Unity Walk

Anthony O'Malley Daly leading Unity Walk, 11 April 2013Anthony O’Malley Daly Leads Parkinson’s Unity Walk in Dublinpublished in The Donegal Democrat, 18 April 2013


Anthony wanted to be part of the Unity Walk on World Parkinson’s Awareness Day as soon as he heard about it. His wife Mary agreed to accompany Anthony for the event. On the advice of Anthony’s son-in-law John Meehan, I contacted Patsy Quinn, whose van is equipped with a wheelchair lift. We measured Anthony’s four-wheeled mobility scooter and found that it would fit. We all confirmed our availability for the date and time, but I still worried. Where would we park in Dublin? Were the scooter batteries strong enough for hours of movement around Dublin streets? What would we do if it rained?

We arrived at 11:00 am, an hour before the Unity Day ceremonies were scheduled to begin. We were relieved to find that the O’Callaghan Davenport Hotel was outfitted with access ramps, a flat lobby, and lifts that were big enough for a scooter plus two standing passengers. We put up posters and displayed copies of Anthony’s autobiography TRILOGY, and we all wore the bright yellow-and-green jerseys that Diamond Sign Printing had produced for the occasion.

After the usual pre-event jitters – the video projector wouldn’t work until the last minute – Keith Adams, CEO of the Parkinson’s Association of Ireland, welcomed the 100-plus attendees and introduced Pat O’Rourke, Chair of the PAI. O’Rourke was so impressed with Anthony’s slogan printed on the advertising poster for TRILOGY that he read it out to the group: “I Have Parkinson’s, But Parkinson’s Does Not Have Me.”

The pre-Unity Walk programme included the launch of a Parkinson-themed song and video by the Voice of Hope Choir. Anthony danced with one of the women in the choir.

Legendary singer-songwriter Shay Healy spoke movingly of the slow loss of his voice to Parkinson’s Disease – the tremors, the increasing tendency to stammer.

Everyone took part in a series of warm-up exercises to prepare for the cool rainy walk. We reassembled outside the hotel, where a police motorcycle and a cadre of officers stopped the mid-day Dublin traffic. Three kilted pipers struck up a marching tune, and the group headed toward St Stephen’s Green. A dozen photographers, cameramen, and reporters from the national media recorded our progress. PAI’s Keith Adams gestured for Anthony to move his scooter up to the front of the parade, and he took his place in the centre of the street alongside the police motorcycle.

Inside the gates of St Stephen’s Green, the organisers announced that An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny and the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Naoise O Muiri had been delayed at the Dail. We entertained ourselves with singing, set dancing, and more exercises on the pathways of the Green. PAI members and friends spontaneously shared stories of dealing with Parkinson’s Disease. An ebullient well-dressed man said, “I can cope well enough on a day like this. It’s when I’m lying awake at three o’clock in the morning that I curse my luck.”

The Taoiseach and the Lord Mayor joined the Unity Walk for the last hundred yards to the tree-planting site. To the delight of the participants, they stayed to chat at length with individual marchers. Anthony presented the Taoiseach with a jersey emblazoned with his “I Have Parkinson’s, But Parkinson’s Does Not Have Me” motto.

While World Parkinson’s Awareness Day drew the hoped-for media attention to raise awareness of the disease, it also demonstrated the emotional aspect of neurological disorders. People who face the slow degenerative decline of Parkinson’s get a genuine and much-needed lift from companionship and recognition. The energy and excitement of the Unity Walk put a spring in the step of the marchers on their long roads home.

For more information on Parkinson’s Disease, or to donate towards the PAI’s fund-raising drive for services, log onto www.parkinsons.ie or contact the Parkinson’s Association of Ireland Helpline 1 800 359 359.

Photo by Jenny Barker Photography, Dublin, courtesy of the Parkinson’s Association of Ireland.