The death of Maurice Nelligan will touch the minds and hearts of people all over
Ireland and abroad. The readers of the Irish Times have lost a contributor who brought
the reader into his life with a warmth and simplicity of style yet he did not hold
back from criticism when he saw unjust and senseless policy especially in health.
How many of us each Tuesday felt like we were actually walking with him on a stroll
round his favourite spot in Kerry seeing the sights and hearing the sounds which
he was hearing? How many of us imagined ourselves in that household, hearing his
HA (his wife, Pat, whom he obviously loved so dearly) laying out the orders for the
day? How many of us laughed at his description of normal family life happenings,
which we ourselves had experienced in our own lives at one time or another? How many
of us nodded approval at his condemnation of the way things were ‘reconfigured’ and
planned in the modern Health Service? How many of us nodded agreement when he criticised
‘the powers that be’ for the poor leadership? How many of us felt his pain at the
loss of his daughter in such tragic circumstances? How many of us were touched by
the serene, humble and Christian manner he displayed throughout that difficult time?
How many patients of his will remember his care and skills and the new life he brought
to them? How many others have gained from his pioneering work and legacy in heart
surgery? How many nurses and doctors remember marvelling at his ability and his knowledge?
We could go on an on as he touched so many lives in so many different ways but from
our point of view we have lost an honest advocate. We have lost a friend who has
championed our cause tirelessly and at every opportunity, not because he was doing
it for us but because he was convinced that it was for the betterment of patient
care. When he retired he had time to step back and look at what was really happening
in the health services and he did not like what he saw. He knew that policy was being
influenced by the wrong interests. He visited Monaghan Hospital and studied the Medical
Audit which had been carried out there in 2007/2008 and was more convinced than ever
of the important role that Monaghan, and hospitals like it, needed to play in the
provision of health care to its people.
He was also anxious for change and reform but for him that had to start at the top
with the administrators and policy makers. Then so-called Centres of Excellence could
be built up and then, and only then, we might be able to centralise safely and for
patient benefit but certainly not by the route being taken by the present movers
He was in constant demand by commentators and he rarely refused. He never refused
a request from the Health Services Action Group (HSAG) and he was a great supporter
of the Alliance campaign in Monaghan, as displayed by his contribution at the Alliance
Meeting in the Four Seasons Hotel, Monaghan, in 2008.
We in Monaghan have lost a good friend. The patients of Monaghan and Ireland have
lost a good friend. The authorities in Health have lost a good adviser and guide
if they had listened. Most of all, his wife and family have lost a major part of
their lives, and they will miss him most. To them we offer our sincerest sympathy.