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Tuesday 12 December 2017

'He looked at me and a tear ran down his cheek' - emotional minister recalls his father's death

Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Patrick O’Donovan. Photo: Tom Burke
Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Patrick O’Donovan. Photo: Tom Burke Newsdesk Newsdesk

In an emotional interview Minister of State Patrick O'Donovan opened up about the impact of his father's death which he says he "will never get over".

Speaking to Ryan Tubridy on RTE Radio One this morning the Minister told the story of his dad John's illness, which coincided with his election to the Dáil.

He revealed he "took a seat behind Enda" to help make sure the camera could see him so his dad could share the proud moment, as he watched on TV at home.

“My father was dying at the time. I went up to the clerk who said “this is a big gig for you?” and I said it was and told him what was happening at home with my father and everything”

Minister O’Donovan: Kick-started debate. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Minister O’Donovan: Kick-started debate. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

“So he took down the register of the first Dáil and said “these are the names of the people you are following. So you had people like Eamon de Valera, Cathal Brugha, Michael Collins.

“It is a big deal when you’re sitting in that chamber looking across at these people as a young fella you saw on the news.

“It’s a massive honour to have your name called out as a representative for your area.”

Before his election his father had some advice for him:

“One night I said to him “Dad, the next time you see me I might be a TD” and he said “If you are, don’t ever forget where you come from.”

"It's a huge honour to represent your area.. I still get choked up about it," he said.

"I remember the day I took my seat in the Dáil and Enda's mother was very sick as well," he said.

The Fine Gael leader asked after his father's wellbeing.

"I said "he's not great Enda to be honest about it" and he said "it's on days like this that you miss them isn't it"," Mr O'Donovan said.

"And it is on days like that that you miss him and there's part of me... I suppose I carry him around," he said growing emotional.

"I'm sorry about this," he told the host.

His dad passed away in 2013 and the Limerick TD recalled the moments leading up to his death.

"The night before he died I remember sitting in a Fine Gael parliamentary party room and this thought came over me that I need to go home," he said.

"I rang my sister and I said "how is he?" and she said "he's not great", so I got into the car and I headed for home.

"I remember - you know the toll bridge in Portlaoise- I remember going through that and thinking I hope he is still there"

"When I went in home, he couldn't talk, he looked at me and a tear ran down his cheek... I said goodbye to him and he died at five past seven in the morning.

"We were all there and it was desperate. I haven't got over it and I'll never get over it," he said through tears.

The Minister spoke about the support he and his family received from their community and from outgoing Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who he described as a "great friend".

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