Quinn leads tributes to friend and colleague Michael Bell
EDUCATION Minister Ruairi Quinn yesterday told mourners of his 30 years of friendship with former Louth Labour Party TD Michael Bell.
Giving a graveside oration at Mr Bell's funeral, Mr Quinn said they were at the "grave of a great man who we are now laying to his final rest and already the winds that are blowing us are a clear indication of the storm he is causing wherever he has gone to now".
Mr Quinn said Mr Bell (74), who was also a senior official in what was then the Irish Transport and General Workers Union, now SIPTU, was "a friend of mine for more than 30 years".
He recalled the determination of the then Labour candidate, who died on Friday after a long illness, to win a seat in Louth being "palpable" and how he secured it in November 1982 and "for the next 20 years, Michael Bell gave his best service to the people of Drogheda, to the people of Louth and to the Labour movement across this country".
"Farewell my friend and socialist, farewell my Labour party colleague, farewell comrade, rest in peace," Mr Quinn concluded.
There was a guard of honour by former FCA colleagues as Mr Bell's coffin made its way from Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Drogheda to the hearse. On its arrival at St Peter's Cemetery, he was given a guard of honour by members of the Reserve Defence Forces.
Mr Bell held his Dail seat for 20 years and his "extraordinary, fulfilled and exciting life," was recalled at the end of the Mass by his friend Paul Murphy.
He had led the union "into battle" when trade barriers came down and led to the shoe industry "being exposed to the full blast of cheap imports".
He lost the party whip in 1983 after voting against a Labour Party social welfare bill.
He was also a member of Drogheda Corporation and Louth County Council.
Among the mourners yesterday were the former leader of the Labour Party, Dick Spring; the former Minister for Justice, Dermot Ahern; former deputy Brendan McGahon; and former senator James Carroll. The Taoiseach was represented by Commandant Tom Walsh.
Mr Bell was laid to rest beside his late wife Betty.