Monday 21 October 2019

'Margaret was a woman of great integrity and principle'

Long time colleague of Cllr Gormley on Sligo County Council, Declan Bree delivered the graveside oration at her request, a task which he said left him humbled and honoured.

"On Friday last when I learned of the unexpected death of my friend Margaret Gormley, I was stunned, heartbroken and felt a huge sense of loss. Over the past number of days I have learned that many, many, others share that same sense of shock, heartache and grief.

"So today, we gather here in the heart of Margaret's beloved South Sligo, to pay our final tribute to a unique and wonderful Sligo woman.

"I have to say that I feel humbled and honoured to address this gathering of her family, her friends and supporters, for I know that I am incapable of even attempting to convey the many facets of the lifetime work of Margaret Gormley

"I do feel deeply privileged that Margaret asked that I speak at her funeral ceremony (should she predecease me)

"So as we assemble here with Margaret's heartbroken brothers Brendan and Liam, her sisters in law, nephews and nieces and extended family, we celebrate the life of a unique and exceptional woman, of a public representative, who for almost 40 years, has represented the people of this area and this county with honour and distinction

"Today Margaret Gormley's imprint can be seen in the wide number of projects she advocated and delivered during her time in public life.

"She was very proud of her family traditions, of her parents and grandparents. It is very clear that she retained the wonderful and rich values they passed on to her. She was kind, caring, generous, forthright, courageous and principled.

"She gave unselfishly of her time serving the people of her community She was scrupulously honest and her word was her bond and like her late father she was always guided by a desire to act in the common good.

"It certainly can be said that her sense of decency and fair-play stood her well over the years.

"I first met Margaret Gormley shortly after I was elected to Sligo Council back in 1974. Margaret's late father Cllr Willie Gormley was a veteran of the Council at that time and she occasionally accompanied him when he came to town to do business in the Council offices in the Courthouse.

"I also had the pleasure in those early days of visiting the Gormley household at Carrowlouglin and meeting Margaret's late mother Delia. And what really struck me back then was Delia's extensive knowledge of the local political scene.

"Following the unexpected death of Margaret's father in 1980 I have a vivid recollection of Margaret and her mother, both still in mourning, calling to my home in High Street, requesting that I consider supporting Margaret for co-option to the seat which had been held by her late father.

"I assured them of my support and I was extremely pleased for the Gormley family when Margaret was formally co-opted to serve as an independent member of Sligo County Council on the 6th of October 1980.

"And, so began a lifetime of friendship as we worked together as members of Sligo County Council. Over those years I found Margaret a tower of strength and I have to say that on those occasions when I may have felt under attack or was under criticism for my political activities, I very much welcomed Margaret's consistent encouragement and support.

"And while we shared similar views on most issues there were odd occasions when we differed. However we always had huge respect for each other and for each other's opinion.

"Forever championing the cause of rural Ireland and forever prepared to take on political opponents and officialdom, if necessary. to right an injustice or to protect the interests of ordinary people,

"Margaret Gormley was an inspiration for any person interested in becoming involved in politics. She certainly never minced her words and was passionate about protecting and enhancing the lives of all those living in rural Sligo.

"Given my political background, living in a town, representing a largely urban area, while Margaret lived on a farm representing a largely rural area of the county, some commentators may have expected that we would have significant differences.

"However, we both recognised that we had very much in common as we fought to protect and advance the interests of the ordinary people of this county both urban and rural.

"The highlight of Margaret's career in politics was in 2004, when, after a wait of twenty four years, she was unanimously elected Cathaoirleach of Sligo County Council.

"I shared in that honor when I was elected Mayor of Sligo that same year. During that period we had the privilege and pleasure of working closely together and I certainly have very fond memories of the many wonderful events and receptions she hosted during her term of office.

"One memorable occasion particularly comes to mind when Margaret decided to dispense with protocol.

"It is custom and practice that only one chain of office would be worn at events in the respective Councils Chambers.

"However, when Margaret was making plans in advance of her Civic Reception in County Hall for the late Peter Horan, aware of my admiration of Peter's music and of my association with Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann, and also aware of my respect for protocol, she gave me strict instructions that I was to ignore protocol and wear the Mayoral Chain to the event - and I certainly wasn't going to cross Margaret. So we both wore our chains on that memorable occasion.

"Margaret Gormley packed in a tremendous amount of work during her year as Cathaoirleach - opening up County Hall to the community and making everyone feel welcome in the home of local government.

"The receptions she hosted are too numerous to mention but I do recollect how extremely proud and delighted she was to have the opportunity of hosting the reception for the Ladies GAA team in October of 2004. Margaret Gormley's name is synonymous with Ladies GAA in Sligo. Today we all bid farewell to their number one supporter.

"Almost 80 years have passed since Willie Gormley was first elected to represent the people of South Sligo, almost 40 years have passed since the mantle was passed on to his daughter Margaret.

"I know today that the members of the extended Gormley family, though devastated by Margaret's unexpected death, are immensely proud of Margaret and Willie and of the role their family has played in the development of local government in this county over the decades.

"No other family in Sligo has made such a significant contribution - and on behalf of my colleagues, the elected members of Sligo County Council, and on behalf of the people of Sligo I wish to extend our heartfelt gratitude to the Gormley family for their service to this county over the years.

"I know that Margaret was making preparations to contest the forthcoming local elections in May. Indeed we discussed the elections when we last met.

"It may not be the time or place for me to say this but I sincerely believe that it would be Margaret's wish to see the Gormley family continue to serve the people of Sligo at local government level.

Margaret Gormley was a woman of great integrity and principle. All of her colleagues on Sligo County Council and all of her friends and supporters will certainly miss her deeply.

"We will miss her intelligence, her sharp wit, her compassion, her no nonsense approach to life and her deep appreciation and respect for those she represented.

"Margaret Gormley was small in stature but she had the heart of a lion. Unfortunately, in the early hours of last Friday morning that heart ceased to beat. Ni bheidh a leitheid ann aris. May she rest in peace.

Sligo Champion