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Death of Former Members: Expressions of Sympathy (Continued)

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 976 No. 5

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  1 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin] Paddy was involved in making peace at a very human level. It was not in broad structural terms; it was in building bridges and reconciling differences. At his funeral it was said that his greatest legacy was the Island of Ireland Peace Park in Messines, Belgium, which was formally opened on 11 November 1998 by President Mary McAleese, Prince Albert of Belgium and Queen Elizabeth. This was seen then as a turning point, not only in history but in the relationships between the peoples of these islands. It was one of the many important steps on the road to real reconciliation. I am truly delighted to see the members of the Harte family in the Distinguished Visitors' Gallery today. I may be forgiven for welcoming Jimmy especially. I know that the Harte family is a hub of community and the open door connection with the surrounding community is an important aspect of the family's very existence. On behalf of the Labour Party and all my colleagues, I send my condolences, but also my congratulations, to the Harte family for the incredible service that Paddy gave to his community and to his country.

I knew Monica Barnes very well. Again, she was someone who often shared more views with me than with many other Members or with the majority of her own party, certainly in the early days. I remember one trip I made with two remarkable women. Monica Barnes, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn and I went on a trip to Russia. I am not sure I can actually tell all-----

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Please do not.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Please do.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin -----but we had a very interesting overnight train journey from Moscow to Vilnius in the former Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic. As well as the samovar of tea, we also had a stronger native beverage and I had some very good, insightful discussions on all politics and all politicians on that journey with those remarkable women.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin It must all be in some Russian archive somewhere.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin I often wondered about that afterwards because we were accompanied by a Russian. Maybe there is a transcript worth reading in some liberated archive in Moscow. On that trip one of the people we met was Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space. I remember that Monica was truly delighted to meet a woman who had been in space. As others said, Monica was a true feminist who would advance the cause of women always and forever, in every circumstance without fear or favour and, if anybody had a different view, without taking any hostages.

Monica Barnes and I often shared political platforms and I recall that once in my early political career I very reluctantly gave up my Saturday clinic to do a meeting with women's groups in Dublin. My co-speaker at this meeting was Monica. I asked her if she found it difficult to give up her clinic on a Saturday. I learned then of politics in Dún Laoghaire. Monica said: "Clinics on a Saturday? I meet with my constituents by appointment on a Tuesday."

Politics can be very different but we are certainly the poorer of personalities like Paddy and Monica. It was a terrible blow to Monica to lose her son, Paul, but she made a remarkable and indelible impression on everybody she met and on the cause of the advancement of women and social progress generally in the State.

On behalf of the Labour Party, I join with others in extending my condolences but also my congratulations to Bob and the family for the remarkable life and achievements of Monica Barnes. May Monica Barnes and Paddy Harte both be looking down on us and enjoying the few words of celebratory acknowledgement that we give to them today.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett On behalf of Solidarity-People Before Profit, I extend my sympathy and condolences to the Harte and Barnes families. Both of the deceased were a bit before my time and I would not have been that familiar with Paddy's record but it has been very impressive to listen to it recounted here. I congratulate the Harte family and pay tribute to them for putting up with the travel Paddy would have done up and down from Donegal to here for 30 years. If I stayed in here for 30 years, my young fellas would absolutely kill me. The family must be very proud of such a record. To stick at it for that long shows extraordinary stamina if nothing else. The Island of Ireland Peace Park in Belgium is an extraordinary achievement for which the family should be very proud.

I know that Deputy Seán Barrett will have a lot more to say about Monica Barnes. I am not sure if I ever met her. It is quite possible I did because my aunt Janet Kinsella, who was a stalwart of the Fine Gael Dún Laoghaire branch certainly would have known her and known Deputy Barrett also. It is very possible I met Monica at family occasions. As a young fella, up to no good on the streets of Dún Laoghaire and before I took any great interest in politics, I would have certainly been more than familiar with the names of Barnes, Barrett and Cosgrave as they were emblazoned across the lamp posts of Dún Laoghaire. Although I would not have shared the Fine Gael affiliation, and I had many robust debates with my aunt Janet on politics, I was aware of Monica's central role in the fight for women's rights in this country, her opposition to the 1983 wording of the eighth amendment to the Constitution, her support for the right to divorce and her historic role in a broader social movement to achieve rights and equality for women. With the tremendous changes that have happened with the recent vote to repeal the eighth amendment to the Constitution, we cannot say anything other than we owe a debt of gratitude to trailblazers like Monica Barnes, and many others who are not still with us and who fought against the tide in those early days when it was neither profitable nor popular to do so. Her family deserve to be very proud of that. It is sad that she is not here to see the great victory that has been the long-term impact of a struggle that people like Monica Barnes started many years ago. My sympathy and condolences go to her family.

Deputy Thomas Pringle: Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle On behalf of Independents4Change, I extend our sympathy to the families of Paddy Harte and Monica Barnes. As a Donegal man it is an honour for me to talk about Paddy Harte. I met Paddy only once or twice, very briefly, over the years but I served on Donegal County Council with Paddy's son, Jimmy, and we had a good collegial relationship at council level. While they may not have known him personally everybody who grew up in Donegal knew who Paddy Harte was, and the Harte family name is, synonymous with Fine Gael and with peace building right across the county. It is a great honour for me to pay tribute, to pass on my condolences to Rosaleen and the family and to have said these few words.

On behalf of Independents4Change, I would also like to express sympathy to Bob Barnes and his family on the passing of Monica. I did not know Monica but I have heard of her honourable and very distinguished record through tributes paid in the media and in this House.

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