Tributes have been pouring in for local area representative in the Ballymahon Electoral Area, Cllr Paddy Belton (FG) who passed away unexpectedly in his native Kenagh on Thursday evening, April 25 last.
Cllr Belton (68) was part of the Belton political dynasty for the past 14 years, having been first elected to Longford Co Council in 1999. That year, he won the seat left vacant by his brother Louis J, who had earlier been elected a TD for Longford/Roscommon, and he went on to hold the seat it in every election thereafter. Cllr Paddy Belton was also Group Leader of the Fine Gael Councillors in Longford and was highly regarded in GAA and rugby circles. He was also very well known on the local farming scene.
Cllr Belton ran a victorious political campaign in 2004, and in the 2009 local election, he secured his seat - for the third time - from early on in the race. Throughout his distinguished political career, the needs of those he represented were always to the fore, something Deputy James Bannon alluded to in his tribute to the late Ballymahon Electoral Area representative.
“I know Paddy all my life as both a sportsman and politician,” Deputy James Bannon said. “I felt huge sadness when I learned of his sudden death. The Kenagh and Ballymahon area has lost a faithful friend. He served his community so well and was a very hard worker. Paddy was a person of great decency and integrity and was a very valued member of the Kenagh Football Club.”
Cllr Belton was also very well respected on the local GAA front, having played football for both Kenagh and St Martin’s in his youth. He was also a member of the County Longford Rugby team in the late 1970s and 1980s, and he managed a strong and dedicated Kenagh side in the early ‘90s. He played at centre field and was part of the St Martin’s side that took on a determined Clonguish outfit in a Championship final in the early ‘70s - a clash that is still fondly remembered by many.
“Paddy played rugby for Longford in the mid ‘70s and quickly established himself as a good prospect,” Derek Turner added. “From 1980-1986 Paddy was on the first 15 and he played second row forward on a team, it has to be said, that was one of the best in Leinster. During that time he won numerous medals with the Longford side and featured on the team that played St Mary’s who were regarded at that time as being the best in the country. Paddy will be fondly remembered by everyone at Longford Rugby Club.”
Never a man to shy away from debate, whether it was of a political, sporting or agriculture nature, Cllr Belton always held his nerve, and his knowledge and wisdom never failed to win through.
“There is a void left by Paddy Belton’s death; he was a gentle giant,” a saddened Town Mayor, Cllr Peggy Nolan stated. “Paddy had an opinion and he was able to listen to other people’s opinions. He was a practical man - a man of honour and fairness - and he brought a great wealth of knowledge to the council. Paddy Belton always went the extra mile for his native Kenagh and for Co Longford in general.”
County Longford Mayor Sean Farrell spoke of his shock at the news.
“I am shocked at Paddy’s death to tell you the truth,” Cllr Farrell told the Leader.
“Paddy came from a huge political family and he had a long and distinguished career in rugby and in GAA. He was in Punchestown supporting Longford GAA only last Wednesday and enjoyed a little flutter on the horses. He was an outstanding politician who had a great way with people. He put a huge effort into politics and everyone knew him. He was a people’s person and a great personal friend. My sympathies to his brother and sister and extended family. May he Rest in Peace.”
Cllr Larry Bannon also spoke of his deep sadness at the news of Cllr Belton’s death describing him as “a good friend”.
Leinster GAA Chairman Martin Skelly told the Leader that Paddy Belton “was a true Gael”.
“He was at the Longford GAA Race Day in Punchestown last Wednesday and he was a staunch and true supporter of Longford GAA. During his time as Mayor of Co Longford, he performed the official opening of a Leinster GAA Convention in Longford and many people remarked afterwards about his great speech. During his time as Mayor, he also got on the Longford team bus before the team headed to Killarney to play Kerry and he gave a rousing speech that made the hairs stand on the backs of our necks,” Mr Skelly said.
Longford GAA Chairman Brendan Gilmore said that Paddy Belton was a great Longford man and that his commitment to the GAA both on and off the pitch would never be forgotten.
“It is a sad day for Longford,” Mr Gilmore said. “Paddy Belton was a great ambassador for his parish, his club and the county.”