I was nine years old and in third class in school when Mrs. Dunne asked everyone in the room to “lámha suas” if they had all four grandparents alive. I’ve often thought about how lucky I was to be the only one in that class of 30 to have been able to raise my hand that day.
When I consider how some of my friends or even my own parents lost out in never meeting their grandparents, it makes me value the time I got with mine even more.
I had the pleasure of spending 26 years listening to the stories of my eldest grandparent, Paddy Power, until he passed away two weeks ago on August 14th, aged 84.
Despite the countless stories over the years, I feel I could only have heard a tiny percentage of them all. I often contemplate the many thousands of people he must have met during the course of his lifetime. He built up an extraordinary wealth of knowledge and personal relationships and had a social network that would put Zuckerberg to shame!
He lived for it. Meeting people. Helping people. Everywhere he went, without meaning to, he created an environment for a story, which could be told and retold down the line. Sometimes the story would detail a verbal pow-wow or even fisticuffs (on several occasions they have) but largely, they always involved helping someone else.
When Paddy entered politics it wasn’t for the money or the notoriety, or the chance to sit at the cabinet table. He entered politics because it meant something to him to be able to help people. It was as simple as using the Morris Minor to help an elderly voter get to the polling station, assisting a newly married couple to get a house to raise a family or helping young people find employment.
I’ll always remember him saying that despite having sat at the cabinet table, it was his time in Kildare County Council that he valued most because, as he put it “That’s where you could really help people.”
For Granddad, politics was always, first and foremost, about helping others.
As I look to take my first steps into the world of politics, I do so proudly, following in the footsteps of some very big shoes, knowing, if I can be half the man that my Grandfather was, I’ll be doing OK.