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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 Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin]  During his time in this House, his wisdom and insight during times of enormous strain were of huge value to Members and his sense of right was important for people to hear. He was a noted benefactor and supporter of Blackrock National Hurling Club as well as the Fine Gael organisation in Cork and is dearly missed, no doubt, by his home community. On behalf of the Labour Party, I extend my deepest sympathies to Peter's children - Deirdre, Fiona, Tony, Donagh, Conor and Peter - and all his extended family and friends gathered in Leinster House today and the many more who are undoubtedly watching these proceedings. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

Deputy Eamon Ryan: Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan On behalf of the Green Party, I wish to very briefly add our words of sympathy for the family of Peter Barry. It should be remembered that what is important in politics is a certain amount of decency, which Mr. Barry epitomised. I never worked with him, but my colleagues, former Deputies John Gormley and Trevor Sargent, told me they had the highest regard for him through their dealings with him because he was a decent man and brought to politics a certain decency, a little more of which, perhaps, we could do with today.

I have a parting "Thank-you" for him. He rescued our Senator, Grace O'Sullivan, from a French naval frigate once. She had been arrested while protesting at an atoll in the South Pacific. In the fashion of Irish politicians, it was the Foreign Minister at the time, Peter Barry, who went to work representing all the people of Ireland in helping to release her. We must thank him for that but, more widely, we must thank him for his contribution to the peace process and for the civility and general decency he brought to the Irish political world.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher I call on the current representatives of Mr. Barry's constituency, Cork South-Central.

Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Like other Deputies, I welcome the Barry family to Dáil Éireann. I am sure this is an occasion tinged with sadness but much pride as well. As a Cork person who grew up on the Blackrock Road, approximately 100 yards from where Peter and Margaret Barry and their family lived, I remember very vividly as a young boy hearing about and revering Peter Barry as a pillar of society. He had been Lord Mayor before I was born and was a significant figure in many ways in Cork and continued to be so for many years. He built a business at a time when Cork was struggling. He introduced others to politics at a time when many people shied away from it. As referred to by Deputy Martin, he always supported sports clubs and was effectively the first corporate sponsor of Cork GAA, as far as I can recall. He was a huge support to other big sports clubs such as Cork Con, the "Rockies" in Blackrock and St. Michael's, making no distinction between sports but simply supporting his community and the people in it. I know it was an extraordinary honour for him to be given the freedom of Cork City in 2010 because he wrote to me afterwards. He made a very powerful speech that day and impressed a huge number of people. Perhaps I might be bold enough to suggest that the appreciation for him in his home city, whether as Lord Mayor, a recipient of the freedom of the city or a councillor, meant as much to him as some of the much more high-profile work he did as a national figure, holding very significant portfolios in education, transport, environment, labour, industry and commerce and, of course, what he is best known for, foreign affairs.

On a personal level, I am probably correct in saying that my late father entered politics because of Peter Barry's intervention. It is unusual that a politician in Dáil Éireann would try to persuade a neighbour who literally lives next door to run for the Dáil for the same party. That says an awful lot about Peter Barry and the kind of person he was. He tried to bring people who he thought could change things for the better into politics to work with him, rather than fearing the competition that may come from the running for election of two Deputies living next door to each other in a very competitive constituency. I remember my father talking about the conversations he had with Peter in the late 1970s when they were both business people. Peter Barry had a very strong view that we needed to try to attract more business people into local government in order to try to find a way of rebuilding a Cork economy that was very much struggling at the time. That was the motivation that led to my family getting involved in politics.

Much has been said about Peter Barry's role as Minister for Foreign Affairs at a time when the country faced real tension and difficulty linked to the politics and complexity of Northern Ireland and its relationship with the South. Peter was a constitutional nationalist but also a pragmatist. He was also a very tough man when he needed to be, both in politics and business. All these attributes resulted in his playing a pivotal role in the putting together of the Anglo-Irish Agreement when he was in a position of real power and influence. When things could have turned for the worst, he was determined to try to ensure that did not happen. That thinking and that approach were subsequently the foundation for a peace process that we now all enjoy.

Finally, on a personal level, we are remembering and honouring someone who made an extraordinary contribution to Cork in business, sport, history, the arts and many other fields that he quietly funded and for which he never sought any recognition. I hope that his family will leave here somewhat consoled, supported and reassured by the comments made today and since he passed away in August by all political parties and none. The respect that Peter Barry continues to enjoy as a giant of politics and business in Cork will last for a very long period.

Deputy Michael McGrath: Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath It gives me great pleasure to add my voice to the words of tribute for the late Peter Barry, a man whom I met on only a small number of occasions. Of the family, I know his daughter Deirdre best. I acknowledge Peter Barry's incredibly distinguished record of public service. It is not often enough remarked upon that the families of politicians pay a price for the work we do and the fact that we are away from home so much. Peter's late wife, Margaret, and their children all undoubtedly paid that price. I think the reward for the latter is the pride they undoubtedly have for the enormous work he did for Cork, for the country and internationally.

As a young boy growing up in Cork and becoming aware of what was going on in our country in the mid-1980s and of the political figures of that time, I gained much respect for the late Peter Barry and his steadying influence, particularly in his four or so very difficult years as Minister for Foreign Affairs at such a fraught juncture in the politics of our island. As a young man, I was struck by the ease with which he moved among people. He moved very gently among all sorts of people from all sections of society.

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