It was a sad and poignant afternoon last Wednesday at council headquarters in Longford town where a special Mass was held to remember the late Cllr Paddy Belton (FG) who died suddenly last month at the age of 68.
The event which was concelebrated by Fr Tom Barden and Fr Tom Healy was attended by Cllr Belton’s family including his brother Louis and sister Maureen as well as council colleagues and officials and friends.
“I want to thank all the members of this council and the manager for the Guard of Honour [at Paddy’s funeral],” an emotional Louis Belton told the congregation. “It is a great honour for us to have such support at a time of extreme shock and we are very grateful to everyone.”
During the Mass Fr Barden referred time and again to Cllr Belton’s great generosity of spirit and love and to his countless acts of God during his lifetime. “Paddy was a good listener and good friend and he was taken away so quickly,” the Parish Priest in Kenagh added. “If we take three headings from today’s readings - that will say everything about Paddy. ‘To serve God is to serve his people’ - Paddy went to Mass in Kenagh and he did serve God because Kenagh was his people. In his years as a councillor, Paddy served so many people and it wasn’t just the rich and the wealthy, he looked after those in greatest need.”
Fr Barden then went on to speak about love and its significance and importance in Cllr Belton’s life. “If someone can say after we leave this world that we showed real love, then we got it right,” Fr Barden continued. “Paddy showed love and many’s the person had a kind word from Paddy over the years. His brother Liam died at an early age and Paddy stepped in and was a great support to the young family. Paddy had lots of gifts and talents as well. He was always fighting for the rights of Kenagh and he had respect for others. He was very proud to be a councillor and very good at what he did. He was a man with a big heart who left big shoes to fill.”
The music and singing then rang through, gently and diligently, perhaps just as Cllr Belton would have wanted it to be, had he been there too participate. However, that was not to be and it was the vacant seat at the council table that brought the reality home to everyone present - the reality that the gentle giant, the hardworking, caring and respectful local area representative and the man who left big shoes to fill, was not coming in to council chambers - for what would be an absence for the first time in 14 years.