Just Mary : a memoir by Mary O’Rourke

I found this Mary O’Rourke autobiography an entertaining read. O’Rourke is one of the best known Fianna Fail politicians of the last thirty years or so. A woman renowned for her frankness, she opted not to run for the Irish presidency because she would have felt “too corralled and hemmed in” by not being able to speak her mind.
O’Rourke’s memoir, Just Mary is conversational fast and readable romp through a career in Irish politics which saw her serve in a number of Government departments including stints in Education, Health and Public Enterprise.
O’Rourke trained as a teacher before embarking on her political career. Charles Haughey — whose reputation she believes “will be burnished to a degree which  is difficult to envisage now”– gave her a major break when he appointed her Minister for Education in 1987: “To this day, the things which interests me most in the media and in current affairs are matters of educational interest.
It is striking that O’Rourke sustained a thirty-year career in politics at a time when so few women have succeeded in making a career in Irish public life.


Her insights into her political peers — Haughey, MacSharry, Spring, Reynolds, McCreevy, Cowan, Ahern — are interesting in that they are personal even if they provide little information that is not already well known.
It’s also interesting to read what she has to say about some of the Fianna Fail policies that are now seen as having contributed to Ireland’s economic downturn. Benchmarking, for example, she says  “quickly became an obsessive and ridiculous giant beyond our control” (Chapter 16) and later, in Chapter 22 she comments: “If I were to pick out one other key area of governmental transgression of the years preceding the downturn, it would be the policy of decentralisation.”
Alongside the p0litics, Just Mary is frank and open about O’Rourke’s personal life. She discusses  her love for her late husband Enda, the difficulties she had in her twenties  in conceiving and, later, her sadness at the loss of her brothers and her nephew, Brian Lenihan. O’Rourke comes across as a warm, straight talking, family-oriented woman in a memoir that is a fast and enjoyable read.
Just Mary: a memoir by Mary O’Rourke is published by  Gill & Macmillan.  ISBN-10: 0717154092. ISBN-13: 978-0717154098