Members of Cavan County Council, elected representatives, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

I am greatly honoured by your decision to hold this Reception here today. This Reception not only honours me, but also honours my family, my native parish. It honours the clergy of the diocese Kilmore, of which I was a member for thirty years. It also honours the See of Patrick and the diocese of Armagh. I find the whole event very moving. Thanks you for being her, for your congratulations and good wishes and prayers.

I was thrilled that the Chairman of the Council, Mr Francis McDermott, and the Assistant Manager, Mr Des Maguire were able to be in Rome for the Consistory. Their presence added a very special dimension to an already historic occasion and I am deeply grateful to them.

I am very thankful for this Reception and all that goes with it. The presence of the Guard of Honour and of so many distinguished guests further embellishes what will be, at least for me, a very memorable occasion. Thirteen years ago the Council was most gracious in hosting a Reception when I became Archbishop. Once more you excel yourselves today. I thank you most sincerely for this further kindness.

For the first sixteen years of my life, Cavan County Council occupied a not insignificant place in the life of our family. My father was a member for the Bailieborough electoral division. My uncle, Terence J Smith, represented the Cavan electoral division, my mother’s first cousin, John P McKiernan, represented the Ballyjamesduff area. So to say that we were interested in what when on in this chamber would be a slight under-statement.
A large white envelope arrived every month containing Minutes and the Agenda, signed by either Dermot McCarthy, the County Manager or Michael J Smith, the Secretary. While we didn’t have the same means of instant communication that exists today, we were well aware of the composition of the Council and the political allegiance of each Councillor – perhaps the presence of three Lavey men and two Laragh men in their ranks, whetted out interest considerably.
I was reflecting a night or two ago and I think I could still name more of the members of the Council of the late 40s and early 50s than I can of the present County Council, with all due respect to you ladies and gentlemen. But I am gratified to note that among your ranks can be counted a number of my past students from St. Pat’s and even some former altar boys. I wish you all well in your discussions and wisdom in your decision making.

This Council chamber evokes some very powerful memories for me, not of Council meetings nor of Court cases, I am glad to say, but of GAA Conventions and County Board meetings. It recalls sharp debates and colourful characters like H. L. Smith, T P O’Reilly and Andy O’Brien. Unfortunately, many have gone to their eternal rest. It also takes me back to my teenage years and an election count here in 1955 and the memory of a photograph that used to hang in our house of a meeting here in the 30s probably. It all conjures up pictures of discussion and debate; dialogue and division. But isn’t this the stuff of democracy.
So, as I thank you for this act of exquisite kindness towards myself, I salute the noble enterprise in which you are engaged. It reminds me that Patrick Kavanagh said Homer wrote the Iliad of such stuff. In an age that gradually and apparently grows more private and individualistic, it is refreshing and pleasing and gratifying to find women and men who are willing to stand for public office, to set forth their convictions and to spend their time and their energy promoting the common good – the public good – the good of the citizens of this county.

I wish God’s blessing on you and your families for a peaceful Christmas and for prosperity and harmony and happiness in the New Year.