Not ordinary people but extraordinary people really doing extraordinary things,” was how Michael FitzGerald, chairman of South Tipperary County Council summed up his speech when according a civic reception to the South Tipperary Hospice Movement on Friday evening last.
A Council Chamber, overflowing and with standing room only, were all present to acknowledge the unbelievable work of the Hospice Movement in the county since it was first set up on April 6, 1990. Speaker after speaker praised the trojan work of countless volunteers who have worked tirelessly over 22 years in making “a real impact in what can only be described as the most difficult times in people’s lives” said Councillor FitzGerald.
He particularly welcomed Majella O’Donoghue, Phil Kehoe and Dr. Sam Kingston from the Hospice Support Group and also mentioned Brendan O’Keeffe, chairperson of STHM, who was unavoidably absent. Anne Grace and Marie Harold-Barry of the Nursing Team were also singled out for their immense contribution.
Looking around the packed Council Chamber and welcoming the invited guests from all over the county, the chairman said that if it had been his wish this event would have been staged in Semple Stadium, so numerous were all the volunteers who have contributed to the work and success of the organisation since its inception. Present in the Chamber were the invited guests only but everyone in the county has helped in some way over the years it seems.
All volunteers in every parish in the county came in for special mention. From a tractor run in Ardfinnan to a vintage car rally in Limerick Junction, from coffee mornings in Cashel and Golden to strawberry fairs in Tipperary Town, and Daffodil Days everywhere, Tipperary people all over have embraced this great organisation and all it does and stands for.
Ballyporeen, Bansha, Burncourt, Camas, Cappawhite, not an alphabetical list of villages in County Tipperary but each and every one mentioned by the chairman in recognition of the hugely important fundraising that they do each year without fail.
One group in particular he mentioned had turned their love of music and dance into an annual fundraiser and have raised €142,000 over 10 years. Included in that West Tipperary group were Paddy and Hanora Connery, Austin and Mary Crowe, Willie and Elizabeth Fryday, Michael and Mary Slattery and Patsy O’Connor. But the list of volunteers and behind-the-scenes workers everywhere was endless; there was merit it seems in having the civic reception in the Stadium in Thurles after all.
Vice-chairman Michael Murphy saluted the Hospice Movement members and volunteers for their work.
He said that South Tipperary Hospice is a by word in our area for many reasons - a leader in the field of the movement, a 24/7 commitment to those in need of its care.
“There isn’t a part of South Tipperary whose community hasn’t benefited from the palliative care services of our local Hospice. And these communities, being conscious of a job well done, are never shy of putting shoulders to the wheel to voluntarily fundraise,” the vice-chairman added.
Cllr. Michael Anglim (Fianna Fail) appealed to the public saying that the “principal thing the Hospice Movement needs is continued support.”
Cllr. Liam Ahearn (Fine Gael) in a moving delivery said - “I have experienced the valuable and caring role of the South Tipperary Hospice personnel in my own home. Their presence was the difference between the impossible and the tolerable. When a loved one is facing inevitable death, many emotions come into play. There is anger, fear, sadness and general confusion, each of which adds its own particular sorrow to the mix. Having people calling who are experienced in these situations, who know what to say and do, makes a huge contribution to successfully coping with the difficulties of the time.”
Cllr. Seanie Lonergan (Labour) said there wasn’t a family in the land who haven’t been affected or who haven’t availed of the services of the Hospice Movement.
Cllr. Denis Leahy (Independents Group) congratulated the organisation “for their continual dedication to the people of County Tipperary and also for the administration of decency, dignity and comfort they offer to us at the most critical time in our lives.”
Referring to STHM he went on to say “they walk with us on our final and difficult journey and we know that like the words of the Liverpool anthem - and with them - we will never walk alone either.”
Cllr. Billy Shoer (WUAG) thanked all the ordinary people of South Tipperary for their voluntary work over many many years. He told the attendance of how his own father had been affected by cancer and how his family had experienced, first hand, the tremendous work of the Hospice Movement at the end of life stage. It was his father’s wish to be kept at home and it is the wish of very many to end their days at home and die with their families. This Hospice Movement gives great comfort and consolation in these difficult times, he added.
Cllr. Michael FitzGerald then formally presented the scroll to Majella O’Donoghue on behalf of the STHM.
In reply, on behalf of the Hospice Movement volunteers, Phil Kehoe acknowledged the appreciation of the organisation in receiving the award. She said it was great to have all areas here together in the one place tonight and went on to describe the volunteers as “a brilliant movement we should all be proud of.”
Dr. Sam Kingston who spoke on behalf of the chairperson, Brendan O’Keeffe, who unfortunately could not be present, said “Friday, April 6, 1990 marked the official launch of the South Tipperary Hospice Movement. Dr. Marie Ryan Carew, the then chairperson, described the launch as ‘a very special occasion for South Tipperary’.”
Dr Kingston said that “this movement brings peace, serenity and dignity at a very sensitive time in people’s lives.” The movement supports the care of people with cancer, motor neurone disease and AIDS.
From 1991 the Hospice Movement in South Tipp had grown from two nurses then to six nurses at present, led by Anne Grace.
On a slightly downbeat note Dr. Kingston went on to say. “The South Tipperary Hospice Movement is a voluntary movement (all the officers and committee of South Tipperary Hospice Movement are unpaid) which receives a small amount of funding from the Health Board. The amount of funding from the Health Board is decreasing. It costs €600,000 to run the movement and we receive a grant of just over €232,000 from the Health Board. The balance therefore is made up by the very generous donations of the local populations. We are particularly grateful for the extraordinary generosity of the people of South Tipperary/West Waterford.”
Also in attendance on the night were Oireachtas members Deputy Tom Hayes and Deputy Mattie McGrath, numerous County Council members from throughout South Tipperary, and both the Mayors of Tipperary and Carrick-on-Suir Town Councils, Councillor Jacqui Kinehan-Finnan and Patsy Fitzgerald, respectively.
The two Hospice Nurses with South Tipperary Hospice Movement when the service commenced in 1991 were Kathleen Murray and Dympna Mangan (founders).
Today, 22 years later, the Hospice Movement nurses under the leadership of Anne Grace are: Nora Lyne, Ann O’Shea, Kathleen Murray, Mary MacNamara, Susanne Collins and Aisling Fanning.