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Niall O’Dowd’s moving tribute to 'the son I never had'

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Rory Staunton

Rory Staunton

Former Presidential candidate Niall O'Dowd

Former Presidential candidate Niall O'Dowd

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FORMER Presidential candidate Niall O’Dowd has written an emotional eulogy to his 12-year-old nephew, who died in New York, describing him as "the son I never had".

Rory Staunton, the son of Niall and Minister Fergus O’Dowd’s sister Orlaith, passed away suddenly following a brief illness.

He comes from a well known Irish-American political family – his father Ciaran, from Co Mayo, is the founder of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform and runs the well known Molly Bloom’s pub in Queens, New York with his Louth-born wife.

Niall O’Dowd, who runs the Irish Voice newspaper in New York, writes on its website Irish Central.com: “This is the toughest column I will ever write and the one I least expected to.

“On Sunday night in a New York hospital my beautiful 12-year-old nephew Rory Staunton passed from this earth.

“Rory wasn’t just my nephew, he was the son I never had, the precious possession of my sister Orlaith and her husband Ciaran Staunton along with their daughter Kathleen.”

He describes how Orlaith followed him to America and he introduced her to her husband Ciaran Staunton on an Irish weekend in the Catskills back in the 1990s.

Niall O’Dowd, who has a daughter Alana, said he often tried to ‘steal’ Rory away often: “a Notre Dame game, a weekend at our house, whenever the opportunity presented itself. I revelled in this big laughing Irishman, with the "Simpsons" and "Family Guy" obsession, the absurd sense of humor and the serious political side of him who studied American politics with the intensity of a professional.

“JFK was his hero he told me, because of his idealism. Rory too wanted to make a difference, to help the less well off. For one so young he already had a highly developed social conscience.

“He had already been to the White House and had met President Obama and Michelle on St Patrick’s Day in 2011. Not surprisingly, given his parents and their keen interest in all things political, Rory was fast becoming a political expert.”

Describing how his nephew “charmed the pants off whoever met him”, he said girls were already showing interest and Georgetown University and its politics degree were on his radar.

“Then on Sunday we lost him. Four days earlier he had received an elbow scrape after falling while playing basketball, which had somehow allowed a toxic bacteria into his system. Two days later he was hospitalized, fighting for his life, a battle he ultimately lost.

“There is an air of unreality even as I write this. My beautiful red-headed, five-foot nine-inch tall nephew has departed, leaving an utterly broken family and circle of friends that stretches from New York to Ireland to many other points behind.

“It was the worst weekend of my life as I watched the beloved boy battle vainly against the host of toxins that were attacking him.

“Despite the best efforts of outstanding doctors and nurses in the Intensive Care Unit , the darling boy did not survive.

“He is gone now into the wild blue yonder where he used to travel as a pilot in the making.

“Soar high Rory, and keep watch on us down below. We love you and miss you so much. Some day with a blue sky above and a fair wind behind, and our hearts full, our dreams will come true and we will meet our beautiful boy again.

“Until then, slan go foill a chuisle mo chroi.”

Niall O’Dowd was running as an independent candidate in last year’s Presidential election, but pulled out of the race a month before voting saying the logistics of mounting a campaign were too difficult. He is credited internationally for his work in helping to negotiate the Good Friday Agreement with President Bill Clinton.

Rory’s uncle Fine Gael Minister of State, Fergus O’Dowd, said: “We will all miss him. He was wonderful and too young to die.”

A celebration of Rory’s life was taking place in Woodside, Queens, New York today and he will then be flown home to Ireland for burial.

www.irishcentral.com