Saturday 1 October 2016

When Paddy met the Pope

Published 09/01/2013 | 10:37

The late Paddy Levin with Pope John Paul II in 1979
The late Paddy Levin with Pope John Paul II in 1979

OVER A lifetime of public service, Paddy Lavin's proudest and most memorable moment was shared with 300,000 others on a hillside in Killineer outside Drogheda on September 29th, 1979.

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It was the day Louth will never forget, the day that Pope John Paul II was dropped by helicopter out of a grey sky to deliver his message of peace ' the cry of centuries sends me to Drogheda...on my knees I beg you to turn away from the path of violence'.

As County Manager for Louth, Paddy was shouldered with the greatest logistical challenge that the local authority in Louth is ever likely to meet in staging that memorable occasion, but he met that challenge with his renowned determination and good humour.

The bonus for Paddy, a man of deep faith, was that he got to meet the Pope and welcome him on behalf of the people of Louth.

Paddy had entered the public service with Roscommon County Council as a clerical officer and as his son, Dermot revealed to the congregation at his Requiem Mass 'in the early days of his career if a promotion emerged on Tory island he would have taken it if it meant improving his career opportunities but more importantly provided a better and lasting future for his family'.

In the local government service Paddy was quite simply a legend. With the wholehearted support of his loving wife, Ena, Paddy progressed from that first position in Roscommon to become Town Clerk in Letterkenny, Enniscorthy, Athlone and Dundalk. From the post of Town Clerk in Dundalk, Paddy was appointed County Secretary in Louth after which he was appointed Assistant County Manager in Cork.

From Cork, Paddy's next move was to Monaghan when he was appointed County Manager, a post he loved. His final move came in 1975 when he was appointed County Manager in Louth in succession to Mr. J. L. MacKell.

As County Manager for Louth, Paddy dedicated himself to improving the quality of life for the people of the county, especially public housing and he took great pride when in 1987, the year that he retired from public life, a newly built housing estate in Tullyallen was named 'Lavin Park'.

Throughout his career in local government the strong principles that guided Paddy's life shone through. He was old fashioned, traditional, a warrior of his age and what he stood for was a strong moral purpose and a commitment to doing the right thing. His affinity to his roots in Roscommon, his heritage and belief in democracy was always evident, but while he was always interested in politics like all good public servants he never showed his hand.

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