Saturday 3 December 2016

In FG leader race, Simon Coveney is the 'Peter Barry option'

Peter Barry, who passed away last week, never really hungered to be Taoiseach, despite being so close to the top, writes Eoin O'Malley

Eoin O'Malley

Published 28/08/2016 | 02:30

FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES: Peter Barry (right) with the Bishop of Cork, Most Rev. Dr Michael Murphy, pictured in the stands at Pairc Ui Chaoimh for the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Semi-Final Replay featuring Dublin v Cork in August 1983. Photo: Liam Mulcahy
FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES: Peter Barry (right) with the Bishop of Cork, Most Rev. Dr Michael Murphy, pictured in the stands at Pairc Ui Chaoimh for the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Semi-Final Replay featuring Dublin v Cork in August 1983. Photo: Liam Mulcahy

James Dillon was elected leader of Fine Gael in 1959. The merchant prince from Ballaghaderreen was a man of impeccable manners and capable of outstanding oratory. He was the son of John Dillon, the last leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party, and grandson of John Blake Dillon, a founder of the Young Ireland movement.

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Dillon looked and sounded like a leader. He would not have been out of place as a One-Nation Tory on the benches at Westminster, and seemed a natural choice for leader of his own party. One TD was worried however. Tony Barry, the deputy from Cork, and another merchant wondered aloud: 'But does he want to be Taoiseach?'

It's a question we might ask of the merchant princes of Cork. Tony Barry might have asked it of his son, Peter Barry, who passed away on Friday. In 1969, Peter Barry comfortably won back the seat his father had lost four years earlier. Despite being in the same constituency as Jack Lynch, whose avalanche of support had damaged his father, Peter Barry never had trouble holding on to his seat.

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