While in the present political climate, politicians may not always get the response that they were hoping for from an audience, one former politician proved that he still had it in him to rally the audience. Former government minister and MEP Tom O’Donnell, who retired from politics in 1989, received a standing ovation from an audience in Bruff last Saturday night.

Tom O’Donnell had been invited by Bruff Heritage Group to launch their third volume of Images of Bruff at the Thomas Fitzgerald Centre. At the beginning of the night warm tributes were paid by members of Bruff Heritage Group and Tom O’Donnell to the late Michael J Noonan who died recently. He had been a good friend of Tom O’Donnell’s for many years.

At the beginning of the night Paul Dennehy, Chairman of Bruff Heritage Group welcomed Tom O’Donnell and thanked him for accepting their invitation to launch the book. He began the tributes to Michael Noonan stating that both Michael Noonan and Tom O’Donnell had both entered politics around the same time and both for the same reason – to do the best they could for the people they represented. They put their political differences aside and joined as one force when it came to dealing with local matters, regardless of what party was in power both worked tirelessly together for the benefit of the local community. When both men retired from politics they continued to work on behalf of the locality.

He then went on to speak in relation to the cover of this years publication. He noted that there had been great speculation in the days leading up to the launch as to who would make it to the covers. For the year that it is, the Fitzgeralds or the Kennedys were favourites and understandably so as it had been a tremendous year for Bruff with the visit of Caroline Kennedy last June. He paid a special tribute to the other members of the group whom he said had worked tirelessly to ensure that the visit did happen.

Canon James Costello who is President of Bruff Heritage Group joined the chairman in his tribute to Michael J Noonan. He reflected over the year just gone and shared with the audience a letter which he had received during the week fro a person in Austria who had listened in on long wave radio to the anniversary Mass of John F Kennedy, celebrated by Bishop Leahy in Bruff on 22nd November last.

It was then the turn of the guest speaker Tom O’Donnell to address the large audience that had gathered for the occasion. He began by thanking his hosts most sincerely for their kind invitation and expressed his delight at being asked to perform the launch. Like the previous speakers Tom paid a heart felt tribute to his great friend Michael J Noonan. Both men had been friends prior to politics and Tom recalled how they met through Macra na Feirme and both had been selected for the debating team in the 1950s. Michael went on to become the national secretary of the organisation and like Tom pursued a career in politics. There friendship grew and he expressed his deep sadness at the loss of Michael J.

He also spoke about his recollection of sitting in Dáil Éireann as a young deputy and listening to President John F Kennedy address both houses of the Oireachtas during his visit to Ireland. He also spoke about the situation that had existed in Limerick on the news of President Kennedy’s proposed visit to Ireland and how the then Mayor of Limerick Frances Condell got every public representative from Limerick including himself and Donnacha O’Malley to form a delegation, that travelled to Dublin and met with the Taoiseach Seán Lemass and other ministers to ensure President Kennedy would visit Limerick at some stage during his three day visit. He said that it took a lot of persuasion and negotiations with the government and the US embassy but eventually it was agreed that President Kennedy would visit Limerick. He expressed his admiration and genuine amazement that Bruff Heritage Group, 50 years later, had achieved a similar success when they secured the visit of Caroline Kennedy to Bruff and the dedication of the Old Courthouse to Thomas Fitzgerald.

In relation to the building itself, he recalled how as a young boy he had walked up the steps of the building to join the Local Defence Forces in the 1940s and in the 1950s he took part in debating competitions there. He was delighted to see that this building did not end up like so many other courthouses around the country, derelict and abandoned. The building was now back in the heart of the community as a result of Bruff Heritage Group.

Throughout his speech he drew applause from his audience but when he finished by thanking the people of Bruff for their support and friendship down through the years, the audience responded by taking to their feet. The 87 year old veteran politician who may have retired from politics almost 25 years ago, had never left the minds and the hearts of those whom he had once represented. The standing ovation which continued for a number of minutes was a salute to their friend.

The final deed of the night was for Tom O’Donnell to launch the third volume of Images of Bruff and in doing so reveal another tribute that was being paid to the memory of another man who had been of great service to the Bruff Community.

Images of Bruff is now available at the Post Office, Eurospar and Paddy’s Old Sweetshop.