Sunday, 18 December 2011


Extract from the Clare Champion..

TEACHER, activist, artist, trade unionist, singer. The late Peadar McNamara was a lot of things to a lot of people, but to his family he was simply 'Dad'.

Speaking to a crowded Kilmaley church at his father's funeral mass on Saturday, Keir McNamara said, "So many people will reflect in the coming days on Peadar the teacher, Peadar the artist, Peadar the trade unionist, singer or health and civil rights campaigner. To us he was our Dad, the joker, the jester, the incredible hulk impersonator, the circus ringmaster at our impromptu circus in the sitting room, or the Muppet Show puppeteer at the back of the couch.
"Most of all though, he was a great husband to our mother Mary for almost 40 years. He was our best friend and our confidante, helping us achieve our ambitions and goals."
The former president of Clare Council of Trade Unions, chairman of the Ennis Congress Information and Opportunity Centre and chairman of the Ennis General Hospital Development Committee passed away on Wednesday surrounded by his loving family at his home in Magowna, Inch. A flood of tributes have been paid to him in recent days, including letters of condolence received by the McNamara family from both the President of Ireland and the Tánaiste.
To understand Peadar's flair, talent and drive, one should know that after an accidental fall as a child he spent three years in Cappagh hospital, mostly in a full body cast. He spent one and a half years in Baldoyle learning to walk again wearing callipers and in 1956, he was sent to Croom Orthopaedic Hospital, where he again spent a long period in a bodycast.  It was here his hip was locked into position.
According to his daughter Eleonora, "As one can only imagine, after spending so much time confined to bed as a child, he was determined to never lie down again."
Peadar had a long and varied artistic career, showing an interest and talent at an early age.
He won the prestigious Times of India art competition age six, whilst still a resident in Cappagh hospital in 1950.  As a student in the Christian Brothers in Ennis he was one of three students at that time to do art for the Leaving Cert without tuition.  In 1963 he was the second student of art awarded a scholarship since the foundation of the Clare VEC in 1930.
He went on to study art and design in Limerick School of Art and Draughting at night under Joe Early in Ennis Vocational School.  He worked as a commercial artist at Shannon Airport and transferred to London soon after.
In 1971 he returned to Ennis to take up the post as art teacher in Ennis Vocational School (Ennis Community College) where he taught art, craft and design to second level and adult students for 33 years. 
His works have been ­exhibited in London, Dublin, Galway, Limerick and Ennis. 
Throughout his life his passion for the arts remained, and he and Philip Brennan founded the Ennis Singers Club 15 years ago. In the weeks prior to his passing, an exhibition based on historical information compiled by him honouring Clare soldiers who died in World War I was staged in Clare Museum. In the parish of Kilmaley, he will be particularly remembered for his involvement in the parish community games, Kilmaley Parish magazines, the choir in Inch Church and of course for his work on the Kilmaley Millennium Frieze, which is on display on the rear interior wall of Kilmaley Church.
He was a staunch member of the Teachers Union of Ireland and activist for many years. Bernie Ruane, president of the TUI, described him this week as an "exceptional trade unionist".
"He was a great man for getting things done, I remember his words at union meetings that we must never forget the proletariat. He was always working for equality and justice for everyone.
"He contributed an awful lot to the teaching profession, any past pupil of Ennis Community College would remember him with great affection," she said.
Former Labour councillor and long-time friend Michael Corley recalled how both he and Peadar joined the Labour Party as young teachers.
"He was a great friend and comrade. I have great memories of myself, Peadar and Mary being involved in many campaigns throughout the '70s, trying to promote left-wing social issues. Like everyone else, I will miss him greatly."
The Labour Party in Clare this week described Peadar as "the great socialist, artist and teacher from Inch who knew no boundaries in the pursuit of equality, civil rights and justice for everyone".  Jo Walsh, chair of the Clare Labour Party Constituency Council said, "He was a free spirit in an increasingly conventional society and all of us witnessed that spirit of enthusiasm and energy with which he approached all of the campaigns he spearheaded.
"Peadar saw challenges as opportunities. He led the charge whether it was to develop and organise trade unionism in Clare, to not only encourage and instruct the pupils he taught but to change the curriculum and the very way in which they were taught, to building up the Labour Party locally and nationally, to organise singing and story-telling festivals, to develop and protect the health services, to recounting the stories and paying artistic homage to the unacknowledged heroes who were the Clare and Irish casualties of World War I."  Members of Ennis Town Council also paid tribute to Peadar at their meeting this week.
As a veteran campaigner for Ennis hospital and the retention of health services in Clare, Peadar proved to be a constant thorn in the side of health officials at local, regional and national level. His opposition to the removal of 24-hour emergency services from Ennis hospital prompted him to play a key role in the organisation of a series of public meetings, demonstrations, including the major protest in November 2003, which attracted over 15,000 onto the streets of Ennis.
He served as chairman of the Ennis Hospital Development Committee from 2005 until December 2007 and previously worked as public relations officer for a number of years, starting in 2003 and 1988. He and his wife Mary were involved on the committee in some capacity since its inception as a lobby group to fight cuts at the Mid-Western Regional Hospital, Ennis back in 1988.
Councillor Brian Meaney, who joined Peadar on the hospital committee recalled, "I travelled the roads of Ireland with Peadar in an attempt to get the various hospital groups to band together to resist the now very real downgrading of hospital services.
Peadar's conviction and vision recognised that unless the various hospital groups united, their campaigns would fail has proved true. Peadar has left a legacy through his writing, his art and indeed his work as a local health activist, which will continue to influence for many years.  I hope that in time this legacy will dull the sharp edge of grief that Mary and family are now enduring."
Deputy Joe Carey, former secretary of the committee, recalled, "He was a champion of many different causes, for justice and social equality and he had a particular passion for health. He was a very strong voice for the people of Clare."
In a wide-ranging homily at his funeral mass in Kilmaley Church, Fr Tom Hogan said, "Peadar spent his life working for communities for the betterment of the country. He was so proud to be a McNamara from Francis Street and when the McNamara clan gathering took place a few years ago, he played a central role." Fr Hogan described him as a family man, teacher, artist, social advocate, gatherer of people but above all a "man with a big heart".
His son, Salvador, recalled his father did his utmost to ensure his six children had whatever resources were available to achieve their goals.

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