“Nationally, we owe a huge debt to Mary Redmond and the Irish Hospice Foundation. Mary’s vision was to make hospice care ordinary; not in its quality but in its quantum in Ireland,” – An Taoiseach Enda Kenny
Dr Mary Redmond, 64 died on Easter Monday last year. The corporate lawyer, academic, social entrepreneur and author founded The Irish Hospice Foundation (IHF) 30 years ago. Last Friday, The Irish Hospice Foundation’s Evening of Celebration and Remembrance – The Dr Mary Redmond gala Dinner – was held at the 5* Intercontinental Hotel, Dublin.
An Taoiseach, who was Guest of Honour, continued his tribute at the gala dinner: “Mary was an intellectual, an author, an artist, a legal mind, a board member, deputy governor of the Bank of Ireland and a Fellow of Cambridge.
“All the way through life you meet people who stand out and they make a mark for whatever reason. There’s something about them that makes a difference to you and that’s what I felt about Mary Redmond when I met her for the first time,” the Taoiseach said.
RTÉ Prime Time presenter Miriam O’Callaghan also paid tribute to the “extraordinary” founder of the IHF as the woman she most wanted to be like when she was a teenage girl. Miriam is an IHF ambassador and made her tribute at the gala dinner.
“I was a law student in UCD and I always remember the first day in my lectures, this exquisitely beautiful woman walked into the room. I was 16 and she was probably no more than 24 or 25. It was Mary Redmond. She was lecturing in UCD in law and she wasn’t just the most beautiful woman I had ever seen, she was the most intelligent, she was the most brilliant and at that moment, I thought; ‘I want to be like Mary Redmond.’
“I could never be that, but she was one extraordinary woman. She shaped me as a young woman, as a 16 year old.”
Miriam lost her own sister Anne, aged 33 to cancer. She said: “In a way death has touched us all. That’s why the Irish Hospice Foundation and what Mary Redmond did matters so much.”
Dr Redmond set up the IHF after the death of her father Sean at Our Lady’s Hospice in Harold’s Cross in 1985. At the time there were only three hospices in Ireland and she felt strongly that hospice care should be available to all that needed it.
Dr Redmond’s son Patrick Ussher spoke to guests about his mother’s own philosophy on life and her courage at end-of-life.
“She said there were three important things in life; to love, to live and to leave a legacy.
Of these love for her father from whom this advice originally came drove her to found the Irish Hospice Foundation.”
Mr Ussher said when his mother was diagnosed “with a form of cancer that carried a very short life expectancy she made a very courageous decision, to surrender her fears to God and to live.”
He added: “Everyone has their own way of dealing with terminal illness and these must be respected. But hers was to give the illness no time, to give it no power or control over her in any way. She did not discuss it with others, and she was determined to be something much more than a diagnosis and this was a decision that took enormous bravery.”
Mr Ussher said she focused her energies instead on doing things that were meaningful to her like spending time with her family and friends, writing books and deepening her faith.”
Mr Ussher added: “Nearly every day without fail she would spend an hour in silent meditation. This practice gave her an internal strength but also a simple spirit of joy in the sheer fact of being alive. I could see the resolution develop in her that no matter how hard life was both physically and emotionally being alive was nevertheless worth every second. She would often say every moment is so precious.”
IHF chairperson Jean McKiernan said the organisation remains “loyal” to Dr Redmond’s vision and strives for the best care at end of life for everyone.
Dr Redmond began teaching law at University College Dublin at 19 years old. She also studied at Oxford and obtained her Ph.D at Cambridge. She went on to become Fellow and Dean of Studies in Law at Christ’s College Cambridge and was elected an Honorary Fellow. She became the leading academic on Irish labour law and published extensively. She set up her own firm in the mid 1980s in Ireland and subsequently merged her firm with Arthur Cox. She sat on the board of the RTE Authority and served consecutive terms on the Labour Relations Commission.