Tributes paid to late TD Paddy Harte
Former Fine Gael TD Paddy Harte has been remembered for the "incredible work" he did to build bridges during the peace process in Northern Ireland.
Mr Harte, who served as a TD in Donegal North East for 36 years, has passed away today aged 86.
Government chief whip Joe McHugh has expressed his sympathy to Mr Harte's family and paid tribute to his late party colleague.
Mr McHugh said Mr Harte had left a lasting peace process legacy through his cross-community and cross-border work.
"I went into politics after Paddy but was acutely aware when I entered Dáil Éireann of his work before me for the people of County Donegal," said Mr McHugh.
"He also did incredible work to build bridges on this island during many dark days for our people.
“His lasting legacy will be the Island of Ireland Peace Park in Flanders, Belgium, which was officially opened by President McAleese in 1998.
Mr Harte co-founded the park along with Glen Barr, a former loyalist paramilitary commander who passed away last year.
Mr Harte was a TD between 1961 and 1997 and served as junior minister for Posts and Telegraths in the 1980s.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said “At very difficult and divisive times during the Troubles, Paddy was a steadfast opponent of violence and he consistently sought to reconcile the communities from both traditions on this island.”
Mr Varadkar said Mr Harte’s work developing the Peace Park “helped to lay the foundation stones of tolerance and respect which are the hallmark of the State’s approach to the Decade of Centenaries”. He expressed his condolences to Mr Harte’s family”.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin also offered his sympathies to Mr Harte's family.
“Paddy Harte has left a lasting mark on Irish politics, not only through his work as a TD representing the people of Donegal North East, but also as a builder of bridges," Mr Martin said.
Mr Martin said the late TD engaged meaningfully with all sides involved in the conflict and also paid tribute to him for dedicating much of his life to public service pointing to his almost four decades in the Dáil.
The Fianna Fáil leader noted Mr Harte's work to acknowledge the sacrifice Irish soliders made in World War 1.
“This work saw him awarded numerous accolades including an Honorary OBE and an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from the National University of Ireland, as well as being named European of the Year in 1998," Mr Martin said.
“I want to extend my condolences to Paddy’s wife Rosaleen and his nine children," he added.