TRIBUTES from across the political spectrum have poured in following the death of former senator, councillor and businessman, Bernard McGlinchey (80) on Thursday evening. Mr McGlinchey died in his home at Bluebanks, Kilmacrennan.
He spent almost five decades as a member of Donegal County Council and Letterkenny Town Council, as well as 20 years in the Seanad, between 1961 and 1981. As a businessman, he founded the Golden Grill Nightclub in Letterkenny, and was a member member of the North Western Health Board.
He was so involved in acquiring land beside St Conal’s Hospital for a town park, which opened in 1999, and was named after him.
His huge passion for Fianna Fáil, the development of health services in Donegal and his indelible mark on politics for over half a century have been recalled.
Leading the tributes Fianna Fáil party whip in Donegal Cllr Ciaran Brogan said for over 50 years Cllr McGlinchey’s ‘finger prints’ were all over Donegal. Cllr Brogan said he was perhaps a one-off and doubted if Donegal or Ireland would see the calibre of politician again.
“He had a huge passion for the party and was highly influential as a councillor, senator and as a member of the North Western Health Board. He was hugely influential in the development of Letterkenny General Hospital and as a businessman with the Golden Grill he was very successful,” he said.
“He was heavily influential in bringing the former Courtalds factory and government offices to Letterkenny. He was a great mentor,” Cllr Brogan said.
In 1989, McGlinchey persuaded Dr James Mc Daid to join the party and enter politics, overseeing his election to the Dail within a few weeks. However, in later years, the two split, and a rivalry developed, particularly after Bernard Mc Glinchey played a pivotal role in reuniting Fianna Fáil and Independent Fianna Fáil. For a period, there was practically two Fianna Fail organisations in Letterkenny, but Dr Mc Daid said on Friday despite the rivalry, there was always friendship and respect.
“I happened to be on duty the night Bernard died. He was the man who introduced me to politics and was an icon in Donegal,” Dr McDaid said.
“I believe his first speech was made in Ramelton and he was a man you always wanted on your side. He had huge influence and while there was a political split between us we always maintained friendship and I often met him at weddings and funerals,” Dr McDaid said.
“I will always remember him as a very generous man,” he added.
The Mayor of Letterkenny Dessie Larkin said Bernard Mc Glinchey’s contribution to the growth and development of the town was immense.
“He cast a huge shadow over Letterkenny where he was a phenomenal businessman and politician,” he said.
“As a young man I worked for him in the Golden Grill and he was unbelievably fair. He was influential in bringing my late father into politics in the 1960’s and of course following the split with Fianna Fáil after the Arms Trial my father left with the Blaney’s. Regardless of what people thought about him politically Bernard always advocated Letterkenny,” he added
Mr Pat the Cope Gallagher, spoke of McGlinchey’s family connections with Rutland.
“His mother hailed from Rutland Island off Burtonport and he loved going to the island where he had a home. When I was first elected to Donegal County Council in 1979 he was a great mentor,” he said.
“Bernard was well known for putting deals together and his word was his bond. He made a major contribution to the development of health services in Donegal and also served as a member of the Council of Europe. He was totally opposed to the centralisation of health services and he has been proved right,” Mr Gallagher added.
The MEP also recalled how Mr McGlinchey holds the records for the longest speech in Seanad Eireann having debated an issue for more than 12 hours.
Former TD Niall Blaney, said he was ‘saddened to learn of the death of a close friend’.
“Bernard was one of the most constructive and progressive politicians ever to come out of Donegal,” he said.
“He took me under his wing on Donegal County Council when I was elected in 1999 and was a fatherly figure in my early days in politics. There is no doubt he was responsible for huge developments such as Letterkenny General Hospital and services. He also contributed to getting the LYIT to Letterkenny and the drainage of the River Swilly which facilitated businesses’ in Letterkenny,”
“He was part of the committee that built the old Swimming Pool on High Road. He is still thought of very highly in politics and is held in high regard. There is a table in Leinster House dining room where himself, my late uncle Neil and Paddy McGowan ate at. It is called Nuts Corner,”
Deputy Blaney, expressed sympathy to Mr McGlinchey’s partner, Kathleen who he said had ‘looked after him dearly’ and the extended family. Mr McGlinchey and former TD Harry Blaney were close friends and the former was a regular visitor to the Blaney family home in Rossnakill- the last being over eight months ago.
“Bernard was also lucky to have former employees like John McConnell who assisted in his care towards the end,” he added.