Friday 31 July 2015

Impact of former Taoiseach's death felt strongly across Midlands

Barry Duggan

Published 21/08/2014 | 11:12

Former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds Credit: Paul Faith/PA Wire
Former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds Credit: Paul Faith/PA Wire

IT was in the midlands where the former Taoiseach’s loss was most felt today.

Albert Reynolds (81) was a very popular figure in Longford and Roscommon.

He employed more than 1,000 people from across the midlands at one stage.

He built dancehalls across the midlands and later developed the C&D pet food plant in Edgeworthstown, Co Longford which opened in 1969.

A former Chairman of Longford Chamber of Commerce, he was first elected to Longford County Council 1974 and was then elected to the Dail in the Longford/Westmeath constituency in 1977 at the age of 45.

Benny Reid, a Longford FF activist, said history would be kind to Albert Reynolds.

“It is not entirely unexpected but when it comes, it hits you between the two eyes,” Mr Reid said this morning on Shannonside FM.

Mr Reid was a keen supporter of Reynolds and recalled that in 1965, Reynolds first dipped his toes in politics shortly after he was married.

“What struck me at the time, Albert was very casual in the presence of Frank Aitken (a founding member of Fianna Fail). I didn’t know it at the time but we had two Statesmen there.”

Mr Reid said Albert was initially reluctant to get involved in politics.

“We had several discussions, casual discussions. He loved politics and serving people but he had a young family and was starting out. He said he couldn’t afford it.”

However, he ventured into public life and went onto become the first ever Taoiseach from the midlands.

“He was happiest sitting back at 1am in the morning drinking a cup of tea and talking,” Mr Reid added.

Former Longford Leader editor Eugene McGee said he ended up working for Mr Reynolds when he took over the Longford News.

“He was anxious to get the paper as he thought it would be a foothold. He was always hanging around the Longford Arms with the dance hall business,” Mr McGee said.

Mr Reynolds also had a finance company called ABC finance as well as extensive property holdings.

In 2006, his pet food business was destroyed by a fire resulting in the loss of 300 jobs but later reopened providing much needed employment.

Rory O’Hanlon served in government with Reynolds. Mr O’Hanlon said he showed the same focus in the Dail as he did with in his dancehall and pet food business.

He is survived by his wife, Kathleen, two sons and five daughters.

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