Michael Carr: The words 'Michael' and 'honest' went hand in hand
WHEN I first met Michael Carr we were standing in the soon-to-be SDLP constituency office on Newry Street, Warrenpoint.
Michael was known to me by reputation only so the initial introduction was to take place over a cup of tea and cake; but he was quick to insist that for him, it had to be coffee and it always had to be Nescafé.
Michael was serving as a councillor for Warrenpoint and I was the newly appointed office manager for Karen McKevitt MLA.
Karen had the ingenious idea that Michael, with his years of life and political experience, should work alongside us in the office.
Most of our days were taken up working on the cases brought by constituents but we found a few quiet moments to get to know each other and I soon found that regardless of a 30-something age gap, I had a new friend and lunch buddy.
Michael had a very cool and calm temperament; he was a quiet and deep thinker and a late sleeper, as Karen and I often received emails in the wee hours of the morning.
He was quite simply the best political mentor either of us could have asked for as he challenged us to question all social norms and to always give an honest opinion.
In fact, the words Michael and 'honest' go hand and hand.
Over a bagel and latte, when we broke away from political discussions, we chatted about our lives and he showed the many intricate sides to his being.
He showed his deep love and thoughtfulness as he talked of his plan for a wedding anniversary gift for his wife, Kay. He always lit up with a mention of Kay and he'd describe her as 'class' and himself as a 'lucky man'.
He showed his love for travel; seeing the sights and testing the golf courses of Ireland and abroad, showing photographs of their latest trip away together.
He showed his pride in his family as he talked about the most recent get-together while proudly presenting pictures of his three sons, Shane, Ruairi and Christy, daughter Fiona, their partners and beautiful grandchildren.
He also talked fondly of each of his eight siblings and of their gatherings.
He showed himself to be a true friend as he spoke of his best mates; Saturday golf mornings and what did not sound like a quiet trip to Florida.
He showed kindness as he listened to the people who came into the office in need of help and showed his conviction as he fought to right the wrongs of social injustice.
What stands out for me most of all is he showed his honesty... every single day. Michael's words always matched his actions and even when it would be easier in a difficult political sphere to say nothing, he felt compelled to speak the truth.
He was once told that he was too honest for politics. This was true. But I believe that his honesty, genuineness and openness has given credibility to local government and perhaps will inspire others to speak the truth, as difficult as that may be at times.
As I usually asked Michael to critique my writing, it's impossible to write this tribute without wondering what changes or additions he might suggest.
He'd want me to say that he was a Warrenpoint man, as he was deeply proud of his home town. He'd want me to mention Warrenpoint Golf Club, but I'm unsure if he'd want me to tell his handicap.
The councillor in him might even want me to mention his long campaign for a marina in the town in the hope that the funding might one day be found.
As a councillor Michael served the people of Crotlieve diligently through his distinguished period of service, during which he was honoured to hold the position of mayor and lead the way for a twinning programme between Warrenpoint and Southern Pines in America.
The SDLP were proud to have Michael as a representative for the party.
Michael we know you are going on up to the spirit in the sky.
Greatly missed by all SDLP friends.