Paddy O`Callaghan was a renowned Kerry activist, well-known as a sportsman, republican, and community activist.
Paddy O'Callaghan was born in County Kerry in 1933. As a youth he became active in the National Athletic & Cultural Association of Ireland (NACAI, now known as Cycling Ireland) and particularly in the sport of cycling.
Paddy began racing on the local grass-track circuit in the early 1950s and quickly became involved in the development of road-racing at that time. He is best remembered as a cyclist for his role in a number of Kerry teams that won the Rás Tailteann in the 1950s, but he also had other achievements to his credit, including the National Cycling Association 100-mile Time Trial Championship of 1955 with a time of 4 hours and 27 minutes.
Paddy was well known throughout Ireland for his role in the administrative side of cycling and this began in 1954. He later went on to become President of the National Cycling Association (NCA). He was International Secretary of the NCA, travelled widely and had important contacts across world – he once counted the number of countries he had visited on cycling-related work and it came to 52.
Paddy’s contribution was immense, spanning six decades. And his influence and legacy traversed the local, national and international scenes and indeed outside the world of cycling.
He was involved in the promotion of cycling throughout his life. He ran bicycle shops in Killorglin and Killarney. He nurtured and supported many cyclists at every level. He ran a bicycle shop in Killarney for many years where emerging cyclists found work. Many developing riders, needing equipment or other supports at key stages of their careers, found themselves quietly ‘sorted’ by Paddy without him ever claiming credit for the business.
Having initially worked as a psychiatric nurse in St Finan’s Hospital, Killarney, Mr O’Callaghan pursued a variety of careers, including acting as manager of the Castlemaine Harbour Fishermen’s Co-op. He was a board member and chairman of South Kerry Development Partnership, was committed to the work of Kerry Life Education, and served on its board for a number of years. He was also a director of Radio Kerry.
“Paddy was passionately committed to everything he was involved in and gave himself 100% to every cause he espoused. He wanted to make Ireland a better place for everybody,’’ said broadcaster Frank Lewis at his funeral.
He had an engaging personality and was pleasant company, and the intensity of debate and negotiation was always mingled with a sense of fun.
Paddy O'Callaghan was a former Irish amateur cycling champion and a onetime Official Sinn Fein member of Kerry County Council. He is a second cousin of former United States vice-president Dick Cheney but differed strongly with his political point of view being a member of the Workers Party for many years.
Paddy was a committed republican throughout his life and his beliefs permeated all aspects of his life. He was, therefore, centrally involved in the political and ideological debates and differences in Irish cycling, but he ultimately became a central figure in the reconciliation movement.
At the time one of the NACAI's most prominent members and a national cycling champion was Dublin born Joe Christle who was also an active member of the Irish Republican Army. Under Christle's influence O'Callaghan joined the Irish republican movement however he remained a member when Christle was dismissed from the movement in the mid-1950s for taking unofficial action against British forces in Northern Ireland.
Paddy O'Callaghan became a member of the Ard Comhairle (national executive) of Sinn Fein in the early 1960s and was close to the leadership of President Tomas Mac Giolla and IRA Chief of staff Cathal Goulding. When the movement split in 1969/70 O'Callaghan remained loyal to the Goulding leadership and was influential in swaying the majority of his South Kerry comrades in the IRA and Sinn Féin to remain in the movement.
He was also very active in local community development issues in the South Kerry area and was a founding member of both Killorglin Credit Union and Kerry Mountain Rescue.
In the 1967 local elections O'Callaghan was elected for Sinn Fein in the Killorglin ward.
In the early 1970s O'Callaghan was elected to Kerry County Council representing Official Sinn Féin. He also contested a number of general elections in the Kerry South constituency and was a substitute candidate under the list system for the party in a number of elections to the European Parliament.
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