Jack & Jill: The Story of Jonathan Irwin

by Jonathan Irwin with Emily Hourican
(Mercier Press, €16.99/£13.50)

Jonathan Irwin is the founder of the Jack & Jill charity. With the help of journalist Emily Hourican, he relates his life story and the death of his son Jack after only a short life, through all of which he suffered from severe brain damage. The early chapters are largely a story of social and business success, but the tone of the book changes with the chapters dealing with Jack and the aftermath of his life, which led to the foundation of a charity aimed at helping other families in the same situation – families for whom there was no state provision at all.

Tragedy was loaded on tragedy; having earlier lost one of a set of twins, the Irwins lost Sam, Jonathan’s son from an earlier marriage, their third death. In the face of all this, the Irwins’ resolution is remarkable.

The last chapter of the book is a powerful statement of the author’s present outlook, and what he sees as wrong with Irish society, and with those in charge of it. In many ways, these pages provide particular echoes of the themes discussed in more general terms in Harry Bohan’s book. His comments, for instance, on the role of the State and of individuals is very true. All too many people in Ireland confuse mere statism – “the Government will do all that” – with true Christian charity.

The proceeds from the book will go towards the Jack & Jill Foundation, but that is only one of a number of good reasons for reading this remarkable and life-enhancing book.