Long way from here

Watch­ing her friends die young gave sen­a­tor Lynn Ruane the drive to ex­pe­ri­ence life, moth­er­hood and ed­u­ca­tion at a young age, writes Pa­trick Freyne

The Irish Times Magazine - - COVER STORY -

Sen­a­tor Lynn Ruane t ells me about the tat­toos on her arms. There’s a rose for Jenny, a child­hood friend who died in a road ac­ci­dent when they were in their early teens. She and an­other friend told the tat­tooist that they were 18. Her daugh­ter Jor­danne’s name is be­neath the Rose and above that you can also see, now par­tially ob­scured, the name of Jor­danne’s fa­ther, Alan. On her other arm there’s the fig­ure of St Christo­pher for her dad. “He used to say St Christo­pher was the pa­tron saint of trav­ellers, so when I went on my trav­els for days and he couldn’t find me, St Christo­pher would mind me.”

Above this there’s Badb the Celtic war god­dess. “She’s about trans­for­ma­tion, for me.”

There’s a poppy and a co­coa leaf which rep­re­sent her work with ad­dicts. Nearby are Me­dusa and Balor, a one- eyed Celtic mon­ster. “Ev­ery­body he looks at dies. [ When] all my f riends were dy­ing, I thought ‘ Oh my god, that’s me, I’m Balor.”

And the flow­ers – there are a lot of flow­ers – these rep­re­sent the months friends died and fam­ily mem­bers were born. There’s a glad­i­o­lus for Au­gust, to mark her daugh­ter Jor­danne’s birth. There are two snow­drops, for Jan­uary, be­cause her younger daugh­ter, Jae­lynne, was born then but it was also the month her friend John died in prison. She her­self was born in Oc­to­ber, she tells me, point­ing at a chrysan­the­mum. And her friends Curly, Tracy and Daithí died in Oc­to­ber. There are a lot of flow­ers. She has names for them all.

Ruane has writ­ten a fas­ci­nat­ing mem­oir. It’s called Peo­ple Like Me and in it she re- counts her jour­ney from the Kil­li­nar­den Es­tate in Tal­laght to Seanad Éire­ann. It’s not your typ­i­cal po­lit­i­cal mem­oir. Ruane finds it hard to see it as a “po­lit­i­cal” mem­oir at all. “I’m more con­nected to who I was than who I’m be­com­ing,” she says. “I light up more when I’m talk­ing about the younger years.”

When I ar­rive at the house where she has l i v e d o n a n d o f f s i n c e s h e w a s two- years- old, now with her mother and daugh­ters, she’s straight­en­ing her hair af­ter a morn­ing at the gym. We’re soon out in her car and she’s point­ing out places men­tioned in the book “to bring it to life a lit­tle bit.” She’s warm, in­sight­ful and funny. She’s also in­cred­i­bly open. Some­one once told her, she says, “You’re only as sick as your se­crets.”

The cul- de- sac was a won­der­ful place to grow up, filled with newly- moved young fam­i­lies. She re­calls her­self and her brother out play­ing rounders and “the odd game of IRA, where you got bat­tered” and she re­calls her dad cy­cling from town on “a lit­tle racer” with work to be com­pleted by her sewing ma­chin­ist mother. Her mother now works in the nearby Uchiya ther­mo­stat fac­tory. Her fa­ther died of Lewy body de­men­tia in 2013.

She may have al­ways had some is­sues with au­thor­ity, she says. She was told not to re­turn to preschool “be­cause I karate chopped some boy over a trac­tor”. In pri­mary school she had a run in with a cruel teacher who lied about her be­hav­iour and, she adds, with com­i­cal dis­gust “stopped me go­ing on School Around the Cor­ner!” When, years later, she dis­cov­ered Jor­danne was to have the same teacher, she

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.