Tributes paid to former Fine Gael senator


Tributes have been paid to the former Fine Gael senator, councillor and community activist, Pól Ó Foighil, who has died after a short illness.

Mr Ó Foighil (76), nicknamed "Báinín" because of his habit of wearing a báinín jacket to the Seanad, was a community activist and campaigner for the Irish language and on offshore island issues.

He was associated with many projects, including a wind farm on the Aran island of Inis Meáin, Irish language schools throughout Connemara and the creation of group water schemes in the west.

He also campaigned for many years for a cable car to link the mainland with the Mayo island of Inishbiggle.

Mr Ó Foighil was born in Thurles, Co Tipperary, but moved to Inverin, Connemara, over 50 years ago to take up a teaching post. He served as a member of Galway County Council and Údarás na Gaeltachta and was elected to the Seanad as a Fine Gael member of the Labour panel in 1989.

He failed to secure a Fine Gael nomination to run in the 2002 general election, and had intended to run as an Independent candidate in next month's Údarás na Gaeltachta elections.

Mr Ó Foighil was the architect of one of the most significant changes in years to the Galway county development plan, when provisions to protect the Irish language were adopted.

The final provisions represented a compromise on Mr Ó Foighil's original proposal, where applicants for planning permission for housing in south Connemara had to prove fluency in Irish.

Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Éamon Ó Cuív said he knew Mr Ó Foighil first as a co-op manager, before both entered politics.

"He had an incredible commitment to the Gaeltacht, and to islands, and he was also someone you could argue with, but he would never hold a grudge," said Mr Ó Cuív. "He was a man of great integrity."

Fine Gael TD for Galway West Padraic McCormack said Mr Ó Foighil was a community activist, first and foremost.

"He was a tremendous worker. No challenge was too big for him and he never stood back when there was a job to be done," he said.