Sunday, October 14, 2007

Droch-Lá-Susie leaves us

This is a sad way to return to blogging after another break, but yesterday we got the news that Ireland's bravest woman, Susie Long had lost her battle with bowel cancer. I knew Susie from about town over the past couple of years, and first met her at a gig in Ó Riada's pub about three years ago. Susie was a great music fan, and my abiding memory of her will be the night I shared my colleague Malcolm Noonan's back seat with Suzie on the way back from Bruce Springsteen's magical Seeger Sessions concert in the Point Depot last Novemember. Like the rest of us, Susie indulged in a bag of chips in Inchicore, although she knew that with her illness it would cause her pain the next day. It was the fact that she, like my 15 year old son Fionn, Malcolm, Kairon and myself, were on the ultimate musical high after a truly uplifting gig that will stand in the memory.

Of course it was as Rosie on the Joe Duffy show on RTÉ Radio One that Susie became a national person of influence. Her honest and painful retelling of the story of her delayed treatment as a result of her lack of private health insurance struck a note with everybody who heard it or read the transcript afterwards. Suzie was not looking for personal sympathy, but through her anger at what she knew was her imminent passing, was fighting to ensure that an unfair and appalling health system would not claim others. If you haven't heard the original clip, here is the transcript, or here is the podcast.

In the months since Susie has borne her illness with great dignity, and was delighted to be in attendance in St.Luke's hospital to see the plans for the long-awaited day services unit which will be dedicated to her memory, and indeed her fighting spirit.

Susie was a life-long political fighter and gave so much to her adopted Kilkenny. I was privileged to have known her, although not as deeply as I would have liked. To Conor Macliam, her husband, and to Fergus and Aine, her beloved kids, my sympathies. As she annouced to the nation in an icredible interview with the Sunday Tribune recently. Even more enlightening was the short interview she gave to Miriam O' Callaghan on Primetime, which you can access here.Susie's body will be cremated today Monday, and a memorial service will be held in her memory on Friday.I believe we must honour Susie's memory in a concrete way. One is to continue the fight for decent cancer services for all. Another is to work for a proper hospice in Kilkenny. For now we just miss you Susie, and hope that your battle inspires us all to keep on fighting.