THE political fraternity in Donegal is in mourning this morning following the death of former TD and Independent Fianna Fáil party leader, Mr Harry Blaney.
His death at the age of 85 marks the end of a political dynasty that stretches back to the turn of the century. Mr Blaney took ill on Thursday night and died at Letterkenny General Hospital in the early hours of this morning.
While history will record that Deputy Niall Blaney finally brought about the reunification of the Fianna Fáil organisation, wiser counsel knows the key architect and decision maker in the process was his father. His support for the Bertie Ahern led government led to a deal that included backing for the Harry Blaney Bridge from Fanad to Carrigart.
Mr Blaney, was standard bearer for the organisation in Donegal for over four decades.
His late father, Neil, was a founder member of Fianna Fáil and was elected to the Dáil ten times from 1927 to 1948 while his brother Neil T fought fifteen elections from 1948 to 1992 and topped the poll on every occasion, with the exception of 1977. Harry, who was an elected member of Donegal County Council from 42 years from 1957 to 1999, was elected to the Dáil in 1997 and served as one of four Independent TDs who supported the Fianna Fail minority government from 1997 to 2002.
His brother, Neil T Blaney, an ex government minister and MEP along with former Taoiseach Charlie Haughey were both sacked in the well documented Arms crisis of 1970 despite the fact they were both acquitted of illegally importing arms.
Some of the achievements brought about by Independent Fianna Fáil included bringing the Regional College to Letterkenny, the drainage of the Swilly around Letterkenny, the construction of the Knockalla Coast Road, the development of Oncology and Orthopaedic and Gynaecology Services at Letterkenny General Hospital.
The family home in Rossnakill has been the nerve centre for the Blaney organisation for almost eighty years and photographs charting the political career of his father and Neil T adorn the walls.
Harry’s family are steeped in the Republican tradition. His father, a small farmer and father of 11 children, was the Commander of the Northern Brigade of the IRA during the War of Independence.
Mr Blaney’s remains are due to leave the mortuary chapel at Letterkenny General Hospital at 2pm today going to the family home in Rossnakill for waking. The funeral is likely to take place on Wednesday, although this has not yet been confirmed.
The former Independent Fianna Fail man’s death comes just a a fortnight after the death of former Senator Bernard McGlinchey and Councillor Tadhg Culbert in Letterkenny.