'˜Builder of bridges' Paddy Harte dies
Paddy Harte, the retired Donegal politician who worked tirelessly to recognise Irish soldiers who lost their lives during World War I, has died.
The former Fine Gael TD, who passed away yesterday, was aged 86.
Mr Harte was first elected to Dáil Eireann to represent Donegal North East in 1961 and was returned at eleven further general elections.
He lost his seat to Independent Fianna Fail’s Harry Blaney in 1997 and retired from active politics after failing in a bid to secure a Seanad seat.
He later became involved in a number of projects, including the Island of Ireland Peace Park at Messines in Belgium, along with Derry loyalist Glen Barr, who passed away just a few months ago.
The park, which includes a reproduction round tower, was officially opened in 1998 to commemorate all Irishmen who died in the First World War.
Among those to pay tribute to Mr. Harte was former Fine Gael leader and Taoiseach John Bruton who described the Donegal man as an “original, independent minded, individual.”
He added: “Working with Glen Barr, he sought reconciliation between nationalists and onionists on the island, notably through the joint commemoration of the sacrifices both communities made during the First World War. This was often a lonely path for him to follow and he showed great physical and moral courage.”
Hailing Mr. Harte as a “builder of bridges”, Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said he had left a lasting mark on Irish politics.
The Bishop of Derry, Dr. Donal McKeown, said Mr. Harte had been deeply committed to Christian values and his politics “was guided by his conscience”.
“He lived by doing the right thing even when it was to cost him,” said Bishop McKeown. “He was a true leader rather than a follower.
“He was able to work with and forge good working relationships with people from all sides of the political divide.” added the Bishop.