Never mind the house, there wasn’t a dry eye in the country last Friday night.
This year’s Toy Show kept it simple and pulled on the heartstrings, ditching the celeb endorsements (unless you count the Galway hurlers) and focusing on what really matters — the kids themselves.
It was all going grand — and then army dad Graham Burke, absent from home for the last number of months due to his overseas tour in Mali, jumped out of a box to surprise his three kids, and that was it.
We were done.
The sight of his confident, funny little son Adam crumbling with delight at his dad’s return and refusing to leave his side — clinging to him like a limpet, in line with the show’s ‘Under The Sea’ theme, quipped a visibly emotional Tubs — caused a national outbreak of the sniffles.
“Just something in my eye there,” choked out even the most cynical of the ‘I’m watching it with a couple of cans in an ironic way’ brigade.
Kildare is rightly proud of its long army tradition. The Defence Forces Training Centre is at the Curragh, and we had an even longer history of military service before the closures of Devoy and Magee Barracks in Naas and Newbridge, respectively.
There are many army families spread from Monasterevin to Kill and further afield — even though the pay of an enlisted member these days may mean that they are being pushed out of their native counties.
Many, especially the younger members, commute from up the country to work, because they simply can’t afford local rents, never mind qualify for mortgages.
There have been disgraceful examples of local military families forced to go public with their housing needs because they cannot afford to live locally.
And last Thursday, the Wives & Partners of the Defence Forces group (WPDF), many of whom are from Kildare, staged a protest at Leinster House to highlight their families’ low incomes and the forces’ declining employment conditions.
In Kildare, we’re proud of the Defence Forces tradition, but when soldiers who represent us proudly abroad and who we would rely on in the case of a national emergency are dependent on charity handouts simply to live, it is time that something be done.
The Burkes melted the nations’ hearts last Friday, and showed the real sacrifices that even the littlest members of Defence Forces families make to keep our country safe and represent Irish interests abroad.
Surely it’s time that our political classes showed our soldiers, sailors and air-men and women some respect — and some financial rewards and improvement in living standards — in return.