South Kilkenny will lose one of its best ever public representatives when Dick Dowling retires from politics prior to the next local elections, due in the summer of 2009.
He will then be 70 and will have served as a Fine Gael County Councillor for 35 consecutive years. He is also a former Senator and was a Dail Deputy for five years from 1982.
“It is time to go at that age although I will work as diligently as ever until the day I step down”, he asserted this week. He voiced the view that no public representatives should remain on too long. “It is essential for the vibrancy of politics that new people – good people – should come on stream with fresh energy and ideas”.
A man of vision and integrity, loyalty to his own party never blinded him to the qualities of others with allegiance to different parties or to none. He said that over the years he encountered top class individuals across the political divide. And he had words of praise for the current Taoiseach, irrespective of his difficulties at the Mahon Tribunal.
“Bertie Ahern has come in for an awful lot of criticism but in my estimation he has done a tremendous amount of good work throughout his political career, peace in the North being the gold nugget among his achievements”, he commented.
He said too that he encountered many officials of the highest calibre at county and national level, people whose conscientious devotion to their jobs went way beyond the call of duty.
Cllr. Dowling is the longest serving member of Kilkenny County Council along with party colleague Mary Hilda Kavanagh. He is currently chairman of Kilkenny VEC, a committee on which he has unbroken service since 1970. Since his first day on the Council in 1974 he has also been a member of the Association of City and County Councils. He is currently Vice-President of that body and hopes to serve as President before he retires.
He has also been twenty years a member of the Governing Authority of UCD and is a Director on the Board of Waterford Port.
A secondary teacher by profession, specialising in maths and geography, he spent his career with the De La Salle Brothers, first in Glasnevin for a four year period from 1962 and then, until his retirement in 1999, at the Order’s Waterford College.
He loved teaching and clearly developed a gra for public service, although he insists he entered politics reluctantly and never anticipated remaining involved for so long. Aside from his commitments in both spheres, he also maintained a lifelong devotion to sport, particularly hurling and golf. He hurled for Glenmore at a time when the club did not enjoy the type of success which came later in the Christy Heffernan and O’Connor brothers’ era, but he was a gifted performer who made the fringes of the county team in the early 1960’s, playing in Walsh Cup and Oireachtas competitions.
A single handicap golfer, he has been a long time member of Waterford Golf Club, where he served a term as Captain.
Of course the golf course is located in County Kilkenny and that is the way it must remain according to Mr. Dowling, a staunch member of the “not an inch” brigade when it comes to debate on extension of the Waterford boundary into Kilkenny. “Despite my great regard for Waterford and its people – after all I worked there for over four decades – all of Kilkenny must still remain Kilkenny”, he insists, without apology.
What does retirement hold for a man noted in public life for his powers of persuasion, sometimes through gifted oratory. Firstly, as a father of six, he will have more time for them and his grandchildren, as well as his lovely wife Maureen. He will also continue to indulge in his passion for golf. But additionally, he hopes to assist his brother Dan in writing a history of his native Glenmore – born in the village, he was reared on the family farm at Jamestown.
Dan, retired from his position as a health officer with Waterford City Council, still lives in Glenmore and has produced a much acclaimed book on Waterford’s street names.