Appreciation: Gobnait O’Connell
If one is very lucky in life you will meet and have as a friend, and colleague,
someone like Gobnait OConnell. She was simply one of a kind and this is why the whole of the Irish Nurses Organisation remains in mourning at her loss.
Wherever she went or whatever she did Gobnait had the ability to touch everyone she met. Her infectious good humour together with her razor sharp Cork wit was only matched by her determination, integrity and absolute commitment to her work,her friends and her colleagues.
Since her passing, the INO Head Office has been inundated with calls from
members whom she knew through her work as a nurse representative and as a fulltime official. In parallel with this I have spoken with countless people from other trade unions, government departments and the world of politics who, without exception, speak of her good humour, honesty and effectiveness in finding a solution to whatever issue confronted her.
From her earliest days as an INO representative in the South Infirmary, Gobnait was wholly committed to protecting and enhancing the environment within which nurses work. Playing second fiddle to anyone or
anything was not acceptable to Gobnait but she always pursued her objectives in a manner which never made enemies or soured personal relationships. This was truly a remarkable gift.
Many of us can vividly recall seeing Gobnait at the microphone, at successive Annual Conferences, fearlessly stating that the Organisation must never stop seeking positive changes which would fully recognise the nursing/midwifery contribution to healthcare. It is ironic that in her last year she spent every working moment realising these changes with total
The warmth and esteem in which she was personally and professionally held by everyone in this Organisation was perfectly demonstrated at our Annual Conference last May, when she received a standing ovation from all of the delegates. This followed my introduction of the Minister as the man who was accompanying Ms Gobnait OConnell on her tour of the Western counties. I think this really pleased her but it was only what she deserved.
There are so many stories and tales involving Gobnait that a humorous book could well be written so that many more people could learn of and appreciate the beautiful person we have lost. On a personal level I have so many memories but, perhaps, the most vivid now is meeting with her on Friday, September 8 in her office in the Department of Health (I did refer to it as the royal summons), and, during the conversation, she told me how she loved the job and was very busy but very happy.
In my mind there is no doubt that the last eight months as adviser to the Minister for Health, Michel Martin, had been the most satisfying period of her life. She loved the job, meeting the people and main players and moving the health and nursing agenda forward. In this role she was a bundle of energy, bundle of trouble and bundle of solutions all at once and our working world will never be the same again.
Gobnaits removal and funeral mass, which was attended by the Taoiseach, the Tanaiste, cabinet ministers, TDs, county councillors, fellow nurses and friends from all around Ireland, was graphic testimony to her full, dynamic, successful and rewarding life. On a humorous note, as recalled by her brother Michael at her funeral, one of Gobnaits career highlights, as viewed by herself, was escorting the Taoiseach to the podium at the last Fianna Fail Ard Fheis. As she said herself: If I never get another man down the aisle I am a happy woman. This sharp wit made it a pure joy to be in her company.
Our thoughts and prayers are with Gobnaits mother Christina, her sister Bernie, brothers Donal and Michael, and all her family as they struggle to cope with their terrible loss. As for the rest of us, all I know is that our world is the poorer and darker as we approach the bleak winter. Never again will my mobile phone ring and I hear the bright voice saying How are we doing and are we winning?
Mrs OConnell has lost her daughter, nursing has lost one of its best and we have lost our Gobnait. May she rest in peace.
General Secretary Irish Nurses Organisation
The INO will hold a memorial mass for Gobnait on Tuesday, November 14, 2000 at 7pm at the Avila Spirituality Centre, Morehampton Road, Dublin 4 (Next door to the Royal Hospital, Donnybrook). All colleagues welcome to
celebrate the life of our loved friend.
Adviser was `a personal friend of Minister’
By EILISH O’REGAN
September 20 2000 12:11 AM
GOBNAIT O’ Connell who tragically died in yesterday’s horrific road smash was the personal adviser to Health Minister Micheal Martin, since he took over the office earlier this year.
Last night the Minister was said to be devested and deeply shocked by the untimely death of one of his closest political confidants.
“She was a personal friend of the Minister and his family as well as being a special advisor,” said a spokesperson for the Department of Health.
“Gobnait was a deeply committed public servant and everyone who knew and worked with her is numbed by her death,” he added.
The energetic and talented Cork-born former nurse had already made her mark in health politics which is rarely free of controversy.
Gobnait (35), from Cullen, Millstreet, left her nursing post in Cork to become an industrial relations officer with the Irish Nurses Organisation.
She loved the cut and thrust of being part of the the largest nurses’ union and achieved success in intervening and solving disputes.
Her love of politics and Fianna Fail saw her take her annual leave three years ago to canvass for Michael Moynihan, who was elected to Cork North West.
Gobnait’s campaign contribution was seen a key role in his election and she decided to take a career break to work in the Fianna Fail head office in Dublin. She became membership secretary and was in charge of womens’ organisation.
She was tipped as a future general secretary of the party and when the current Health Minister took over last January he asked her to become his adviser.
Ms O’Connell was involved in the negotiations on the issue of legal fees for the Irish Haemophilia Society which threatened to delay the Lindsay Tribunal.
Her strengths were a warm personality and having worked in the frontline of the health service she knew the pressures faced by those caring for patients.
Yesterday she was at the Minister’s side when he addressed unions in Tullamore and a key adviser on his speech.
Liam Doran of the Irish Nurses Organisation said last night: “The whole of the INO is in mourning at the tragic loss of Gobnait. She was our Gobnait.”
Taoiseach mourns at adviser Gobnait’s funeral
September 23 2000 12:11 AM
TAOISEACH Bertie Ahern was among the many hundreds of mourners at the funeral of Government adviser Gobnait O’Connell (38).
Mr Ahern joined with Tanaiste Mary Harney and Government Ministers Micheal Martin and Noel Dempsey to pay their last respects.
Hundreds of mourners sympathised with Ms O’Connell’s mother, Christina, sister Bernadette and brothers, Michael and Donal.
Ms O’Connell from Derrinagree in North Cork was killed in a road accident near Kinnegad in Co Westmeath on Wednesday.
Yesterday mourners heard local Derrinagree priest Father Sean Hannafin urge people to remember the good she had done.
“Her tragic death should not be allowed to wipe out the wonderful memories of Gobnait’s life,” said Fr Hannafin.
Ms O’Connell was buried at St Mary’s cemetery, Millstreet, following the funeral Mass at Derrinagree parish church.
Each year, the Gobnait O’Connell Award for best Fianna Fáil Ógra unit