Peter Kelly fought for Longford every day

Micheal Martin

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Micheal Martin

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newsroom@longfordleader.ie

Peter Kelly RIP

2012: Micheál Martin and Pauline Foudy with Peter Kelly at an event in the Longford Arms Hotel to honour local Fianna Fáil party stalwarts. Photo: Michelle Ghee. www.gphotos.ie

Growing up in Longford and working in the family business, Peter was on first name terms with everybody.

He lived their lives with them, sharing the highs and the lows and it instilled in himself a desire and a capacity to do the very best for his community.

Whilst other politicians focused on the big issues of the day, Peter always insisted that politics was local, politics is personal and it was about making life easier for families in the hardest of times.

Peter fought the Longford fight every day. No matter where he travelled, no matter who he might have met, he always introduced himself simply as 'Peter Kelly, Longford, Ireland.'

One of the most enduring tales around one such introduction was when the famous pop star, Justin Timberlake, was playing a concert in Dublin. He was free of his entourage and enjoying a quiet pint in that favoured Longford watering hole in Dublin, O'Donoghue's, when Peter introduced himself in typical fashion.

They chatted and laughed for a good twenty minutes until the young superstar had to leave and afterwards Peter told the barman 'that was a lovely young fella.'

The barman was somewhat perplexed that Peter had no concept of who he had been talking with, and Peter simply told him, “I have no idea who he was but I tell you, 'he knows all about Longford now.'”

Peter loved sport and especially the GAA. He followed Longford at every opportunity and enjoyed enduring friendships with the Longford stars from the sixties.

After Longford his great love was Dublin and one of his greatest days was when the Dubs were almost beaten here in Pearse Park in the 2006 Leinster Championship.

It was the last time that Dublin ventured out of Croke Park and the Battery Road was a sea of blue as the Dublin faithful unwittingly headed towards what was one of their greatest escapes.

In latter years Peter never missed a game in Croke Park, be it hurling or football, and his regular match companion was his brother in law, Brendan Hester.

ALSO READ: Peter Kelly always put Longford first

Peter was a life time member of Longford Rugby Club and when the club stalwarts Paddy Quinn and Matt Hanly were recently inducted into the hall of fame at a function in the Mansion House, so many of the old photos and memories featured their good friend, Peter Kelly.

Of course the closest sports arena to the family home was Longford Tennis Club and he had been involved in it for most of his adult life.

There are mixed reports on his tennis prowess but it is a measure of the man and his standing that even after retirement from the political cauldron, he was still the one to present the prizes at the club's annual open week.

There is no doubt that he would have delighted in Mullinalaghta's recent success and I know he followed their endeavours avidly.

Peter was happiest out amongst the local communities and whether it was Ardagh winning the All Ireland Tidy Towns or Longford Minors winning the Leinster Championship, nobody beamed a broader smile than Peter.

It was that same sense of community that helped ensure that Peter forged steadfast links with the Longford diaspora and he was a staunch and enthusiastic supporter of the Longford Associations in London, New York, Dublin and Manchester. He rarely missed their functions and greatly valued their counsel.

Peter once said three words could sum him up – 'Longford, Longford, Longford.’

Peter truly was a great character and loved being a TD. He was a proud Longford man and a man of great decency, he was a 'people's person'.

Peter had a great knowledge of business and a huge sense of community. He was a tenacious worker for the people of his constituency.

Peter regaled and entertained us all with many witty stories over the years. He never stopped working for the Fianna Fáil Party, even in the last few years when he battled with illness. He always had time to give advice and was a great campaigner and networker.

Peter will be sadly missed by our party and our sympathies and thoughts go to his wife Maura and their children, Emily, Joseph and Peter.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

* This was the graveside oration delivered by Micheál Martin at the funeral of the late Peter Kelly.