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Death of Former Member: Expressions of Sympathy (Continued)

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 821 No. 2

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  5 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin] Deputy Ó Fearghaíl stated that he would use three words beginning with the letter "F" to sum Paddy up - namely, fair, fierce and fervent. In that context, he was fierce in both his loyalty and his commitment to people and causes. The latter describes him very well indeed.

  Paddy had a deep sense of patriotism. A Saturday evening at the Power household became a part-social, part-clinic and part-family night, with a carnival of friends, constituents and family gathered around a door that was always open. His tireless work for the people of Kildare is the binding thread of his life's labour.

  Paddy Power left his own inimitable mark on the international stage. His brief tenure as Minister for Defence from March 1982 until the fall of the embattled Government of the day later that year was dominated by the international furore of the Falklands war and the fragility of Anglo-Irish relations at the time. Ireland was sitting on the UN Security Council in 1982, adding weight to its role in the diplomatic swirl surrounding the escalating conflict. Our original support for the British stance changed after the now notorious sinking of the General Belgrano, in part thanks to the strident views of Paddy Power. After the General Belgrano was sunk on 2 May 1982, Paddy stated at a Fianna Fáil meeting in Edenderry, County Offaly: "Obviously Britain themselves are very much the aggressors now." This comment was subsequently printed in the Irish Independent and gained international attention. He was the first member of a government in the Western world to publicly criticise the sinking. Apparently his name was chanted by crowds in the streets of Buenos Aires after that intervention against Britain, which probably remains the only time a Fianna Fáil comhairle Dáil ceantair meeting has had such an international impact.

  The then Taoiseach, Charles Haughey, summoned Paddy Power, then a Government Minister, to his office and demanded that he withdraw the comment, which Mr. Haughey deemed to be inflammatory. However, Paddy refused outright to do so. Over subsequent days, as national opinion turned against the sinking of the General Belgrano, the then Taoiseach shifted ground, backed up Paddy Power's stance and became more critical of the invasion of the Falklands. On 4 May 1982, the Irish Government called for an immediate meeting of the UN Security Council to prepare a further resolution for an immediate ceasefire. At the UN Security Council, Ireland sought to give a mandate to the UN Secretary General to forge a diplomatic solution to the crisis, with Charles Haughey quoted in media reports at the time as saying this was part of Ireland’s role as a "peace-loving nation". Of course, this stance was not without its cost or critics. It generated significant controversy, but we will leave it to the historians to dwell upon that. Suffice to say that a man who was straight-talking and held to firm beliefs and convictions was not for moving. Paddy stuck to his guns and was subsequently vindicated by history.

  Paddy Power's life's labours are now at a close. His final resting place is guarded by the old schoolhouse where he first taught. Around it is a transformed village and the county with which he was so in love. The political battles and arguments have faded away into memory. Instead, the legacy of men and women such as Paddy Power is their fundamental guiding commitment to the idea of public service and community. Those who answer the call to work for the greater good in public life can draw inspiration from the example of the noble endeavour of the people who have gone before, particularly the late Paddy Power. I trust that Kitty, the entire Power family and his wide circle of friends and supporters draw strength from the knowledge of that lasting inheritance in the face of their personal loss. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny On behalf of the Fine Gael Party and the Government, I wish to sympathise with the Fianna Fáil Party on the passing of the late Paddy Power. Today would have been Paddy's 85th birthday. As Deputy Martin indicated, he was first elected to the House in 1969. I was always happy to meet him in the environs of the Dáil because of his remarkable strength and sense of humour about life in general and about the activities that took place here and his part in them. I am not sure whether he acquired that from his family, as a result of his years as a primary school teacher or on the basis of his own observations of life. However, he was always on the point of bursting into laughter, regardless of how difficult a situation might have been. He served the Fianna Fáil Party on a number of occasions in the House when, as he would have said himself, things were "ropey enough".

  Paddy served with a great degree of distinction and pride as Minister for Defence. He came from the Curragh in County Kildare and was very proud of his seal of office, of the fact that he had responsibility for the Defence Forces and of those who served in the Army, the Naval Service and the Air Corps. He also served as Minister for Fisheries and Forestry and Minister for Trade, Commerce and Tourism. I held the latter portfolio in later years under the title of Minister for Tourism and Trade. Paddy Power represented Leinster in the European Parliament and I know that he regaled those he came across there with stories of Ireland in a very Irish way. Those who met him recognised that he was a fount of wisdom, endeavour, realism and humour. Deputy Martin is correct: I am sure there were thousands of occasions when - at locations throughout the country, but particularly in his constituency - the melodic voice of Paddy Power was heard reciting stories. I am sure those present listened in some wonder.

  Paddy's personality was extraordinary and, as the Ceann Comhairle is aware, he related to people at all levels. The latter led to his being regarded with a great sense of fondness by the people of Kildare. The Kildare Nationalist put it very well when it stated:

Paddy will always be remembered as a raconteur, someone who could weave a story and deliver a punchline perfectly. He enjoyed socialising and interacting with people and despite serving so many years in politics, never lost his very deep sense of connection with the local community in Caragh and across Kildare generally.

That is a very fair summation of somebody who crossed the landscape of Kildare on so many occasions and who became part of the fabric of the county and its community. His personality and passion were inherited by his son Seán, who later represented the same Dáil constituency and who upheld his father's legacy in the House. Seán is present with us this evening.

  I am not quite sure that the comhairle Dáil ceantair meeting of the Fianna Fáil Party to which Deputy Martin referred was the only one that made international headlines. I could supply him with a long list of such meetings. On one occasion, Seán Lemass was quoted as stating that Fianna Fáil was a slightly constitutional party. In my part of the country, there have been some wonderful exponents of the art of Fianna Fáil-ism. Many of the activities that took place at comhairle Dáil ceantair meetings made national and international headlines.

  The loan of Paddy Power to Ireland, the Dáil and Kildare by Kitty, his wife, and their family has been replicated on many occasions by others, but one has to be in the job in order to understand the impact politics can have on family life and relationships. If the spouses of those who serve here do not understand what public service is all about, then it is extremely difficult for them to do their job to the best of their ability. The vast majority of people here - myself included - understand how important the support of family is, and we are very grateful to Kitty Power for what she did for Ireland and Kildare by lending them her late husband, Paddy. Kitty did so out of both love and an understanding of what family means. I thank her and all of her ten fine children - J. J., Mary, Gerry, Brendan, Seán, Patsy, Tony, Enda, Rosario and Loreto. As Paddy would have said, they had three quarters of a Gaelic football team.

  Paddy served his constituency, his county and his country with distinction.

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