On International Women’s Day, Enda McNulty gives in insight into the strength, calmness and resilience shown by his mother in an extreme pressure situation.

On International Women’s Day I wanted to celebrate , thank and recognise my mother. She has made a profoundly positive impact on thousands of people’s lives in the school that she taught in for 40 years , in her community and of course with her family and friends.

I learned key character skills more from my mother , than any leader , coach , star , CEO , or leadership expert I have met around the world. She taught me and my brothers and sisters these character and life skills every day and still does to this day. She taught and inspired us about resilience , work ethic , humility, humanity, empathy & humour. My mother taught me a huge amount about business even though she was not a business woman.

The story below captures a phenomenal woman, her character and leadership….

I was nine years old when an IRA bomb exploded a kick of a ball away from our house. I was brushing my teeth in the bathroom when I heard and felt the bang. It was the loudest sound I had ever heard. Straight after the explosion came the pause. Silence. For a second, myself and the world held its breath. Nothing moved, I went into total panic.

Next came the sound of shattering glass, and all of the windows in our house rattled. My sister , who had been outside, ran in, screaming. All of us kids went into panic mode, frantically scurrying around to make sense of what just happened.

But not my mother. Even clearer than my memory of the bomb, or it featuring on the BBC news that day , or the screams; was how my mother carried her self in that moment. How unruffled she was. We were shocked and shaken and fragile , but she was ant-fragile. There was no fuss, no fluster. She calmed us down, then quietly went to see what had happened. Once she was sure it was safe, it was “home life as usual “ mentality.

‘Get your school bag and your football gear,’ she said to me, ‘you’ve got football training today after school haven’t you . There’s no day off, get ready to go “

As we went off to school , we could see the smoke and dust rising from an old farmhouse just a few hundred metres from the house. Later, we would learn that it was an IRA car bomb, that was detonated 150 metres from the back of our house. Three policemen had tragically died in the bomb.

There is a famous story told about Nelson Mandela by Richard Stengel, the guy who collaborated with him on his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom. They were on a flight in a six-prop plane in Natal when Mandela nudged Stengel and pointed out the window. One of the propellers wasn’t turning.

‘Richard,’ said Mandela, ‘you might want to inform the pilot that the propeller isn’t working.’

Stengel got up, went to the cockpit and told the pilot, who of course knew all about it. He had already radioed ahead, and told Stengel that the emergency services were waiting in the airport with a fleet of ambulances. Stengel, utterly terrified, came back and reported this to Mandela.

Mandela listened and nodded solemnly. ‘Yes,’ he said, and then calmly picked up his newspaper and resumed reading.

Though panic broke out initially, Mandela’s relaxed demeanour had a calming influence on everyone else. The plane landed successfully, and later, when Mandela and Stengel were alone together, the great man turned to the writer and said, ‘Man, was I scared up there.’

Mandela was well aware of how those around him regarded him. Because of who he was, he couldn’t show fear. And by not showing fear, he made those around him less fearful

When I heard this story, years later, I was reminded of my mother that morning in Armagh.

Was she fearful? Was she nervous? Of course she was.

But because she was calm, so were we. It was the best example of being cool under pressure that I have ever seen in my life. What Mandela and my mother both showed in these critical moments were impressive levels of resilience and calm.

Resilience is definitely one of my mother’s greatest qualities. She has been a life-long inspiration to me, as she is to the thousands of kids she taught at Saint Paul’s Secondary school in Armagh, as well as to the wide array of people in tight knit community of Lislea on the foothills of Slieve Gullion. 

Enda’s Mother, Aunt Rita RIP and cousin Mark

Thank you Mum, I hope I can continue to teach, coach, and inspire with even a fraction of the grace, consistency you have done for over seventy years. I aim to continue your legacy at Home, in Ireland and in the towns and cities we visit across the world.

In honour of Mary Mc Nulty on International Women’s day 2020. 

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