Rita Childers

Rita Childers, the former First Lady of the Republic of Ireland was a person that is hard to forget. I knew her as a step daughter-in-law and later we had become friends. I had many occasions in the 70’s and 80’s to spend time with her as a house guest, along with my late husband and son, both Erskine’s. We always looked forward to visits at Rita’s house. Our summer afternoons with her were often spent walking up the hills above Lough Tay and then picnics thereafter around Wicklow. Rita loved her grandchildren and spent as much time with them as possible. When my son was a young boy, she took him to feed the ducks in the pond nearby her house. She also loved taking him on walks through the grounds of Powerscourt, the old Slazenger Estate. I remember well, the joy of our getting together at Christmas in 1973 with the rest of the Childers family at Aras an Uachtarain in Phoenix Park. My father-in-law, Erskine Hamilton Childers had then only recently been elected President. Years later, when we were both widows, I continued to visit her. I have so many fond memories of our long walks on the sprawling green campus grounds of UCD (University College of Dublin, Belfield), close to her home. Our talks covered everything under the sun, and those who knew Rita can testify to the enormous scope of her experiences and memories. Rita was fascinating and charming. She engaged anyone in discussion. That was a key part of her character. With routines learned during her Press Attache days, long into her seventies, she read the Irish daily newspapers from page one to the end; religiously, every morning at breakfast. By that evening she would be ready to discuss with us the issues and politics of the day over long dinners. Rita believed in the complete participation of women in politics. She said that women should speak their minds especially on the issues of peace and good governance. In 1976, my friend, Elizabeth Reid, and I went to Ireland; a stop-over, after attending an SID (Society for International Development) Conference held in Amsterdam. I phoned Rita ahead of time and told her that we wanted to join the Women’s Peace March, organized by Betty Williams and Miread Corrigan. These women were two Irish Nobel Peace Prize winners, and founders of the Northern Ireland Peace Movement; joining Protestants and Catholics. We were invited by the Irish women NGO’s in New York to come and join the march ending at the summit of the bridge spanning the River Boyne; symbolizing unity. Rita invited both of us to stay at her house in Donnybrook. She was delighted that we came and decided to join us on our journey up north. This peace march was also meant to be the olive branch between the North and South of Ireland; at that time in considerable turmoil. Because of Rita’s First Lady status, and my friend and I being just ordinary participants; we soon found ourselves surrounded by the Garda in escort. We traveled in a police car to the bridge to join the marchers at the front row with other VIPs and politicians. An exciting day for us all. One thing about Rita that shouldn’t be forgotten is all of her lengthly and exhaustive community outreach and activities. Through her favorite local Parish, she joined many local charities; helping the poor, needy and mother’s in need. When Rita Childers passed last weekend on the ninth of May, Ireland as a country, lost a gracious national voice, that will never be forgotten. Like her many friends and large extended family, we will all miss her “joie de vivre”, her kindness and her warm friendship. My relationship with her lasted over three decades, and it will be cherished by me always. The following photographs taken of her, were from our numerous times together, and I hope will reveal another side of Rita that the public may not know. Rest in peace, my dear friend.

Comments (1)

WAYNE KINESOctober 13th, 2013 at 12:32 PM

Thanks MALICA. A wonderful, insightful and inspiring tribute!
Hoping to see you again and hear news of ERSKINE IV.

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