Fond memories of a man of strong faith and principles

Paddy Harte often ploughed a lonely furrow when it came to his vision for peace

Liam Porter


Liam Porter


Paddy Harte

Members of the Harte family, at a family gathering in the Great Northern Hotel in Bundoran. Photo: Matt Britton.

When the news came this week that Paddy Harte had passed away, my mind raced over years of memories that I soon realised had spanned most of my life.

As I was growing up Paddy and my late father had been terrific friends, but after college and when I started out in journalism I started to get to know Paddy in his role as a politician.
My esteem for him as a man grew immensely over those years.
One of the things I admired so much about him, was the respect he had for my role as a journalist.
In his eyes I must always have been something of just a young lad, his friend’s youngster who had many times sat on the floor of his kitchen as a kid of 9 or 10 stuffing envelopes in the midst of an election frenzy.
As an adult now I didn’t always agree with every statement he made, but then again, on occasion, it is very likely that he did not agree with some things I’d written either.
As I did with many politicians over the years, I had to earn Paddy’s trust in my new role. His respect for journalists meant that, just because he already knew me, did not mean he would ever give - or ask for - any special treatment or privileges.
Over the years, watching him in action in the political arena, I could see that Paddy was a fair man, a man who could disagree with somebody on a ideological viewpoint and yet remain on really good terms with them personally.
Many of his political opponents might have been miles away from his philosophies, but they still had a deep respect for Paddy as a person and could enjoy his company and the craic with him.
He loved the craic, he had a great sense of humour, a wicked wee smile.

The remains of Paddy Harte are carried by his sons during Thursday's funeral in Raphoe. Photo: Thomas Gallagher.

I had always known Paddy as a great family man, but he was also a man of faith and a man of principles and I really admired him for that.
He often ploughed a lonely furrow when it came to his vision for peace, but frequently going against the popular views of the time, he wasn’t afraid to be individual – to stand out on his own.
He believed that breaking down barriers, sharing, dialogue, coming together and respecting traditions was a much preferable option to ways of violence.
Eventually, others would find their way there.
His work on the project that led to the building of the Island of Ireland Peace Park, will stands forever as testimony to his determination to see those who had fought in World War I remembered in a lasting and positive manner.
I once had the great honour of visiting the park with Paddy with a group from Donegal and Newtownabbey.
For each and every person on that trip I am certain that standing in those fields of white headstones, reinforced the realisation that whatever good violence might appear to do at any point is only temporary, yet the evil it does is permanent.
Paddy was someone who took the time to determine what values were important to him. It was his personal convictions – not those of others - that determined how he lived.
He took those values and transformed them into the guiding principles for everything he did.
They were not just mere words or ideas, they were his living testament.
Following his sad passing this week, they will now forever be, his lasting legacy.
Paddy’s wife Rosaleen and all his family and friends – to whom I offer my deepest sympathy – can take great comfort from that.

Liam Porter is from Raphoe and is a freelance journalist, and former staff reporter with the Donegal People's Press.