Sunday 24 September 2017

Des O'Malley tells of IRA blockade on his home as he pays tribute to his beloved Pat

Farewell: Des O’Malley at the funeral Mass of his wife Patricia at the Church of the Sacred Heart in Donnybrook, with his daughter Fiona (left). Photo: Steve Humphreys
Farewell: Des O’Malley at the funeral Mass of his wife Patricia at the Church of the Sacred Heart in Donnybrook, with his daughter Fiona (left). Photo: Steve Humphreys
Liam Collins

Liam Collins

Described by her grandson as "a hidden force in Irish politics", Patricia (Pat) O'Malley, wife of the former government minister and founder of the Progressive Democrats, Des O'Malley, was buried after requiem Mass in Dublin yesterday.

Originally Patricia McAleer from Omagh, Co Tyrone, she died of cancer last Wednesday at the age of 76.

"At 12.45pm on Wednesday she held my hand and said: 'I am ready to die, I want to go home,'" Limerick Redemptorist priest Fr Gerard O'Connor, a friend of the family, told the packed congregation, led by the President of Ireland Michael D Higgins, in the Church of the Sacred Heart, Donnybrook.

In a poignant eulogy, Des O'Malley said: "I am used to making speeches, from the District Court in Limerick to other institutions, but this is the hardest speech I have ever had to make...this thing should have been the other way around. I, and most people, expected that I would be the first to go, it would have been better for everybody if that were so, but the better one went first."

Mr O'Malley said that he and Pat were married in the same church in Donnybrook 52 years ago.

"I was a great beneficiary of that marriage," he said. "Pat was generous in giving, and generous in forgiving, and I gave her many opportunities to exercise that forgiveness," he added.

Former Taoiseach Brian Cowen and his wife Mary. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Former Taoiseach Brian Cowen and his wife Mary. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Mr O'Malley said that when she married him, "a pedestrian provincial solicitor", neither had any inkling that within a short space of time he would be Minister for Justice in the Irish Government at the height of the IRA campaign and she would have six gardai, some armed, based in her garage.

"It was not easy for her to be told that she had to get herself and the children out of the house in five minutes, as it was going to be blockaded... and to return later to find a coffin daubed with threats in the garden."

He also paid tribute to his wife's family from Co Tyrone, who he said suffered greatly because of her marriage to him. Their businesses were bombed by the IRA because of his position in the Government - and because he had once been seen speaking to a retired inspector of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) "about his rugby trips to Limerick".

"The McAleers could have banished me from Tyrone, but they never did, despite all that had befallen them because of me."

Mary Harney. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Mary Harney. Photo: Steve Humphreys

"She was," he said, "virtually a lone parent much of the time - she reared the children 'because you are busy saving the country' as she ironically put it."

On a lighter note, he told the congregation that Pat was one of "the first activist political wives" and although she was an "athletic canvasser", her big political drawback was that she didn't like funerals.

"I once sent a request from Japan asking her to attend a certain funeral. Two days later, I got home and she was still in a state of shock... she told me she drove to the parish, parked the car and as she was walking towards the church, she met the man whose funeral she thought she was attending. There were two Fianna Fail men in the same parish of the same name...one had seen the true light, the other wasn't so lucky," he finished, to applause from the congregation.

He read a small tribute from her daughters describing their mother as a "selfless person who enjoyed people, whether meeting them or watching them and imagining their lives".

Michael Mc Dowell. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Michael Mc Dowell. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Mrs O'Malley is survived by her children Catherine, Hilary, Fiona, Desmond, Eoin and Maeve. The attendance included her brother Peter McAleer and sister Bernadette, former Sunday Independent political correspondent Joseph O'Malley, former Taoiseach Brian Cowen and his wife Mary, and former members of the Progressive Democrats, including former leader Mary Harney, as well as Minister for Jobs Mary Mitchell O'Connor.

Mary Mitchell O'Conor. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Mary Mitchell O'Conor. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Liz O'Donnell. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Liz O'Donnell. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Pat and Des O’Malley. Photo: RollingNews.ie
Pat and Des O’Malley. Photo: RollingNews.ie

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