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Death of Former Member: Expressions of Sympathy (Continued)

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 930 No. 3

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin] He was a dedicated, committed public servant, but he was a man of stature and a man who achieved much outside of politics. In particular, he grew a small business on Princes Street where he tasted the tea assiduously. I read a very good article on this. Indeed, I am pleased to refer people to a great programme by John Bowman at 8.30 a.m. on Sunday morning for those who get up early. There were two wonderful programmes in the series that I listened to recently on the way to a particular commemoration. I got a great insight into the nature of the man and his approach to life as well as his humility, sense of perspective and a very well-grounded philosophy of life. When it came to tea tasting, it was a particular achievement to get the most hardened Fianna Fáiler to accept that Barry's Tea was the best tea to drink, even in Cork city. That is no mean achievement in itself.

  I was struck by the Taoiseach's articulation of the virtues of tea. Given the minority Government situation we are in and the rather fragile existence that we live, maybe the leaders of all the parties should drink tea together on a more regular basis to give greater stability and esprit de corps to this particular arrangement.

  The people had great respect for Peter Barry. He commanded respect - he did not seek it - because he respected others and their opinions. I was struck by a comment of his daughter, Deirdre, at the time of the funeral. She remarked on how he was treated a little differently in the constituency. John Dennehy, a former colleague of ours in Cork South Central, would often talk of particular local meetings. We were at such a meeting last night with the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Deputy Coveney. The Deputies and councillors would turn up. The chairman of the local committee would make an apology for Mr. Barry who, of course, could not be there on the night because of other functions. The remark would never be critical or anything like that. He was always in early. There was such respect for what he had achieved in terms of the city, the employment he had created and the leadership he gave as a public representative. That was significant.

  He was a great supporter of the arts in the city of Cork and nationally and a great supporter of sport as well. It is fair to say that he was Cork GAA's first official corporate sponsor in the 1990s. It is equally fair to say that Cork hurling and Gaelic football were far more successful in the 1990s than currently. It reflects the potential. He was generous in that regard. He was a lifelong member of the Blackrock GAA Club and a great supporter of St. Michael's GAA Club as well as many other sporting clubs that he quietly supported. Of course, he was a great advocate and supporter of rugby and the legendary Cork Constitution club as well.

  He was an effective Minister. He served as Minister for Transport and Power under Liam Cosgrave's Government in the 1970s. He also served for a period as Minister for Education. Without doubt, his period as Minister for Foreign Affairs represented his greatest achievement in politics in the context of the Anglo-Irish Agreement and the sets of relationships he built up with Unionist politicians, Nationalist politicians and people and personalities of the calibre of Fr. Denis Faul and others who held him in the highest of esteem. There is no doubt that this work sowed the seeds of later work that bore such fruit in the form of the Good Friday Agreement and the progress and the great leaps made in terms of bringing peace to the island of Ireland.

  We salute his legacy. It is a rich legacy of which his family, including his sons, daughters, brother and grandchildren in particular - I understand there are 21 grandchildren whose company he enjoyed immensely - can be very proud. His was a life well lived and he made a significant contribution to the betterment of his fellow human beings on this island and internationally. No greater thing could a person wish in his life than to say truly that he did his work, he did his bit, and that it made a difference and improved the quality of life of others. That is, in essence, why people should be in politics. He achieved that and we salute him and his contribution. We mourn his passing.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Ar mo shon féin agus ar son pháirtí Shinn Féin, ba mhaith liom comhbhrón a dhéanamh le mic agus iníonacha iar-Thánaiste agus iar-Theachta Peter Barry, a bhfuair bás i mí Lúnasa. On my behalf and on behalf of Sinn Féin I want to extend sincere sympathy to the family and loved ones of the former Tánaiste and Member of this House, Peter Barry, following his passing last August.

I did not know Peter personally but his exploits as a politician and as a businessman are well known. It is clear to everyone that he excelled at both. He shunned, apparently, the description of businessman in favour of that of tea taster when registering in the Dáil register over his lengthy political life. He succeeded in turning the family business, Barry's Tea, into one of the great iconic Irish brands that is loved and revered throughout the country and overseas, as has already been recorded, but nowhere more so, I suspect, than in his native Cork.

Peter followed his father, Anthony, into public life when he was first elected to the Dáil in 1969. He served continuously for 28 years, being elected on no less than nine occasions until his retirement in 1997. During that time, Peter held ministerial office at the Departments of Education, Environment, Transport and Power and Foreign Affairs. He also served as deputy leader of his party, Fine Gael, and briefly as Tánaiste in 1987. Among such lofty roles, perhaps more importantly for a Corkman, was that of Lord Mayor of the city of Cork. Peter held the role in 1970-71, an office held by his father before him and one which Peter's daughter, Deirdre, with whom I have had the pleasure of serving in this House and who is now an MEP for Ireland South, would also go on to hold. That is perhaps a family record not only in Cork but across the island.

Peter had a long and distinguished career in public office but it is clear from the many expressions and comment on his death that he was a dedicated family man and a loving husband to his wife Margaret, who passed away in 2013. I have no doubt the Barry family gathered in the Distinguished Visitors Gallery today are remembering her as well as we meet and pay tribute to Peter. He was a loving father to his children Deirdre, Tony, Fiona, Donagh, Conor and Peter and a grandfather to 21 garpháistí, many of whom are here today to remember their grandfather.

I extend my sympathy to the entire Barry family and the sympathy of my party to all of Peter's friends and loved ones. I wish to extend my sympathy to the Taoiseach and his colleagues in Fine Gael, recognising that they have lost a party colleague and stalwart. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin It was with great sadness that I learned of the passing of the former Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Peter Barry. Peter served as a Minister in the Fine Gael-Labour coalition Government in place when I first entered the Oireachtas. He was regarded as an unfailingly loyal colleague and was trusted and respected. His counsel was sought by parliamentary colleagues on all sides of this House.

He was a friend of my political mentor, Brendan Corish. They shared many anecdotes. I am reminded of one by the remarks of Deputy Martin. He talked of the esteem in which Peter Barry was held in Cork. I am reminded of a story that Brendan Corish told. He was recounting the events of one Saturday night. He had finished his clinics in Wexford and had gone home to Belvedere Road in Wexford. There was a knock on the door. A man looking for advice was there. Brendan Corish, as was his wont, said, "Do come in". The man said that before he came in, he had to say to Brendan Corish that he had never voted for him, that he always gave his number one vote to Sir Anthony Esmonde, but that he could never go to a gentleman with the problem he had.

Peter's central role in negotiating the Anglo-Irish Agreement planted the seeds that many others, including Dick Spring and Albert Reynolds, were able to develop in later years when working to construct a lasting peace in Northern Ireland.


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