Obituary: Politician who was committed to his native Limerick

Peadar Clohessy


Former TD Peadar Clohessy, who has died aged 80, will be remembered for his deep commitment to his native Limerick, but also for the significant role he played in a political revolution in Ireland.

His decision to leave Fianna Fáil and join Des O’Malley’s Progressive Democrats in the 1980s has been described as one of the hardest he had made in his lifetime.

Clohessy died at his home in Fanningstown, Crecora, Co Limerick, after a long illness.

A father of six, he was first elected to Dáil Éireann as a Fianna Fáil candidate in 1981, but lost his seat in the first of the two general elections held in 1982.

He went on to help found the Progressive Democrats party, and was one of 14 TDs to win Dáil seats for it in the 1987 general election.

Three occasions

He was returned to the Dáil on three occasions for the PDs, serving as marine and defence spokesman and assistant government chief whip between 1989 and 1992.

At his recent funeral Mass in Fedamore, his daughter, Sinead Clohessy, recalled how her father spent many sleepless nights agonising over his decision to leave Fianna Fáil.

This, she explained, was “probably the hardest thing he had to do in his lifetime because he always felt he was brought up with Fianna Fáil’s core values as a party of the people”.

Born on December 19th, 1933, in the parish of Fedamore, Co Limerick, Clohessy was educated in Carnane National School and at the Christian Brothers in Sexton Street, Limerick.

Irish history

From a very early age he developed a passion for Irish history, politics, and folklore, encouraged greatly by his parents.

As a young man he travelled the country with his uncle Paddy, a former Limerick hurler and Fianna Fáil TD, and his father Andy to listen to and meet figures such as Eamon de Valera, Tom Barry, Dan Breen and Jack Lynch.

He attended his first Fianna Fáil constituency meeting aged just 13, and was immensely proud to join his local cumman at 17, before he was eligible to vote.

In the 1970s he was elected to Limerick County Council, where he would serve as a local councillor for 25 years, including as chairman in 1992.

His wife, Jean, who died in 2004, was a constant source of support and encouragement throughout his political career.

The couple, who farmed lands at Fanningstown, met in September 1962 and were married for 42 years.

Speaking at his funeral, Des O’Malley said admiration for Peadar Clohessy was not confined to Limerick but extended to Dublin, where he was respected by colleagues and political rivals alike.

“To me it was a joy to work with a man who was not constantly consumed by personal ambition, by a desire for self-advancement or self-aggrandisement.

“Peadar was not what we might call a soundbite merchant nor was he a headline-grabber.

“He had this great quality where he knew the difference between what really mattered and what was merely something in passing.”

Clohessy is survived by his sons Andrew, Patrick and Michael, and his daughters Alice, Margaret and Sinead.

Born: December 19th, 1933

Died: January 18th, 2014