By Adhamhnan O Suilleabhain
The trauma of the 1916 Rising, the War of Independence and the bitter Civil War that followed ensured that full accounts of what happened remained firmly off the curriculum in Irish schools for many decades, since the rupture was considered too close in time and the pain still lingered on in living memory.
Many who had fought in those extraordinary years understood the scale of the devastation and refrained from discussing it on the street, in the media or even at home for years themselves.
Because of this, many Irish children grew up without a clear sense of who their parents or their grandparents had been in their lives. They were instead left to piece together their suppressed histories from newspaper clippings, eye witness accounts and snatched bits of conversation they may have overheard growing up.
At times it must have felt as if the whole nation had conspired to cheat them of their past. The theft, if you could call it that, was not small -- if you don’t know where you’re from, you may not know exactly who you are or where you’re going, after all.
In his remarkable new study of the life and career of his grandfather, editor and journalist Adhamhnan O Suilleabhain has undertaken a formidable reclamation, writing a biography of his grandfather Domhnall ua Buachalla.
Cultural nationalist, Gaelic Leaguer, friend of Patrick Pearse and rebel leader, ua Buachalla armed the volunteers of Maynooth and he marched them to the GPO on Easter Monday night.
Following an eight-month spell in Frongoch jail, he ran in the 1918 election and took a seat in the First Dail (Parliament) for North Kildare. After the Civil War his fortunes rose with Fianna Fail’s when they came to power in 1927.
In 1932 Eamon de Valera appointed him governor-general in a move calculated to see the odious Oath of Allegiance to the British Crown abolished. By 1936 ua Buachalla successfully signed the bill to abolish the post of governor-general, and with it the oath.
But it’s the personal as well as political salvaging act that O Suilleabhain undertakes that will most impress the reader. He gives us a portrait of the man in full, whose service to the emerging nation demands this comprehensive portrait.
Merrion Press, $22.97.
"An Unfinished Tapestry"
By Kevin M. Cahill, M.D.Health care in a state the size of New York always threatens to become a depersonalized and blunt instrument in the hands of the various governmental factions that seek to wield it as a political chip.
Pushing back against that vote-catching tendency to create a vision of public health that finds imaginative working solutions to complex issues requires vision and a set of guiding principles that we don’t usually associate with our state governance.
That’s where the work of Dr. Kevin M. Cahill comes in. During one of the most crisis-hit eras in the history of New York in the 1970s he brought perspective, clarity and insight to the intractable healthcare problems besetting the state.
Appointed by the New York governor in 1974 when both the city and state were nearing bankruptcy, Cahill became the first so-called health czar, directing 80,000 public employees delivering services to the states 18 million people.
Crucially, Cahill understood that patient care should remain a physician’s primary focus, especially in an age when organization and payment were becoming the obsessive focus.
In An Unfinished Tapestry Cahill reprises the observations he made in a publication called Threads for a Tapestry 35 years ago. The issues that were discussed then have remained remarkably current. “A dysfunctional healthcare system that was plagued by runaway costs, labor strife, fraud and program imbalance,” all played their parts, Cahill writes.
Then, as now, with the cost of health services “soaring out of reach, government had a clear obligation to assure reasonable access to essential services and to regulate their quality, quantity and cost,” he writes.
Pugnaciously, Cahill adds that he sees no reason to apologize for government intervention in these matters, insisting that it would have been “utterly irresponsible to return to the passive practices of the past.”
So An Unfinished Tapestry is a quietly passionate appraisal of the challenges and opportunities facing the state’s health care system to this day by an distinguished individual who understands the focus and mission of healthcare is the patient and who passes on the wisdom of his experience in this articulate and deeply insightful book.
North Shore University Press.