Town stunned by the passing of a great community man

Killarney was saddened to learn of the passing of Pádraig Harnett

Sometimes, not very often, but sometimes, the sudden death of someone has the power to stop a town in its tracks.

And so it was on Thursday night when word filtered through to Killarney of the sad passing of Padraig Harnett.

Although he had been ill for a very short period of time, news of his premature death, in his mid 50s, was very difficult to comprehend.

If a collective request went out to raise a hand if one didn’t know or hadn’t heard of Padraig Harnett, it’s safe to assume there wouldn’t be too many waving in the air.

He was very much in the public eye through his work as a reporter, a broadcaster, an events organiser, a PRO for many sporting organisations, a stalwart on many committees, an opinion former and, ultimately, a community activist.

It was, indeed, all about community for Padraig who was always anxious to get involved, to play a part, to give something back to the town and the people, to have a role to play.

Following in the footsteps of his late father, PJ, who spent four decades in the hotel industry and was a concierge in the Killarney Great Southern Hotel for decades, serving under 17 different managers, Padraig initially pursued a career in hospitality.

Padraig carved out a solid career as a freelance reporter

He studied hotel management in Galway Mayo Institute of Technology and held a number of positions, including a role at the Earl of Desmond Hotel in Tralee, before he opted for a career change and managed the cinema in Tralee.

Padraig, whose family home was at Curtin’s Cross on Park Road, moved to Currans following his marriage to Maura in 2009.

He always had a passionate, almost all consuming, interest in sport and current affairs so it was no surprise that he eventually found himself on a path to a career in media which was where he really found his niche.

Very active in soccer circles, both locally and nationally, he was one of the main driving forces behind the success of Killarney Celtic FC, working tirelessly behind the scenes on so many committees that helped propel the club to its current lofty position as the most successful in Kerry and one of the best run in the country.

At a national level, Padraig was elected to the FAI National Council in 2019 and was a member of the FAI general assembly while he was also named FAI national PRO of the year on one occasion.

A long-time Nottingham Forest fan, he was a staunch supporter of Republic of Ireland teams at all levels and travelled to many parts of the word to cheer on the boys or girls in green.

Locally, on a weekly basis, he was kept busy as fixtures secretary with the Kerry schoolboys and schoolgirls’ league and he was also a columnist focusing on local,national and international sports.

Padraig carved out a solid career as a freelance reporter, contributing to local radio and print and social media on a number of sports including soccer, basketball, cycling and rallying and his position as PRO with a number of clubs kept him in the know and gave him the inside track that was of great assistance in his work.

Pádraig with the Champions League trophy won twice by his beloved Nottingham Forest.
Image source: Kerry Schoolboys and Schoolgirls’ League

An enthusiastic events organiser, Padraig was very often the go-to man for organising fundraisers, including race night and table quiz events, for clubs and community organisations and he was also regularly engaged as a master of ceremonies for presentation ceremonies and community events.

He was a constant campaigner for a suitable monument or memorial plaque to be erected in Killarney to honour all those involved in the hospitality trade given that tourism is the life-blood of the town.

Predeceased by his parents PJ and Kathleen, Padraig is survived by his wife Maura, brother Brendan, sister-in-law Kathleen, nieces and nephews, many other relatives and many great friends.

In a statement today, Killarney Celtic FC said members were deeply shocked and saddened to learn of the untimely passing of the club stalwart.

“Pádraig was a hugely influential and knowledgeable figure who dedicated his life’s work to the sport he loved. He was popular affable and a mine of information,” the club said.

“Widely respected as a broadcaster, freelance journalist and supporter and activist on behalf of all sports in Kerry and beyond, he will be greatly missed,” it said in the statement issued by chairman Tim Jones and vice chairman Paul Sherry.

“A dark cloud has descended on sport in Kerry and our thoughts and prayers are with those closest to him. We will miss him terribly,” they said.

The Kerry Schoolboys and Schoolgirls’ League said: “We have lost a person who has worked tirelessly to promote association football in the county and country all his life. We lost a friend, a companion, a mentor and a big brother to us all”.

Pádraig passed away in University Hospital Kerry on Friday night and the funeral arrangements will be announced later.

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