I wish to share the following story.
Some few years into my living here in Ireland I enjoyed taking part in a locally held three day painting workshop. There I met an elderly couple, outstanding nice people, whom were introduced to me simply as Maeve and Paddy. During our first lunch break I asked Paddy what he has done all his life, and he told me that he was originally from Co. Clare and used to be a GP, but lives here on the East Coast in Co. Dublin for quite a while. On my question if he worked as a GP on the East Coast also, he answered “No, not anymore. But I did this and that.”
I hope I am being forgiven to not have known at the time any Irish President before Mary Robinson. But I was quite taken by Paddy’s kind and interesting personality. He was keen to hear from me how life was in my native East Germany, before the wall came down; he was asking me about my own humble political career as a local Councillor of 10 years in re-united Berlin, and was also very interested in a rare and chronic illness which I suffer since 20 years. Also did he come over to me one or two times to ask for my advice or opinion about a problem he had while painting with watercolours.
Nobody – not he himself, not his wonderful wife Maeve or any in the art course gave away Dr. Patrick Hillery’s identity. Only months later I learnt with whom I had all these lovely conversations – through a report on RTÈ’s Nationwide programme. And I learnt in time, that it was indeed much more than “this and that”, what he had done for the Irish State.
This is my little story. In my own years in politics I met quite some Presidents and other States Representatives – but never somebody whose personality moved me so much. If the words “modest” and “Gentleman” needed a living expression – Dr. Paddy was this expression. I am sad that he is gone, and I am proud that I was allowed to meet him.
My thoughts are with Meave and her family.