Statement by the Tánaiste on the death of Paddy Harte8/1/18
Statement by the Tánaiste on the death of Paddy Harte
It was with great sadness that I learned of the death this morning of Paddy Harte. My thoughts and deepest sympathies are with his wife and family at this time.
Paddy Harte was a proud Donegal man and an exceptionally committed public representative, serving the people of Donegal, first as a Councillor in 1960 and then from 1961 to 1997 as T.D., for Donegal North-East. He served as Minister of State from 1981 to 1982 in Garrett Fitzgerald’s Government.
His 36 years as a T.D., representing a border constituency, coincided with some of the most difficult years that this island has known. A man of principle, he was a consistent advocate for seeking to understand and reconcile the different traditions on the island. He was a frequent voice in favour of a pluralist Ireland where all traditions and cultures could flourish.
It is perhaps his work on Messines that will ultimately be his most enduring legacy. Deeply moved by a visit to the Somme and Flanders battlefields in 1996 and what he felt was the neglect of the memory of those Irishmen who had lost their lives in the First World War, he saw an avenue for reconciliation on the island of Ireland through remembrance of that shared historical experience.
This vision, shared by Glenn Barr, with whom he would work closely and develop the plans for what became the Island of Ireland Peace Park and Tower in Messines, took imagination and courage, at a time when remembrance of the First World War was a deeply sensitive topic for many.
It was a truly extraordinary initiative, which culminated in the official opening of the Peace Park by President Mary McAleese and Queen Elizabeth in 1998 – itself an important step in the transformation of British-Irish relations.
Paddy Harte’s tireless work as a public representative and his vision and commitment to peace and reconciliation deserves to be long remembered.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.