O'Malley lauds `gentle patriot' who told truth

 

Mr Jim Gibbons was "a gentle Irish patriot" who had suffered for many years because he insisted on telling the truth on oath during the Arms Trial, according to Mr Desmond O'Malley.

Leading the tributes to Mr Gibbons, who died at the weekend aged 73 after a long period of ill-health, Mr O'Malley said Mr Gibbons would nevertheless be remembered for more than just the Arms Crisis and its aftermath.

Mr O'Malley, who was a close political ally of Mr Gibbons for many years, said he was saddened by the news of his death.

"He was ill for a long time; nonetheless his passing is a sad event for someone like myself who worked closely with him, particularly in the period from 1969 to 1973. He was a loyal, honourable and truthful colleague at a difficult time."

He said the State was still benefiting from his work as Minister for Agriculture during the negotiations for Irish membership of the EEC. Ireland had joined the EEC on terms "exceptionally favourable to our farmers and agri-business. As a result cash sums flowed into this country over a long period."

He said he was a cultured and a widely-read man, a most talented cartoonist who "amused himself and others at Fianna Fail parliamentary party meetings by drawing insightful cartoons of notables who took themselves more seriously than did he.

"His health was never good from the time he was attacked within Leinster House by a group of thugs and kicked to the ground."

He said he was a successful farmer, deeply interested in and attached to the rural way of life. He expressed sympathy to his wife, Peg, and to the members of his large family.

The Taoiseach, Mr Ahern, expressed his and his party's thanks to the Gibbons family "for their sterling service to Fianna Fail for so many years. On behalf of the Fianna Fail party I offer his wife, Margaret, and his entire family condolences at this particularly sad time for them."

He said Mr Gibbons had represented the constituency of Carlow-Kilkenny with commitment and distinction for many years.

The Tanaiste, Ms Harney, said Mr Gibbons was "a politician of immense qualities . . . a man of the utmost integrity who served his country and his constituency of Carlow-Kilkenny with great distinction throughout his political career.

"On occasion he was required to display great political courage, for which we all owe him a great debt."

Mr John Bruton, the Fine Gael leader who shadowed Mr Gibbons during the 1970s as his party's agriculture spokesman, said he had shown him "great courtesy and generosity" during that time. "He was a man who was deeply patriotic in all his political work," he said.