Opinions & Ideas

Category: Tribute


I was deeply shocked to learn of the death of my friend, and long time colleague, Paddy Sheehan of Goleen, Co Cork. Paddy was a Fine Gael public representative in West Cork from 1967 to 2011.

Paddy lost his wife, Frances, only last week. This was a huge blow because Frances was central to every aspect of Paddy’s life. Although he bore this loss with great fortitude, it must have taken a great toll.

Paddy first entered public life when elected to Cork County Council in 1967.

He contested the General Elections of 1969, 1973 and 1977 without success, but he persisted and was elected  to the Dail in 1981. In so doing, he won a second seat for Fine Gael in South West Cork, an immense achievement in a 3 seat constituency.

He held the seat, with one interval, until his retirement from politics in 2011.

Paddy was a great advocate of the interests of rural Ireland and especially of  those who lived on the western seaboard. He was in constant contact with his electorate, running in Goleen what is now the only surviving general store and supermarket on the Mizen peninsula.

His journey to Dail Eireann each week was longer than that of almost every other TD, but he made himself heard in the Dail Chamber frequently and strongly.

 He had a great sense of humour and was beloved across all political divisions.

On behalf of all my family, I extend heartfelt sympathy to, his children, Diarmuid, Deirdre, Eucharia and Maebh in  the huge double bereavement they are suffering.


John Hume was the pivotal figure of the twentieth century in the development of thinking about Ireland’s future.

 He reframed the problem from being one about who held sovereignty over land, to being one about people, and how they related to one another.

 Thus reframed, the issue became one to which violence and coercion became completely irrelevant. This was the intellectual basis of the peace process.

The issue was no longer one about winning or losing, but about sharing or choosing not to share.  

In practical terms, he won the argument. That is why we have peace today. 


I would like to add a word to the many well deserved tributes that have been paid to the career of Richie Ryan, who died yesterday.

He was the most radical Minister for Finance ever. His commitment to social justice was realistic, rather than rhetorical.

 The changes he made in extending the tax base, through capital and other taxes, and his simultaneous widening of social welfare coverage, were not equalled by any other Minister for Finance.

To have undertaken such changes at a time of economic contraction due to the aftermath of the 1973 oil crisis, was truly remarkable.

 He managed to turn the economy around, and growth had returned by 1975. But the political dividend from growth was, as to be expected, delayed. It was not reflected in the result of  1977 Election. Richie Ryan did not get the credit he deserved, at the time, or since.

He was deeply loyal to his party leader, Liam Cosgrave , and was one of his most combative defenders.

He had a very serious accident later in life, and showed immense courage in the way he faced, and overcame, the challenges it brought. He did not let it stop him being a cheerful and friendly presence at party gatherings.

He will be missed. I extend heartfelt sympathy to his family.


I met former President George HW Bush only once, and long after he had left high office, at a private event in Co Kildare.

The characteristics I remember of him then were his exceptional politeness and humility, as well as evidence of his physical courage.

His politeness was demonstrated in the time he took with all the people he met at the event and his obvious lack of self importance.

His courage emerged when he described how, no longer a young man at the time, he was training to do a parachute jump in Texas.

It transpired that the parachute jump was intended to exorcise a tragic war time experience, when his Air Force plane was shot down in the Pacific in 1944. I understand he later fulfilled his goal without injury. He had had direct experience of war and that was why, as President, he was economical in the use of US military power.

 When Communism collapsed, George HW Bush proposed to Europe the vision of a continent “whole and free”, from the Atlantic to the Urals.

For a time, it looked as of his goal might be achieved.  It has not been, for a variety of reasons some of which have their roots in mistrust and suspicion between Europeans themselves.

The best way to remember George HW Bush now would be if Europeans could draw back from the confrontations between Russia and Ukraine, and from the authoritarian populism we see in some European countries, not only Russia.

It is not too late to devise a credible security architecture that encompasses all of the continent.


I wish to pay tribute to the memory of my former Parliamentary colleague, Seymour Crawford, who died yesterday morning.

He was a very successful politician, securing re election to the Dail three times after his initial success in 1992.

His deep interest was in agriculture, and he brought into politics the practical approach he had learned as a farmer, and as a vice President of IFA.

Coming from a border constituency, and a Presbyterian background, he helped, in many practical and undemonstrative ways, to bridge gaps in mutual understanding that grew up between the communities on this island.  


The rebellion of Easter Week 1916 was one of the formative events in Irish history.

It led towards the independence we now enjoy, along with the enactment of Home Rule in 1914, the meeting of the First Dail in 1919, the Treaty of 1921, the Constitutions of 1923 and 1937, and the declaration of the Republic in 1949.

Those who initiated the Rising did so with high idealism, bravery, and self sacrifice.

It was, however, a violent action, involving loss of life, and was, as would have been anticipated by its initiators, violently suppressed with further loss of life.

As we have worked painstakingly over many years to remove violence from Irish politics, we must do our best now to commemorate 1916 in a way that does not glorify violence.

It is argued by many that the form and content of the 1966 commemoration romanticized violence and contributed negatively to inter community relations on the island generally, and particularly in Northern Ireland. 

But how can one remember 1916, without glorifying the methods used in the conflict?


My proposal would be that, as part of the overall commemoration, all who died violently in Ireland in and around Easter week 1916, be remembered individually, and by name.

Naturally, a major focus should be on the Volunteers who died, and on the executed leaders.

But I suggest we also remember, by name, the civilians who were killed ,

the DMP members who were killed,

the RIC members who were killed, and

the British  Army soldiers (both those who were Irish and those who were not) who were  killed.

This approach would put a focus on the cost of violence, the loss of life and the suffering, as well as the bereavement suffered by relatives left behind.

All the above casualties would have had relatives who mourned them, and it would be good, a century later, to remember them all. From a religious and ethical perspective, all these lives, taken away in 1916, were equally valued and valuable.

Apart from these considerations, it is worth saying that the families of the DMP, RIC, and Army casualties, who continued to live in Ireland, may have felt that the loss they suffered, was in some sense less recognised by their fellow Irish people, because of a perception that they had died on the “wrong side”. A century later, that can be rebalanced a little. 

It may pose practical difficulties, but it would be good if that the state should invite a family member of every casualty to a Commemoration, perhaps on the inclusive model of the National Day of Commemoration. With all the data now available, tracing some of these relatives would not be as difficult as it might have been 20 years ago.

I know that there will be a military element to the commemoration during Easter Week, and it might be perceived that a commemoration on the same day focussing on all the victims, would take from that. 

So perhaps this could be done on another day, perhaps a week or two later, which might be appropriate anyway, given that  some of the victims on all sides, who died of their wounds, would not have done so until sometime after  Easter Week itself was over.


I recently learned from the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny,  that the Government is already moving in this direction.

A Commemorative Wall is to be erected in Glasnevin Cemetery bearing the name of all who died in the 1916 Rebellion, regardless of the side they were on, or of whether they were killed accidentally or deliberately.

The names of the 1916 victims will be inscribed on the Wall in 2016, and, in the centenary year of their deaths, those who were killed in the War of Independence and the Civil War will be added.

The Wall will remind future generations of the true price of warfare. 

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