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New Taoiseach overwhelmed by 'very special' Cork homecoming

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Family moment: New Taoiseach Micheál Martin with daughter Aoibhe, wife Mary and sons Micheál and Cillian in Cork. Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

Family moment: New Taoiseach Micheál Martin with daughter Aoibhe, wife Mary and sons Micheál and Cillian in Cork. Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

Family moment: New Taoiseach Micheál Martin with daughter Aoibhe, wife Mary and sons Micheál and Cillian in Cork. Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

Newly elected Taoiseach Micheál Martin paid a flying visit back to his Cork home to celebrate with his family after they were unable to attend his election or Áras an Uachtaráin ceremony.

Mr Martin was greeted by his wife Mary and three children as he made the first inaugural visit back to Leeside by a Cork-born Taoiseach since his boyhood hero Jack Lynch in 1966.

The former secondary school teacher savoured a hero's welcome back to his quiet Ballinlough estate, with neighbours and friends erecting bunting to celebrate his election as Taoiseach - and offering him a special, socially-distanced guard of honour.

Neighbours sang that Cork anthem 'The Banks of my own Lovely Lee' as the Taoiseach insisted on walking into his own home estate.

It proved the perfect early birthday present for the Turner's Cross-born politician - a Cork TD since 1989 - as he celebrates his 60th birthday on August 1.

He immediately signalled an end to old Civil War political divisions.

Mr Martin revealed one of his first acts will be to hang portraits of Éamon de Valera and Michael Collins side-by-side in the Taoiseach's office.

The Fianna Fáil leader said he was inspired when he saw the social media footage of former Taoiseach Leo Varadkar taking down the Michael Collins portrait as he handed over his office. "Leo Varadkar said to me during the week that he has taken the portrait of Michael Collins down - and I said: 'Do you know, I might put it back up?'

"I will put [Éamon] de Valera up next to him just to symbolise what has happened in terms of the formation of this Government.

"I have a wonderful portrait of De Valera up in my Opposition office - I will bring that over. Seán Lemass is there already. We will also find a place for a bust of Jack Lynch too."

Mr Martin admitted he was overwhelmed by his welcome home. "I thought it was a low-key homecoming I was returning to," he laughed.

"I want to thank my neighbours because we have had a lovely friendship since we first moved here 30 years ago. We have the best of neighbours - it has been a great oasis for me and to be in the middle of such wonderful people.

"This is very, very special - it is very emotional."

As for his family, he said it was great to see them again after the dramatic events of the past few days.

"I think they are more relieved than anything," he said.

He added he was particularly proud because Jack Lynch was a great friend of his late father, Paddy 'Champ' Martin, and his son was now the first Cork-born Taoiseach since the great Cork GAA star.

"My father lost four county finals with Jack Lynch - so, yes, today is very special to be a Cork TD and to have been elected Taoiseach.

"I think he [his father] would be quietly proud - but we were brought up not to use the word proud. My mother didn't like it. I think he would be a happy man - he was a proud Irishman and he loved his country.

"Right throughout my career he was always there for me."

His wife, Mary, said they were "over the moon" with the events of the past 48 hours.

"Of course, we are all thrilled but it is a little bit daunting. On a human level, one side of me was glad to be able to [cry with emotion] in the privacy of my own home. It was quite emotional.

"We are just thrilled - we wish Micheál well and we will do what we can to help him."

Every Ballinlough estate resident gathered outside the Martin home to cheer their neighbour and new Taoiseach as he arrived by car at 2pm.

Neighbour Liam Byrne had a double reason to be pleased as he not only moved into the newly-built estate in 1990 along with the Martin family but also taught Micheál and his brother, Padraig, at Colaiste Christ Rí in the 1970s.

Irish Independent


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