Taoiseach honours special friendship with late Fine Gael TD Nicky
The very special and deep friendship between Taoiseach Enda Kenny and the late Fine Gael TD Nicky McFadden has been revealed for the first time.
During her long and painful battle with Motor Neuron Disease, Mr Kenny regularly visited the Longford-Westmeath politician at her family home in Athlone.
Every other Friday, he stopped at her house for tea and a chat while on the road home to Castlebar.
More than a year after Ms McFadden's death, Mr Kenny, her family, local TDs and the people of Midlands are keeping her legacy alive.
Last weekend, they joined together to cycle the new 40km Mullingar to Athlone Greenway in her memory and to raise funds for sufferers of the devastating neurological disorder.
Speaking to the Sunday Independent, her sister, Fine Gael TD Gabrielle McFadden, said the pair were "great auld buddies" and that the Taoiseach was a good and caring friend to Nicky after her diagnosis in May 2012.
The mother of two was just 49 when she passed away.
"He called to the house regularly, every second Friday. He would sit with her, hold her hand and tell her about the day and whatever was going on. He would just chat to her and she'd listen," she said.
"When he'd walk in the door, her face would beam, her eyes would light up. She adored him."
Gabrielle won Nicky's Dail seat after her sister's death in March 2014.
In the year following her diagnosis, Nicky felt strong enough to travel to Leinster House. Although her voice had gone, Gabrielle said her mobility was good and she was still able to work.
However, during the last 10 months of her life, her condition deteriorated sharply and the TD was no longer able to go to Kildare Street.
During the difficult time, Mr Kenny pledged to keep her informed on what was happening in Government.
"She had no voice and her muscles were giving up, so she would be so happy to see him. She had an iPad and so she was able to communicate with him and ask him questions," said Gabrielle.
"She just loved politics. She loved Fine Gael and she loved being a TD. When he visited and told her what was going on, she just loved it. She felt like she was still contributing and still involved."
The Taoiseach wasn't the only Oireachtas member to visit the politician, whose family has been steeped in local politics for a generation. Other Oireachtas colleagues also stayed in regular contact throughout her illness.
Last Saturday, Mr Kenny challenged the four local TDs - Fianna Fail TD Robert Troy, Fine Gael TD James Bannon, Labour TD Willie Penrose and Gabrielle McFadden - to don their cycling gear for the 'The Friends of Nicky McFadden Cycle', a charity cycle to raise funds for the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association.
The local community got involved making soup, sandwiches and tea for the cyclists.
Speaking before the cycle, Mr Kenny said: "Nicky was a very special person and touched a lot of people because she really was the essence of kindness.
"She faced her illness with a courage and a philosophical insight that were uplifting, even in the midst of all the pain. We still miss her smiling and joyful presence."
Gabrielle said the fundraiser was a "terrific success".