Táimid bailithe anseo chun comhbhrón a dhéanamh le clann P.J. Morley agus, mar aon le sin, léiriú do chách an méad measa a bhí againn go léir air agus an méid oibre a rinne sé ar son muintir na tíre, go háirithe ar son mhuintir Mhaigh Eo. Nuair a fuair P.J. bás i mí Dheireadh Fómhair seo chaite, bhí sé soiléir do gach éinne ag an tóramh an méid measa a bhí ag muintir Chnoc Mhuire agus ag muintir na dúiche mór-thimpeall air. Is léir go raibh P.J. ar a shuaimhneas i measc na ndaoine agus go raibh na daoine ar a suaimhneas le P.J. Fear mór na dúiche ab ea é. Bhí sé ina mhúinteoir agus ina pholaiteoir den scoth. Bhí tionchar faoi leith aige ar chúrsaí eacnamaíochta, soisialta agus cultúrtha i Maigh Eo agus san tír. D'oibrigh sé go dian dícheallach ar son ghnáth mhuintir a dháilcheantair agus na tíre. Cuirim fáilte go háirithe roimh a bhean, Mary, a iníon, Cathy, agus Patrick, Enda agus Brian, agus le John Carty, a comhghleacaí, agus an tIar-Aire, Sean Calleary, atá anseo inniu.
P.J. Morley was a decent, modest man, who committed his life's work to public service to his country and, in particular, to the people of Mayo. I would again like to offer my sincere condolences to P.J.'s wife, Mary, his daughter, Cathy, his sons, Patrick, Enda and Brian, and, of course, his beloved grandchildren.
I met P.J. when I was first elected to Dáil Éireann in 1989. In trying to come to grips with this tumultuous House, and the difficulties that a new Deputy can encounter, I found P.J. a calming influence who showed us the ropes of Leinster House and who gave quiet guidance in the early years of my own political career. Many of us were thankful to him for that kind of guidance in a period which was quite exciting for different reasons, and where there were significant personalities about the place - on all sides, may I say.
He was a man with quiet determination. He went out and got the job done. It is fair to say he was very well liked across the political divide and he had great time for people, with his natural, quiet warmth of character. Starting out, this was a strength he carried with him as a teacher. From his home in Mayo, he brought that into the corridors of Leinster House and beyond to the halls of the Council of Europe at Strasbourg.
Beneath that unassuming nature and distinctive good fun, however, there was a driving commitment to public service and to looking after people. That commitment saw him first elected to Mayo County Council in 1969, a position he held for three decades before he retired. During that time, he also had the honour of serving as Cathaoirleach of the county and distinguished himself in that office. This was a commitment to public service that led him to fight nine gruelling general elections. As some will remember, these represented some of the fiercest electoral campaigns this country has ever seen. He was first elected in 1977, with the landslide victory of then Taoiseach, Jack Lynch, and beginning, as we know, a fairly turbulent period in Irish politics. However, throughout the turbulence and controversies, he managed to serve the people 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, in themselves, represent a lifetime of hard work and effort on behalf of the people of Mayo to secure vital investment for the west. He never lost sight of why he was here. He was in Dáil Éireann, he was a man of the people and he wanted to achieve for his people.
We do not have to look far to find what P.J.'s most remarkable achievement was.
People often say that politics is the art of the possible but with Knock Airport, P.J. may have proved people wrong. In the teeth of opposition from a significant Dublin 4 set - I see the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform smiling - which said this would never work, P.J. had the vision, commitment and belief to drive the project forward. His close working relationship with the late Monsignor Horan helped to bring to fruition a bold project that defied and continues to defy the critics. P.J. played a vital role in persuading the then Taoiseach Charles J. Haughey to come on board for the project and securing what Monsignor Horan called "the greatest day in the history of Connacht for a hundred years". When that first plane taxied up the freshly paved runway and took flight for Rome in 1985, P.J. Morley clearly played his part. The people of the west and the entire country enjoy the lasting benefits of Knock Airport, a major infrastructural boost to the region that accommodates hundreds of thousands of passengers year on year. As we reflect on the energy and difficulty involved in getting such a massive project over the line in politics, we can see that P.J.'s work contributed to what is truly a remarkable achievement and is a real inspiration to those of us committed to bettering our country through public service.
P.J. had that kind of quiet commitment to public service that toils away not for profit or glory but for the common good. His cause was the ordinary people he represented and their fight was his fight. In a time of much cynicism about public life, the quiet, modest, unassuming but profound commitment of P.J. Morley to public service stands out as a shining example. That fire of commitment towards the ideal of public service was clearly the guiding light of his life. Those are the best traditions of Irish politics and P.J. embodied those principles. The Ireland into which he was born in 1931 was clearly a vastly different place to the one he left last October and it is perhaps difficult for contemporaries today to imagine the Mayo that P.J. Morley grew up in - the hard times people endured then and the stark challenges they had to overcome. Over his 81 years, P.J. saw immense transformations across this island but he was not content simply to be an observer in life. He wanted to better the world around him and played his part in shaping it. He knew that progress does not just happen but is driven by men and women who strive tirelessly towards it.
His legacy is greater and more enduring that any piece of infrastructure. His family can genuinely look at a life that has been well lived and see every day the impact he has had on their county and country. His overall legacy, however, is one of deep commitment to public service - a humble and understated desire to build on the work of those who gave up so much for us and to bequeath to the next generation the things the generation before us could not give. As long as that spirit is resilient to the test of time and as long as men and women of the calibre, integrity and modesty of P.J. Morley take up that cause, our future, even in these very difficult times, will be a bright and better one. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.