'Don't call me grandma' - Mary O'Rourke marks National Grandparents Day

Mary O'Rourke plans to mark National Grandparents Day like any other. The former TD and Senator h...
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

16.16 6 Oct 2020

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'Don't call me grandma' - Mary...

'Don't call me grandma' - Mary O'Rourke marks National Grandparents Day

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

16.16 6 Oct 2020

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Mary O'Rourke plans to mark National Grandparents Day like any other.

The former TD and Senator has six grandchildren - ranging in age from 18 to eight - but just don't call her 'grandma'.

She told Lunchtime Live: "There's no 'grandma' or anything - I am Mary.


"It was so from the beginning, I don't know how it started.

"I have an 18-year-old in Dublin and a 17.5-year-old in Athlone, and between the two of them they set the example for others.

"But to each one, I am Mary - no other question".

"Oh I love it because people know me everywhere as Mary.

"When a younger child came along and he was trying to authoritative and he said 'We should call her grandma'.

"And the lady in Dublin said 'Oh no: she's Mary, everyone calls her Mary so that's why we're going to call her Mary'.

"So I'm very happy about that".

"I didn't initiate it at all - the children, as soon as they could begin to talk, called me Mary".

It comes as Alone - the organisation which supports older people - is asking members of the public to reach out to any older people in their lives on Tuesday October 6th: National Grandparents Day.

The purpose of the day is to honour grandparents, to show bond between grandparents and children and to help children and the public to celebrate and be aware of the strength, information, and guidance older people can offer.

On the coronavirus lockdown, Mary said: "The last few months are fine, it was the early lockdown - the March, April, May - that was awful.

"Now my son in Athlone would come in every night and he'd have food, dinner and all that for me.

"He would bring one or two of the children with him, they'd stay outside and laugh in the window at me and blow kisses and run around and all that.

"But I couldn't hold them tight, the way you kind of engulf a child.

"I couldn't do that, and I hated it. I loved to see them, but I just hated it

"Then we moved out of that and things got a bit better and now we can all talk and call and, so far anyway, meet."

'We're going to try and be positive'

Musician Paddy Cole has nine grandchildren - three in the US city of Boston, two in Calgary, Canada and four in Dublin.

He explained: "All of the grandchildren range from 18 down to five".

"They all looked after us during the lockdown, they came with food with their parents and all that sort of stuff and looked after us.

"The grandchildren call me Papi for some reason, I don't know why that is.

"But they call Helen 'Helen'... and Helen loves it as well".

Paddy said he was in regular touch with his grandchildren through Zoom and WhatsApp.

"We do that at the weekends, particularly to Canada and to Boston, and it's fantastic the new technology that we can keep in contact.

"But it's also disappointing in a way because my family from Canada and the family from Boston always came home for the summer - and they'll miss that, and Helen missed them coming home as well a lot".

"The other day I met in Herbert Park with my four grandchildren, and they stayed at a very safe distance.

"They wore the masks, they're very conscious of being careful and looking after everything like that".

He said they try not to dwell on when they will see their family from the US and Canada again.

"We're very positive and we're going to try and be positive about this.

"And I know there are terrible setbacks - things happen and you suddenly think we're out of the woods - and I think that's what happened with all the people, they got a bit careless.

"But we're firmly convinced that we've got to stick by the rules".

'Value of older people'

Seán Moynihan, CEO of Alone, said: "National Grandparents Day is celebrated each year to honour the special bond between grandparents and grandchildren.

"However, as some older people do not have grandchildren, Alone are encouraging members of the public to reach out and safely interact with older people in their lives through phone calls, socially distant visits or learning a new hobby together.

"People often underestimate the value of their time when it comes to older people.

"Spending just an hour or two a week with an older person can provide wonderful support and can greatly improve mental and physical wellbeing.

"In addition, older people have so knowledge and wisdom to share and have ability to guide shape and inspire us all".

He added: "Loneliness is a serious issue among older people which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19, and we believe the long-term mental health impacts of loneliness will continue to affect older people long after the pandemic has passed.

"Younger people have also lost the contacts they have with the older people in their lives and this impact is not to be under estimated.

"We are asking members of the public to get in touch with any older people in their lives who may be finding things difficult at the moment.

"It is important to maintain regular contact with older people, in a way that is safe and in line with the current health guidelines."

'Don't call me grandma' - Mary O'Rourke marks National Grandparents Day

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Main image: Mary O'Rourke arriving at the 2009 Fianna Fáil summer think-in at the Hodson Bay Hotel outside Athlone. Picture by: Eamonn Farrell/

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Alone Lunchtime Live Mary O'rourke National Grandparents Day Older People Paddy Cole Seán Moynihan

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