|Illustration by Caty Bartholomew|
He was very old then and I was always terrified that he would drop dead on my watch. That was not because his family owned the paper, but because of the palpable fragility of one of the state's founding fathers.
You felt that only willpower kept the towering dark figure erect at all for the duration he was in the public eye. He was almost blind and that was apparent.
He still, however, managed to project a mighty presence. The big, tall, old man was the scaffold upon which Fianna Fail was built, and that was manifest in this heyday of Fianna Fail.
It now seems so long ago and far away.
A few years later, at his death, I was sent down to his heartland country of Tulla, here in County Clare. There I saw many of his supporters weeping on the windswept hills.
I saw heartland Fianna Fail followers weeping again just a few years later in Connemara when covering the first Dail (Parliament) campaign there of his grandson Eamon O'Cuiv.
They wept, especially the women, because the young cooperative manager O'Cuiv was and still is an uncannily striking image of his grandfather.
He has the same height advantage over most, and he campaigned in a long black tweed overcoat like his grandfather. He had the same stern visage, much of the same presence already.
He was easily elected for the West Galway constituency, then and ever since, and the bonfires of joy blazed over the Twelve Pins pub.
It was an historic and popular victory. They had long before christened him Dev Og (Young Dev) and the name stuck.
O'Cuiv's rise through the ranks of Fianna Fail was not as fast as one would expect. Slow but steady I suppose.
His cousin Sile de Valera, now retired from politics, made minister status long before he did. He was never charismatic nor a great orator.
And this was in an era when his party, though it was not yet exposed, was corrupting itself from the inside under the leadership of Charlie Haughey and later Bertie Ahern.
We all now know about where that brought the party and the country to. It is a sad and sleazy tale indeed.
The facts nowadays are not being spelt out for the people sufficiently strongly. One fundamental reality is that Fianna Fail's day is done.
It can never, ever recover from the gutting of the last savage general election. The party is well and truly over.
Even the rump that survived will be further flensed like a dead whale next time out. It now has been overtaken by Sinn Fein in popular support.
Significantly, O'Cuiv recently resigned as deputy leader and declared last week that Fianna Fail should move in a natural alliance to Sinn Fein rather than any other party in the state.
He also declared that he was voting against the party's line in an upcoming referendum related to our financial situation.
This stance is almost certain to see him having great difficulty in remaining in what is left of the
Fianna Fail parliamentary party even in the immediate future.
Changed times indeed.
The next few weeks will be very interesting indeed. There will be few maidens dancing on any Fianna Fail village greens the way old Dev visualized it so long ago.
I somehow believe that his spirit, wherever it dwells nowadays, approves about everything the Dev Og is doing these days.