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Sunday 4 December 2016

Family man, political leader and tea company tycoon laid to rest

Published 30/08/2016 | 02:30

The coffin of Anglo Irish Agreement deal-maker and former Tanaiste Peter Barry is brought from St Michael's Church, Blackrock, Cork. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
The coffin of Anglo Irish Agreement deal-maker and former Tanaiste Peter Barry is brought from St Michael's Church, Blackrock, Cork. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Fine Gael MEP Deirdre Clune following the funeral Mass of her father Peter Barry. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Taoiseach Enda Kenny joins in a round of applause for the former Tanaiste. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
President Michael D Higgins and Canon Jim O'Donovan. Pic Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision
Leader of Fianna Fail Micheal Martin. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Minister for Health Simon Harris (left) and Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Peter Barry's son, Tony, recalled how his father built a national tea business from a small family grocery in Cork city some 60 years ago.

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He was speaking at the funeral of the late Tánaiste, where President Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach Enda Kenny were among the huge congregation at St Michael's church in Blackrock.

Former Tanaiste Peter Barry. Picture: Billy Higgins
Former Tanaiste Peter Barry. Picture: Billy Higgins

Mourners came to pay final respects to the former Fine Gael TD, Lord Mayor of Cork, and government minister who died aged 88 after a short illness. Colleagues from the 1973-77 Coalition present for the funeral mass included former Gaeltacht Minister, Tom O'Donnell; former Finance Minister, Alan Dukes; and former Attorney General, Peter Sutherland.

All of Mr Barry's 21 grandchildren played an active role in the funeral ceremony, as did his four sons and two daughters.

Tony Barry recalled his father's commitment to national politics and noted that he was supported throughout his long career by his late wife Margaret, who died in 2013.

"He had a terrible head for names and Mum was always there to help him over that," Mr Barry joked.

Fine Gael MEP Deirdre Clune following the funeral Mass of her father Peter Barry. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Fine Gael MEP Deirdre Clune following the funeral Mass of her father Peter Barry. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

He also noted his father's love of rugby with a life-long devotion to his local club Cork Constitution. Peter Barry was also a passionate supporter of Cork GAA and believed that organisation was the best in the country.

Mr Barry said his father wanted to study engineering at university when he finished school at Christian Brothers College. But the small family shop was struggling and so he went to work there.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny joins in a round of applause for the former Tanaiste. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Taoiseach Enda Kenny joins in a round of applause for the former Tanaiste. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

The business also did a small line in tea blending and one day in the 1950s somebody came and offered him market research, which was then almost unheard of. The research revealed great demand for Barry's Tea, and it encouraged him to expand production and advertise, eventually making the product a huge success.

Current Government ministers in attendance included Simon Coveney, Leo Varadkar, Charlie Flanagan, Michael Creed, Simon Harris and Regina Doherty. Junior Ministers David Stanton, Dara Murphy, Andrew Doyle, Damien English, and Patrick O'Donovan were also present as was parliamentary party chairman, Martin Heydon, and his fellow Kildare-based TD, Bernard Durkan.

Cork Fine Gael representatives included Jim Daly TD and Senators Jerry Buttimer and Colm Burke. Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Des Cahill, also attended. Mr Barry's daughter, the former TD and current MEP, Deirdre Clune was supported by MEP colleagues, Seán Kelly and Brian Hayes.

Former TDs included Bernard Allen, Paul Bradford, John Browne, and Gerry Reynolds as well as former Munster MEP, John Cushnahan. Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and finance spokesman Michael McGrath and that party's former TD Ned O'Keeffe attended, as did Labour leader Brendan Howlin, former local Labour TD Kathleen Lynch and current Sinn Féin TD Donnchadh O Laoghaire.

President Michael D Higgins and Canon Jim O'Donovan.
Pic Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision
President Michael D Higgins and Canon Jim O'Donovan. Pic Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

Cork GAA county secretary, Frank Murphy, was also in attendance. Mr Murphy was later among an honour guard for Mr Barry's cortege which stopped briefly outside the nearby Blackrock GAA Club grounds.

Representing Fine Gael's backroom team were secretary general, Tom Curran, and finance director John Mitchell, along with former strategist Finbarr Fitzpatrick. Other former ministers included Nora Owen and Sean Barrett.

Two bishops of Cork, Dr John Buckley from the Catholic Church, and Dr Paul Colton from the Church of Ireland, were among eight clergymen presiding. Canon Kieran Twomey PP, St Michael's, was the chief celebrant and in his homily he paid tribute to Mr Barry's decency, generosity and integrity.

The man who served Cork as a councillor, Lord Mayor and TD for over 30 years was laid to rest in St Michael's Cemetery.

Irish Independent

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