Fine Gael unite to honour Deenihan
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was among the luminaries celebrating the career and legacy of a Kerry political giant at a special gathering of the Fine Gael party in Tralee's Rose Hotel on Friday to mark the retirement of Jimmy Deenihan from elected life.
The Kerry footballing great and former Arts Minister was left deeply touched by the massive turnout of more than 320 of the party's faithful for the farewell bash in his honour.
The Taoiseach travelled especially to Kerry for the event, with Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney arriving late straight from his third round of crunch talks on the North in Belfast. Former foreign affairs minister Charlie Flanagan was also among the guest list.
And it was local representative Liam Purtill who set the warm and celebratory mood to perfection in an hilarious turn as MC that brought the house down.
Jimmy's one-time protegé and now Tourism Minister Brendan Griffin was one of four to deliver an address, alongside the Taoiseach, Minister Coveney (a longtime close friend of the Finuge man) and the man of the hour himself.
Jimmy Deenihan told The Kerryman that he was deeply taken with the turnout. "I was delighted too to have been given the opportunity to thank so many of my supporters, who canvassed for me, put up posters for me, dropped leaflets and raised funds, among much else. I was delighted for that opportunity and to recognise the amount of progress Fine Gael has made."
When he first entered public life in the early 1980s, there was only one FG councillor - Ger Lynch - in North Kerry. Deenihan steered a surge in grassroots support to the point where six councillors now represent the area for the party.
He was central in the establishment of numerous initiatives there over his time, including the Lartigue Monorail project, the Seanchaí museum, Listowel Business Centre, and Listowel Food Fair.
And his parting gift to Listowel might prove the most beneficial - the securing of a gas line to Kerry Group.
His years of experience now benefit the 23 different committees with which he is working - not least the Kerry Sports Partnership of which the former Kerry footballer is chairman.