Wednesday, 6 November 2019
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
Niall Ó Donnghaile (Sinn Fein)
I wish to join other colleagues who noted the passing yesterday of Fr. Des Wilson. I spoke in this House just a few months ago to mark the 70th anniversary of Fr. Des's ordination into the priesthood. Given his sad passing yesterday, the best thing we could say about Fr. Des is that he was not just a believer in the gospel of hope and liberation; he was a practitioner of the gospel of hope and liberation. The Leader shared in my sentiments at the time, and yesterday marked Fr. Des's death in his own way. As the Leader is aware, Fr. Des fervently believed in education as a means of lifting people not only out of poverty, but out of oppression and the confines of the mind and the circumstances around them. He left a privileged position on the pulpit to live, work and struggle among his own people. He was steadfast in challenging the establishment, including the establishment within the Catholic Church, and for that he came under immense pressure but he never faltered. Fr. Des always kept the faith.
In the last two days in Belfast we have lost two towering figures in the struggle against injustice, inequality and oppression. Dickie Glenholmes was a friend to many and a towering figure throughout nationalist and republican Belfast and beyond. He equalled Fr. Des's stature in the lifelong contribution that he and his family made in their own way to changing all of our lives and circumstances.
When I mentioned Fr. Des's ordination of June this year, I sent him the video of my speech. He then sent me a text I have just come across today. It read: "Thank you so sincerely for the kindness of your gesture in the Seanad and for helping us to look forward to the best years. God Bless you and your work". I have no doubt that when he said "God Bless you and your work" he meant all of us in the Seanad. I am very conscious that it is because of people like Fr. Des and Dickie Glenholmes that we can look forward to the best years.