FORMER Taoiseach Brian Cowen and the current leader of Fianna Fáil, Micheál Martin, were among the large congregation at the funeral Mass for former TD PJ Morley in Knock Church last Wednesday. Many tributes were paid to the man from Cloonfaughna who was described as a “decent and modest man” who always did his best for his constituents.
Fr Richard Gibbons, PP, was the chief celebrant at the concelebrated Mass and also delivered the homily, reflecting on some of the quintessential traits that made PJ such a favourite across the political divide.
Brian Morley, on behalf of the family, shared memories of what it was like growing up in a political home and the central role played by PJ in all of their lives along with his wife Mary.
An Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who was overseas, was represented by Comdt Michael Treacy, a native of Co Tipperary, who the previous day also represented the Taoiseach at the funeral in Co Longford of country singer Larry Cunningham. Several colleagues of PJ from the political scene journeyed to Knock to pay their respects to a great friend whose loyalty was cherished down the years.
Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin, addressing the congregation at the end of the Mass, said people were here in Knock “to honour and remember PJ Morley a decent and modest man who committed his life’s work to public service for the country and the people of his beloved Mayo.
“I would like to offer my sincere condolences to PJ’s wife Mary, his daughter Cathy, his sons Patrick, Enda and Brian and his grandchildren who are here to say goodbye to their loved one. For those who knew the quiet warmth and strength of PJ’s character we can only begin to share in their sorrow at his loss.”
Mr Martin recalled the first time he met PJ was back in 1989 when he himself was first elected to Dáil Eireann. “As a young man trying to come to grips with a new, tumultuous workplace I remember being deeply impressed by the modest and unassuming nature of PJ. He was a man, who with quiet determination, went out and got the job done.
“He was well liked across the political divide and had wonderful time for everyone with his natural quiet warmth of character. This was a strength that he carried as a teacher from his home in Mayo into the corridors of Leinster House in Dublin and beyond to the halls of the Council of Europe at Strasbourg. But beneath that unassuming nature and distinctive good fun there was a driving commitment to public service.
“First elected in the great Lynch tide of 1977, PJ was in Dáil Eireann during one of the most turbulent periods that Irish politics has ever produced. But in those heady years he continued to serve the people of Mayo with characteristic dignity and modesty. The infrastructural benefits of his work in the Dáil and the Council are still to be seen in Mayo today in road and water projects across the county. They represent a lifetime of hard work and effort on behalf of the people of Mayo to secure vital investment in the West.
“He never lost sight of why he was there; he was, as has been so often said over these past few days by those who knew him best, a politician in the highest sense that Lincoln meant it, a man of and for the people.”
He singled out PJ’s role in securing funding for Knock Airport and keeping the project alive. “We do not have to look too far to see what his most remarkable achievement was. They say ‘Politics is the art of the possible’ but with Knock airport PJ may have proved them wrong. In the teeth of opposition from a Dublin set who said it would never work, PJ had the vision and the commitment to drive the project forward.
“His close working relationship with the late Monsignor Horan helped bring to fruition a bold project that defied and continues to defy the critics. PJ played a vital role in getting Charlie Haughey on board for the project and securing what Monsignor Horan called the ‘greatest day in Connacht for a hundred years’.
“When that first plane taxied up the freshly paved runway and took flight for Rome in 1985, PJ Morley had played his part.
“The people of the West of Ireland now enjoy the lasting benefits of Knock Airport a major infrastructural boost to the region that accommodates hundreds of thousands of passengers every year.
“In a time of cynicism about public life, the quiet, modest, unassuming but profound commitment of PJ Morley to public service stands out as a shining example. The fire of commitment towards the idea of public service was the guiding light of his life. Those are the best traditions of our party and PJ embodied that. Now he has passed the torch down to us and in his own quiet and unassuming way he has challenged us to live up to those traditions.
“His job is finished now and we are all the worse for his passing. His family can look at a life well lived and they can see the impact he has had on the county that he loved and served for so long.”