It is with a heavy heart I attempt to pay tribute to the life of Willie Kennedy. All of us are sad and lonely.

When I heard of Willie’s sudden death my stomach flipped, my head spun, I was numb with disbelief. Part of me died with Willie on that road in Stradbally.

As word spread the awful finality that the man we revered had departed this life struck us like a thunderbolt. A major cloud descended and we all felt an overwhelming sense of loss and sadness.

We congregate here today as family, neighbours and friends of Willie Kennedy. We are acutely aware that a special person has gone from among us. Indeed so great was our affection for our friend Willie that his untimely departure from this life felt like the death of a family member.

We respectfully extend our sincere sympathy to Betty, Jer, Mairead, and Elizabeth. Today we feel some of your pain and we try to share some of your sorrow. We thank you for your magnificent support to Willie. We acknowledge and appreciate the many sacrifices you made to enable Willie share his time with all of us. As a family you can be very proud of his service to the public and his many achievements.

As a Councillor he was legendary. He was successful in 5 County Council elections. He enjoyed the confidence and support of his people for a total of 26 years as their Public Representative. His greatest political moment was his comeback from the defeat of 2009. During his absence from the Council Chamber he showed remarkable courage in the face of adversity. He never gave up. His resilience and commitment was amazing. He worked and clawed his way back. We all rejoiced in his personal victory of 2014. It was a spectacular endorsement of a great man.

As a Councillor, Willie had a unique style and craft. He was always moving with purpose. He was attentive and patient with every individual, always thoughtful and considerate, generous with his time, with his knowledge and advice and tenacious in his pursuit of solutions to problems.

In the conduct of his Council duties he was respectful of officials and honourable with his Councillor colleagues.

Willie’s life represented the worthwhile values that one associates with a rural community. He was country at heart. He embodied everything that is good about rural life. His wisdom, decency, manliness, patience and friendship, touched the lives of many.

As a husband and father he was loving and caring. Willie was extremely proud and content with Elizabeth and Mairead’s choice of husbands. He told me himself that Tom and Philly were “two sound lovely chaps and his girls had chosen wisely”. In the same conversation he said that all his brothers had retired young and he was thinking of making life easier for himself with a lot more farming in mind for Jer.

As a person he was intelligent, courteous, good humoured, gentle and kind. To find these values in such abundance in any one person is indeed rare.

His views were always clear and inspired. His values were never going to be compromised. His belief in fairness and equality tempered his discussions and contributions on many issues. He treated everyone equally and made a genuine effort to take special care of the vulnerable.

Willie’s brightness and vision enabled him to embrace positive change and modernize his attitude and outlook. He had the mental agility to accept and adapt to the challenges of today’s fast moving and ever changing lifestyle.

Willie understood and celebrated his sense of place in Glastrigan and sense of Parish in Templederry. He was wedded to the parish and took pride in his own place. He had huge regard and respect for the dignity of others in his community. He was never brash, never boastful always gentle. He was always tolerant and never judgemental.

As an individual Willie was religious, compassionate and caring. He had an impish roguish sense of humour. He was the essence of discretion. When required he was a master at evasiveness. If ever under pressure from a question he would cannily respond by asking two questions of his own. He was a man of great integrity and total reliability. He enjoyed the simple things in life. Extravagance never entered his lifestyle. He loved his family home. He had a special relationship with his neighbours and always spoke highly of them.

Willie was brilliant to me personally. We campaigned together as friends for over 30 years. I listened to him. I learned from him. He was ever present. He rejoiced with me on the good days. He defended me against criticism. He was always there for me. He was rock solid. He was the glue of my organisation. He was my right hand man. He looked out for me every waking day. I trusted his advice. I trusted his judgement. Above all I appreciated his friendship and total loyalty.

Going through life we all have family, colleagues and friends. Then we have those chosen few that are deep in our hearts. I am no different. Deep in my heart Willie was a special one. A true and genuine friend.

Willie has left an indelible mark on our lives.

He has left memories that will never fade.

Slan abhaile, Willie Mo Chara.