The headline over Muiris Houston’s column about the late Prof James McCormick – “A great loss to medicine” – was very apt (Health Supplement, January 30th). He will also be missed for his work over many years with those who found themselves as outsiders in society.
Active in Trust since shortly after it was founded (in 1975), and serving as chairman for many years up to the time of his death, he always showed a remarkable empathy with those who found themselves homeless, and had a total disdain for naive and simple solutions that ignored the importance of putting the rights and feelings of people first.
James was radical in his thinking and was not afraid to disturb the consensus -and in that way he was challenging and inspiring. We greatly valued the leadership and support he provided at a time when it was so difficult to speak out as the pressures to conform were so great.
Perhaps from our perspective his legacy is that of someone who very much helped to establish what today is increasingly called a rights-based approach, with the most basic being the right to be treated first and foremost as a human being. He was always clear about how harsh society can be to those who are different, reminding us that those who are homeless “have often rejected the conventional values of society or have themselves been rejected. It is not surprising that many have been in prison or mental hospitals or both. In a society that is intolerant, imprisonment or admission to a mental hospital is the usual response.”
Muiris Houston concluded that James McCormick’s voice will be missed in the corridors of medicine. However, while we too will miss him, his inspiration, and the challenging approaches he encouraged will continue to motivate those of us committed to change.
ALICE LEAHY, Director & Co-Founder, Trust, Dublin 8.