Sir, – Hearing of the death of Mary Banotti reminded me of a morning walking the streets of Dublin with her a lifetime ago (“‘Trailblazer’ former Fine Gael MEP Mary Banotti has died”, News, May 11th). We met very early in the morning, wearing sensible shoes, knowing what lay ahead. We were both nurses and she wanted to see how we were working with homeless people and how she could help us. She was a wise and humble woman with an enquiring mind. It was a long morning, with no mobile phone distractions. We visited the many hospital casualty departments, the hostels, night-shelters, day centres and met people from all sections of the community en route. We met homeless people going to work in the gardens of better-off people, and some going to court where the judge was on first-name terms with them. We met friendly gardaí, often well known to the people we worked with. Some people were slipping in and out of the “early houses”. We spent time walking through the grounds of St Brendan’s Hospital meeting people lost in their own thoughts, and others spoke simply about institutional life. She listened intently and treated everyone with respect. She was interested to know how I ended up where I was and was most interested in my Tipperary roots where there was a huge emphasis on our shared community responsibility. She wore a pair of my mother’s hand-knitted gloves until they fell apart!

We exchanged correspondence over the years and we met last a few years ago and I was so pleased to thank her once again for her encouragement. I wonder what she would think of today’s Ireland? I am sure she would say “We live in a great little country” and “Yes we can”. – Yours, etc,


Director of Services, Alice Leahy Trust