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Ba mhaith liom ar dtús mo bhuíochas a ghabháil leis an Leas-Cheann Comhairle as ucht an ócáid seo a chur os ár gcomhair. Cuirim fáilte roimh chlann de Barra go dtí an Dáil. I welcome the members of the Barry family to the House as we formerly mark Peter's outstanding service to his country. There are few Irish politicians or personalities to whom, on the news of their death, drinks would be raised all over the world. In late August 2016, in accommodation looking out over the Pacific, in kitchens in the busy suburbs of Boston and in skyscraper apartments in Beijing, Irish people, young and not so young, might well have picked up their cup of tea and thought even for a moment of Peter Barry. This weekend, the media reported on the psychological and socialising benefit of the hot drink. Apparently it makes us feel warmer to those around us and more social in our circumstances. If this is true, it is fair to say that the Barry family managed to achieve whole waves of socialisation and did so globally. For Irish people, as we all know, a cup of tea healed broken hearts, cured homesickness, broke the ice and got the new neighbours tasting real, proper tea, possibly for the first time. Travelling to America, Irish people always knew that the safe arrival of certain foodstuffs could be depended on by having a blind eye turned by a generous heart in the customs officials' hut at JFK. The box of Barry's, however, was fail-safe. It would always make it home.
As Peter's son, Tony, pointed out at his funeral mass, Peter Barry did not inherit a global brand; he built it over many years of dedication and hard work. That dedication was replicated in Peter Barry's public service as Lord Mayor of his beloved Cork, as a Member of this House for many years, as a Minister in several Departments and, finally, as the first serving Tánaiste of the Fine Gael Party. His contribution to the peace process was immense. In the difficult years after the H-block protests and deaths on hunger strike, as Minister for Foreign Affairs, Peter Barry persisted in his work with then Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald. He did so with characteristic quietness, patience and resolve and it is in no small part due to his work that we now have peace on this island. History has already recognised the key part he played as a Minister for Foreign Affairs in making a reality of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. With Garret FitzGerald, to whom he was utterly loyal, he established a basis of trust with the leaders of constitutional nationalism while resolutely standing firm in the face of any attempts by the British to back down. The Anglo-Irish Agreement would be seen as an enduring achievement on this island, an achievement which he made possible and which contributed to the Good Friday Agreement and successive agreements.
Peter Barry was first elected to Dáil Éireann in 1969 to represent Cork. By 1973, he was Minister for Transport and Power in Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave's coalition Government. I remember that period very well. During my own by-election in 1975, as Minister for Transport and Power, Peter Barry brought about the lighting up of two of the darker areas of the country, electrically speaking, in Ballycroy and the Black Valley in Kerry. They were two legacies of his Ministry. They were areas that had not been connected to any electrical power. Thereafter, he served as Minister in various portfolios in education, environment and, as I have said, foreign affairs, working with distinction in each role to which he brought equally his characteristic style and élan.
His political instincts saw him become Tánaiste to his friend and mentor, Garret FitzGerald. I had the pleasure of working with him for several years and in my time as Fine Gael leader and Taoiseach, he was always available and always generous with his advice, support and encouragement. In this, as in all matters, I knew him as an extraordinarily talented man who carried that talent lightly. Political opponents would say he might have disagreed with their view but he was always able to differentiate between an opinion and its holder, therefore treating them and all that he met with his usual dignity and respect. Peter was a man of innate decency, modesty and was direct and uncomplicated in his loyalty to his late wife, Margaret, his family, his country and his party. As a couple, they walked the stage of politics with consummate ease and respect. His political and personal values were of the highest order and represent the best in political and public life. With his passing, we in the Fine Gael family have lost one of our best and greatest figures. We looked up to him not only for his magnificent business expertise and political insight, but also for his common sense, kindness and wisdom.
Born on Friday, 10 August 1928, in a sense Peter Barry grew up with the new State. He was acutely aware that in Fine Gael, our founders were the men and women of 1916. He had a particular sense of what Michael Collins envisaged for his Ireland and its place in the new world. He equally had particular affinity for what it meant and could mean to belong to this still young republic, those same views perhaps that drew his daughter Deirdre to politics and public life. The man we pay tribute to here was a Deputy, Lord Mayor of Cork, Government Minister and Tánaiste and we respect him as such, but to his family, he was an adored father, grandfather and someone loved beyond words and beyond his time on this earth. It is with them, his family, that our hearts must lie today. On behalf of the country he served with courage and grace, we thank him and say go raibh míle maith agat ar fad. He has gone just that bit ahead of us to a place unknown. May his soul know peace and happiness for eternity.