A political career spanning almost four decades was celebrated today as former Fine Gael TD Paddy Harte Snr was laid to rest in Raphoe.
Hundreds of people gathered in the east Donegal market town of Raphoe to say a final farewell to the 86 year old who had dedicated his life to his community and to his family.
Draped in a tricolour, Mr Harte’s coffin was carried the short distance from his family home on The Diamond to the nearby St Eunan’s Church for burial.
In freezing fog, many gathered outside the church to hear tributes paid to a man who served his community in Dail Eireann from 1961 until 1997.
He successfully fought eleven elections and from 1981 to 1982, he was Minister of State at the Department of Posts and Telegraphs in Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald’s government.
Among those who attended the funeral were Ministers Charlie Flanagan and Joe McHugh, Deputy Charlie McConalogue, former Tanaiste Mary Coughlan, former Minister Dr Jim McDaid and SDLP politician Mark Durkan.
Others included broadcaster George Hook and the wife of John Hume, Pat Hume while both President Michael D Higgins and An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar were represented by their Aide de Camps.
Requiem Mass was officiated over by Fr Kieran Harkin assisted by a number of clergy including Canon Denis McGettigan and Fr John Joe Duffy.
Some of Mr Harte’s 24 grandchildren carried up symbols of his life to remember the man who had so many interests.
They included a butcher’s coat to represent his life before politics, an Ireland soccer jersey to remember his love of sport, his honorary OBE medal as well as a picture of himself, wife Rosaleen and the couple’s nine children.
Mr Harte’s oldest child, broadcaster and journalist Mary Harte, read a touching but often jovial eulogy to her late father.
Mr Harte, a native of Lifford, is survived by his wife Rosaleen and nine adult children Mary, Paddy, Anne, Jimmy, Roisin, Eithne, Johnny, Garrett and Emmet.
As well as remembering his political life, Ms Harte recalled what a wonderful father he had been as they grew up in such a busy household which he often referred to as a “railway station.”
“He embraced life to the full, pushing the boat out, testing uncharted waters, fearless and determined. He always saw the good in people and the positives that life offered. He was one who spoke with conviction and consistency without fear or favour.
“Recently I asked him how he was and true to form, where one or two words may have sufficed, he treated me to a few sentences. “I am very well,” he told me, “and why would I not be? I married the right girl, my first and only love, I had 9 children, no black sheep, none that I’m aware of and I’ve led a very interesting life. What would I have to complain about?” she said.
She told how just three weeks before her father was due to open his first butcher shop in Raphoe, he was elected to Dail Eireann.
He would remain a TD for 37 years serving under James Dillon, Liam Cosgrave, Garrett Fitzgerald ( who became one of his closest friends), Alan Dukes and John Bruton.
But the seeds of a project which were to lead to his finest hours in political life came on a trip to Flanders in Belgium in 1996.
Ms Harte told hushed mourners “A visit to Belgium and the site of the First World War in 1996 was to sow the seeds of what was to be his finest hour – to commemorate the forgotten Irish soldiers of WW1.
“He believed the time had come for the Irish State to acknowledge the young men who left every parish and had been virtually airbrushed from history. His vision was to have a fitting memorial to the soldiers of Ireland and that it should be opened by the Irish President and the Queen.
“Most thought he had taken leave of his senses. But on 11th of November 1998 the Island of Ireland Peace Park in Messines, was formally opened by President Mary McAleese, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Albert of Belgium, a turning point in Irish history and Anglo Irish relations.”
For his reconciliation achievements he was awarded the highest honour in the Irish State an Honorary Doctor of Law by the National University of Ireland.
He received an honorary OBE and was European Person of the Year as well as Donegal Person of the Year.
He established the Irish American Partnership encouraging US investment into Ireland and is credited with introducing to Ireland one of the world’s richest men, Chuck Feeney whose Atlantic Philanthropies contributed millions of euros to university research in Ireland.
Ms Harte said that as her father passed on, he will be rewarded in a different life by those many young soldiers whose lives and legacies he ensured will never be forgotten
“I would like to think that this morning as we say farewell to Paddy Harte, husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle and public figure, there is awaiting him a long guard of honour formed by the young soldiers whose memory he helped rekindle and who are eager to shake his hand to say ‘thank you’. He will enjoy regaling them with all his stories of the New Ireland helped shape,” she added.
Another friend of Mr Harte, Brendan Smyth from Belfast, also paid tribute to the late politician for helping to being the catalyst in helping communities around Ireland compile books of honour so that those who perished in battle will never be forgotten.
As mourners filed back out into the freezing January air to lay Mr Harte to rest in the adjoining cemetery, his nephew, former Ireland Eurovision Song Contest entrant Mickey Joe Harte sang the funeral cortege from the church.
The songs included ‘How Great Thou Are’ and ‘The Homes of Donegal’. A fitting last song for a man for whom Donegal, his community and his family meant everything.
Below is the full eulogy of Mr Harte.
On behalf of our mother and my brothers and sisters I would like to thank everyone for the tremendous support over these past few days. We have been touched by the many tributes paid by those who called to our home in Raphoe and by those expressed through the media.
Today we celebrate the life of a public figure , husband, Dad, grandad, brother ,uncle and friend.
He embraced life to the full , pushing the boat out, testing uncharted waters, fearless and determined. He always saw the good in people and the positives that life offered. He was one who spoke with conviction and consistency without fear or favour.
Recently I asked him how he was …and true to form, where one or two words may have sufficed he treated me to a few sentences…. “I am very well, he told me, …..and why would I not be,,,,, I married the right girl, my first and only love , I had 9 children, no black sheep, none that I’m aware of ….. and I’ve led a very interesting life. What would I have to complain about’.
For once I did not argue back.
He was a Lifford man. Born above the family butcher shop and pub, the Corner House, in 1931. One of four children, Jimbo, who left us some years ago , and Margaret and Don. The family moved from the Corner House to the nearby farm at Coolatee, a place etched deeply into his heart.
He left St. Eunan’s College at 16, out of choice , because he wanted nothing more than to follow the family tradition and become a butcher. His mother, Mary Francis, would often say …” When Paddy takes a notion it better be a good one”….. He took many notions in his life and most were good ones.
The best was the notion he took of the very pretty young Rosaleen McGoldrick whom he spotted on the railway station platform in Raphoe on his way to Letterkenny to train as a butcher. They married in this church just short of 65 years ago.
The sense of Family was extremely important to him. He especially loved that he had been able to enjoy his 24 grandchildren …whose ages range from 7 to 36 and he cherished the time he had with all of them. He often spoke with sadness that his own father died when he was just 49 and knew his grandchildren.
Our Dad loved nothing more than family get togethers and the bigger the better.
One of his notions was the importance of the Family Tree, long before google or geneology.com was conceived. He and his equally tenacious genealogist cousin Joe Cauley, managed to gather into one place more than 300 direct descendants of Charles Doherty and Maryann Steen. They married in Scotland in the 1800s…before settling in Derry …adding to the speculation that Paddy Harte and the famous Scottish footballer Jock Stein were related….It’s true Dad was a great footballer….
Nor did his paternal family escape scrutiny. On his visits across America he would check every telephone directory for a Paddy, James or William Harte. And finally he struck gold…. in Kansas , ……to the descendants of Patrick Harte who emigrated from the Corner House in the 1800s.
Our family home in the Diamond was known as ‘the railway station’ , with a steady stream of friends coming or going for many years. To assert his authourity he would every now and again he would remind us that he it wasn’t a hotel he was running.
Each of us had our own unique relationship with our father…..
As the eldest I was invariably leading the charge when it came to fleeing the nest….getting out to discos, wearing the latest fashion which in my case happened to be a mini shirt …..It usually ended in tears…. With him saying “where do you think you’re going ….at this time of night, ….. dressed like that….” .
The next siblings Paddy and Anne waged similar battles….as Anne recalls getting glammed up to go to the Fiesta Ballroom …. Daddy said No…and when Paddy stepped in to lend support insisting that if she couldn’t go he wouldn’t go either. “Then you can both stay at home” was his solution.
Paddy as the eldest son was entrusted with Daddy’s car provided he stayed within a few mile radius of Raphoe. He and I , with our 3 year old brother Garrett in tow, ventured a little further one day to Buncrana….to see our sisters
in boarding school. But we were rumbled by the 3 year old. The next time we set him up by telling him not to tell Daddy about the dent we put in the car….
Jimmy was the daredevil…the higher the wall the better…. ….one memory he has ….is of an outing with Daddy to the cattle mart……quick as a flash he was on top of a wall and just as quickly fell off …but Daddy was there to catch him..
Roisin , as the middle child , couldn’t believe her eyes when on a holiday in Greece as a teenager she bumped into him. He was on a parliamentary visit there…. she had him to herself …..at least for the day .
Eithne, our youngest sister called herself Eaniebean a name she concocked as soon as she could speak….. Daddy never called her anything else but Eaniebean, a name that has stayed with her to this day.
Johnny as some of you will know fancies himself as a singer songwriter. One humourous song he penned had a chorus that went …. “A Dog barked and a Cat meowed in Raphoe”…..Daddy was always enjoyed every rendition of the song…
By the time our two youngest siblings , Garrett and Emmet, were testing the waters it was pink hair and punk rock. ….One afternoon Daddy was walking along Grafton street when he came upon the two lads standing outside McDonalds, smoking, and busking to a group of Spanish students. I think that day he realised he’d finally lost the battle for control over us.
There were of course a few notions that were not so good . Such as the night he chanced to throw a few batteries into the open fire in our sitting room and everyone had to dive for cover. Or the Sunday afternoon he decided to test the inside handle in the new walk in fridge in the butcher shop from the inside and locked himself in. …..luckily Mammy was outside hand heard the faint cries for help.
Daddy was full of divilment, he loved to tell a story (and a long story at that!). He enjoyed a good joke and most definitely a robust debate around the kitchen table. Regardless of the outcome he would always remind us that he was right!
Our Dad was a great soccer player however a knee injury forced him to sideline his football career. But that didn’t stop his passion for the game. It was in his blood….his grandfather Paddy Boyle and two granduncles were among the founders of Derry Celtic in 1898. He was 17 when he organised the first Lifford Summer Cup that saw teams from all over Ireland and across the water join the league that offered a prize fund of 20 thousand euros in todays money.
His great soccer friend was Fran Fields, a Lifford man too, who became the chairman of the FAI. Once on a trip to the World Cup in Italy with my brothers Jimmy, and Johnny and brother in-Law Jack , he arrived without any tickets for Ireland’s Quarter Final match with Italy. Ever resourceful he went in search of his friend Fran who happened to be at a reception in the Irish Embassy with the team hosted by Charlie Haughey. They got in on Haughey’s guest list and the match tickets. Mind you they had no accommodaiton booked either so they all slept in the airport on the way back…. Daddy sleeping on the luggage carousel.
Three weeks before dad’s first purpose built butcher shop in the Diamond was due to open …he was elected to Dail Eireann and so ended a promising career as a butcher. He would remain a TD representing Donegal for 37 years, serving under James Dillon, Liam Cosgrave, Garrett Fitzgerald ( who became one of his closest friends) , Alan Dukes and John Bruton.
He met world leaders, Kings, queens, princess and princesses , he even claimed to have danced with Imelda Marcos. He definitely shook hands with all 3 Kennedy brothers, John Fitzgerald, Robert and Edward. He was on the runway at Dublin Airport when Airforce One landed with JFK on board in 1963……not because he a VIP but because he was able to get through the CIA cordon using insider information from one of his former Customs officer friends from Lifford. He got as far as the gates of Aras an Uchtarain in the motor cade…before being stopped by a young garda.
He loved grass root politics the most, meeting his constituents , he had that ingredient they call political charisma. He championed many causes, too many to mention. He did his utmost to help those in need and challenged inequalities at every chance. He established the what was known then as the Association for the Mentally Handicapped in Ireland.
Growing up in the border town of Lifford and a mother a Derry Girl and father a former soldier in the Free State Army, it was inevitable that he would become passionate about finding a resolution to the Troubles when they erupted in the late 60s. He travelled the lonely road of reconciliation politics long before it popular or profitable. He tried to reach out to the unionist community in the hope that they would not see the Ireland as the enemy state. He talked to paramilitaries on both sides of the divide. He received many death threats but was never deterred.
A visit to Belgium and the site of the First World War in 1996 was to sow the seeds of what was to be his finest hour – to commemorate the forgotten Irish soldiers of WW1.
He believed the time had come for the Irish State to acknowledge the young men who left every parish and had been virtually airbrushed from history. His vision was to have a fitting memorial to the soldiers of Ireland and that it should be opened by the Irish President and the Queen . Most thought he had taken leave of his senses but……
But on 11th of November 1998 the Island of Ireland Peace Park in Messines ,was formally opened by President Mary McAleese , Queen Elizabeth and Prince Albert of Belgium, a turning point in Irish history and anglo Irish relations.
As the former Taoiseach , the late Garrett Fitzgerald , wrote in the Irish Times a few days later …..
“What happened in Messines this week was remarkable in many ways not least because it showed how one individual , with imagination and courage can shift the whole weight of history.” His legacy will endure with the Messines monument.
For his reconciliation achievements he was awarded the highest honour in the Irish State an Honorary Doctor of Law by the National University of Ireland. He received an honorary OBE and was European Person of the Year and of course Donegal Person of the Year.
He could though have been Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary…..the founder of the airline Tony Ryan tried to entice him out of politics …who knows what might have been ! He established the Irish American Partnership encouraging US investment into Ireland and is credited with introducing to Ireland one of the world’s richest men, Chuck Feeney whose Atlantic Philanthropies contributed millions of euros to university research here.
Our father’s failing health these past years …when he was confined …to staying at home and not dashing off with a new notion …..afforded us the opportunity to hear his many fascinating stories and to tell hm we loved him and he us. And he spent many hours in conversation with his lifelong friend Tony Friel. For this we are grateful.
This week he left this world in the town where he was born in the wonderful care of the staff at Lifford Community Hospital and in the same room that all 9 of us were born. He died at 8am on the 8th of January 2018….I wondered if there was a significance and yesterday someone told me that 8 was the symbol of infinity.
I would like to think that this morning as we say farewell to Paddy Harte, husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle and public figure….. there is awaiting him a long guard of honour formed by the young soldiers whose memory he helped rekindle….. and who are eager to shake his hand to say ‘thank you’. He will enjoy regaling them with all his stories of the New Ireland helped shape.Tags: