Paddy Harte’s ‘finest hour’ recalled at his funeral

The former Fine Gael TD’s political career spanned almost four decades

The late former Fine Gael TD Paddy Harte (right) pictured with the late former Ulster Defence Association (UDA) leader Glen Barr at the Island of Ireland Peace in Mesen, Flanders. Photograph: Frank Miller.

The late former Fine Gael TD Paddy Harte (right) pictured with the late former Ulster Defence Association (UDA) leader Glen Barr at the Island of Ireland Peace in Mesen, Flanders. Photograph: Frank Miller.

 

The successful campaign by former Fine Gael TD Paddy Harte to honour the memory of Irish soldiers who died in the first World War was described as “his finest hour” at his funeral in Co Donegal on Thursday.

Hundreds of people gathered in the east Donegal town of Raphoe to attend the funeral of Mr Harte (86) whose political career spanned almost four decades.

Draped in a tricolour, Mr Harte’s coffin was carried the short distance from his family home on The Diamond to the nearby St Eunan’s Church for burial.

In freezing fog, many gathered outside the church to hear tributes paid to a man who served his community in the Dáil from 1961 until 1997.

He successfully fought eleven elections and from 1981 to 1982 he was Minister of State at the Department of Posts and Telegraphs in taoiseach Garret FitzGerald’s government.

Among those who attended the funeral were Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan and Government Chief Whip Joe McHugh; former Fianna Fáil tánaiste Mary Coughlan and former Fianna Fáil minister Dr Jim McDaid.

Others included Mark Durkan of the SDLP and Pat Hume, wife of former SDLP leader John Hume. Broadcaster George Hook also attended.

Fr Kieran Harkin officiated, assisted by a number of clergy including Fr Dinny McGettigan and Fr John Joe Duffy.

Some of Mr Harte’s 24 grandchildren carried up symbols of his life to remember the man who had so many interests.

They included a butcher’s coat to represent his life before politics, an Ireland soccer jersey to remember his love of sport, his honorary OBE medal as well as a picture of himself, wife Rosaleen and the couple’s nine children: Mary, Paddy, Anne, Jimmy, Roisin, Eithne, Johnny, Garrett and Emmet.

Mr Harte’s eldest child, broadcaster and journalist Mary Harte, eulogised her late father.

As well as remembering his political life, Ms Harte recalled what a wonderful father he had been as they grew up in such a busy household which he often referred to as a “railway station”.

“He embraced life to the full, pushing the boat out, testing uncharted waters, fearless and determined. He always saw the good in people and the positives that life offered. ”

Ms Harte told mourners: “A visit to Belgium and the site of the First World War in 1996 was to sow the seeds of what was to be his finest hour — to commemorate the forgotten Irish soldiers of WW1.

“Most thought he had taken leave of his senses. But on 11th of November 1998 the Island of Ireland Peace Park in Messines, was formally opened by President Mary McAleese, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Albert of Belgium, a turning point in Irish history and Anglo Irish relations.”

As mourners left the church Mr Harte’s nephew, former Ireland Eurovision Song Contest entrant Mickey Joe Harte sang How Great Thou Art and The Homes of Donegal.