THE founder of one of Cork’s best-known charities outlined how her pioneering mum inspired the organisation in a touching revelation during Nursing Homes Week.
Fiona Corcoran began The Greater Chernobyl Cause in response to the world’s most devastating nuclear disaster.
The organisation has since expanded its mission to provide aid and support for Ukrainian international protection applicants.
While Fiona has been making a difference to countless lives since 1986, she insists it all started with her mother Máire Corcoran, a much-loved resident at Riverstick Care Centre.
At almost 89, she is also the oldest volunteer with the Greater Chernobyl Cause.
Fiona paid tribute to her mother to mark Nursing Homes Week which takes place all this week. The theme for the 2022 celebrations is “coming together” with gatherings taking place across Cork city and county to celebrate nursing homes and their inspiring residents.
Speaking about what makes her mother special, Fiona said:“She was seven years old in North Pres and donating money for babies in Africa. The nun told her that ‘what you give on to God you give on to me and your fellow brethren’.”
Fiona’s mum admits that she had no understanding of the word “brethren”. Nonetheless, she appreciated the nun’s sentiment which set her on a lifelong path to improve the lives of those less fortunate.
“Mum married my dad Eamonn back in 1959. He was a great republican socialist and they both served people all their lives. They were great humanitarians.”
She described the nature of the couple’s voluntary work.
“I can still remember shaking a box on the street on Flag Day when I was just eight years old. Mum and dad were involved in an organisation on the North Mall called Between. It was a hostel where women would come to have time away from warfare. You might say it was a little like what is happening now with our Ukrainian mothers and children. With Between it didn’t matter who the woman was.
"They could have been the wife of someone in prison affiliated with the UVF or IRA. None of that made a difference because there was no judgement and Cork was always seen as a sanctuary”.
A life-altering moment on a trip to Paris with her mum was part of what prompted Fiona to pursue her charitable work.
“We came across a woman living on the streets,” Fiona recalled.
“She had children with her and that upset mum and I very much. I can remember how mum removed the tweed coat she was wearing and placed it over the woman. She was the epitome of kindness and selflessness. It was mum who inspired me to follow the path in life that I have.”
Máire has always been a force to be reckoned with, she said.
“Mum was always writing letters to the editor of The Echo. She would have taken on any minister or political party.”
Even as an older woman, Máire was always determined to fight for others.
“She couldn’t stand seeing people in wheelchairs and mothers with buggies unable to get on to the beach in Fountainstown. She lobbied and lobbied until a ramp was finally introduced.”
Máire has fond memories of training as a nurse near Coventry back in the 1950s.
Caring for patients back then — Máire explained — came with very different challenges.
Despite the pressures of her job at the time, Máire never lost her caring streak.
“Mum is the kindest person you will ever meet”, Fiona said.
To find out more about the Greater Chernobyl Cause visit www.greaterchernobylcause.ie/.