May 19th 2012
We lost a good man this week, a very good man. Tom McNamara had just delivered a load of stone to Charleville from the Concrete, Sand & Gravel business in Ballyhea he and his brother Denis had developed over the decades (latterly also with his son, Tommy), had returned to pick up another load when he got a phone call. He was down in the pit at the time, the call was breaking up, he climbed up onto the road for better reception and dropped, dead before he hit the ground.
There was no sign, no warning. He was 66 and drawing the old-age pension (the first time in his life he ever got something for nothing and boy, was he a little bemused about that!) but Tom was never a day sick in his life, still immensely strong and able, a powerhouse of a man. He died as he had lived, in harness, working hard. He had seen good times and bad but his attitude had remained constant – keep the chin up, look life in the eye, endure whatever it throws at you but above all embrace it, enjoy it.
He was a positive man. His life was defined by ethics, by morality. He had the courage to take the hard decisions, to work his way through whatever hardship then followed. A devoted family-man, non-drinker all his life, many years ago he lost his wife Catherine after she had suffered (with great stoicism, humour and courage) a long and debilitating illness. It was a huge blow but – as with every other blow throughout his life – it was absorbed and controlled, no self-pity ever displayed.
Along with Denis, Tom McNamara was a pillar of our community, hugely respected by all who knew him. And yet – as with Denis – he was neither shy nor slow about being seen marching with us in our protest against the bank bondholder bailout. And he WAS seen, a striking figure, standing out from the crowd with his shock of white hair.
The most surprising thing about his presence, however – both Tom and Denis McNamara are from a staunch Fine Gael family, blue to the marrow. He was grassroots Fine Gael, had never forgotten nor neglected the original ethic of that party. Likewise there are grassroots Labour and grassroots Fianna Fáil out there who have never forgotten nor neglected the original ethic of their own political party. In their personal lives courage is what governs their decision-making; fear is a factor but the governing factor; it is over-ruled by courage, by ethics, by morality, doing what’s right as opposed to doing what is expedient.
They, and not the puny, phoney and false people now leading Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour (along with the Uncle Tom union leadership), are the real representatives of those parties. The near one million households representing nearly two million voters who did NOT register before the deadline for that recent Household Charge and were thus criminalised by this government, you think they didn’t include grassroots Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael/Labour? Yet their objections, Tom’s objections, are dismissed by the likes of Enda, Eamon, Michael, Brendan, Leo, Pat and the rest.
Recently on this blog there was a piece which made some headlines on our meeting with a local TD; if that now becomes a witch-hunt against one TD it misses the point – they are all out of touch with the grassroots of all society. With their exorbitant salaries and expenses they have insulated themselves from the decisions they are taking that so affect most of us; with those decisions they have isolated themselves from their own people, aligned themselves instead with those who are doing us down.
Like the rest of us who march in protest Tom was utterly opposed to the bank bondholder bailout, he was also utterly opposed to the many hardship measures now being imposed on us by the troika to facilitate that bailout. He didn’t march as often with us as does Denis – the last time I spoke to him was at the massive anti-Household Charge protest at the Fine Gael Árd-Fheis in Dublin. But he was strong, and very strong, in his objections, and he was supportive. Phil Ryan recalls an incident at one of our sit-down protests when Tom – as gentle a man as you could imagine – went to have a word with an impatient truck-driver who was tooting his horn, invited him in very certain terms to desist; he did.
He was a joy to know, he will be missed. His life, his death, won’t be marked in the major media but we in this little warrior band will do what we can; this Sunday in Ballyhea, our 64th weekly protest, we will march also in honour of the memory of Tom McNamara. We invite those of you who feel as he did and who feel as we do about the immorality of the bank bondholder bailout, to join us. 11.30am outside Ballyhea church, this Sunday morning.