Paddy Cahill

Dublin Cycling Campaign is shocked and saddened at the untimely death of our friend, colleague, cycling advocate and long-time volunteer Paddy Cahill. Paddy was not only a talented film-maker who created many beautiful films for the Campaign but a valued volunteer and friend. There have been many tributes to Paddy published since his untimely death, and there will no doubt be many more, so this piece focuses on the huge contribution Paddy made to cycling advocacy in Dublin, and indeed nationally.

Born in Clonmoney near Shannon, Paddy completed a PLC course in film in Cork, then went to GMIT Galway to study film and TV production, completing his film studies at IADT.

Separately, Paddy worked in restaurants in San Francisco, and was a unicycle-riding juggler, a barman in Prague, and a cameraman on many short documentary and feature films. Paddy’s view was a wider world view. His travels took him further afield too, to India and frequently Europe. These were often done by bike, including two journeys to see his sister, niece and nephews in Santander. Paddy used a bike as much as humanly possible in his work, even ordering a Bear Bicycles factory bike with a front rack on which he could film while a colleague Philip de Roos pushed the pedals. A warm and trusted collaborator, his film on how to avoid bike theft in Dublin, made with bike mechanic Gareth, has been viewed over 300,000 times.

In his film work Paddy specialised in contemporary art and architectural projects, such as, with performance artist Amanda Coogan, the experimental feature film ‘Yellow’. This premiered at the 2012 Dublin International Film Festival; the documentary ‘Amanda Coogan: Long Now’ premiered there in 2017. Paddy exhibited at other international festivals such as the Istanbul International Architecture and Urban Film Festival, 2020.

A member of the Screen Directors Guild of Ireland, the Irish Architectural Archive and Visual Artists Ireland, Paddy’s awards included best short documentary at the 2016 Galway Film Fleadh for ‘Seán Hillen, Merging Views’, and — critically for Dublin Cycling Campaign — The Wheel award 2011 for best promotional video, which garnered crucial seed funding for the cycling campaign at a time when cycling advocacy was only beginning to professionalise. Part of this funding was used by the Campaign to buy a long wheel base cargo bike which, in turn, enabled us to attend more events with our mountains of gear.

Paddy’s ‘Liberty Hall’ documentary, broadcast on RTE1 in May 2009, helped a lot of people see Dublin’s Liberty Hall — and subsequently, Dublin’s important heritage of 20th century buildings — in a new light. It opened a collaboration with architectural critic Shane O’Toole FRIBA, documenting Ireland’s most important 20th Century buildings and interviewing their architects.

The simplicity and rigour of Paddy’s work marks him out as a true artist in his own right, though. ‘He created a body of work that is as warm and whimsical as it is authoritative and meticulously researched’, said the Irish Film Institute on his passing, while Dublin Civic Trust said, ‘Paddy’s… important work wove the very fabric of Dublin.’ Paddy’s photography work at Campaign events was valuable too – he had the skilled eye needed to create a beautiful and impactful image.

Campaign members found Paddy to be a witty, caring and inspiring colleague, keen to both produce effective work and chat over pints. A twinkle in the eye would indicate that you were in for an insightful and funny observation, often dismantling some pretense or illusion. Paddy applied a keen intelligence and sensibility to every project or initiative he was involved in. Paddy’s love and care for animals and his understanding of biodiversity as a crucial element of cities was evident in his highly principled veganism, and in such films as his ‘Pigeons of Discontent’ of 2019. Paddy’s view of cities as beautiful, safe places for residents of all ages, backgrounds and income levels — and species — was ahead of its time.

To return to Dublin Cycling Campaign’s particular gratitude to Paddy, his vision in promoting a gender-neutral, functional vision of cycling as a respected transport mode, rather than a sport or minority practice, was a huge contribution. Paddy’s ‘Cycling With…’ series featured people on bikes dressed in normal, everyday clothes. Likewise his ‘Dublin Cycling Stories’ demonstrated, through personal stories, the convenience of cycling for transport in Dublin. ‘Cycling Stories’ were commissioned by Dublin City Council, and though made a number of years ago, they still stand the test of time.

At that time, the early 2010’s, Dublin Cycling Campaign was a smaller organisation than it is today. Cycling numbers in Dublin were considerably lower. Advocacy work often consisted of drafting technical reports and submissions, as well as organising street protests and issuing press releases, but Paddy introduced concepts of visual and videographic knowledge and story-telling, executed in a professional and polished way and shared online. It added a crucial method for Dubliners to advocate for sustainable transport and cities, and inspired other groups countrywide to think more creatively and in visual terms about their approaches to campaigning.

Paddy’s last journey from funeral home to graveyard was made by a specially-built bicycle trailer, designed in Paddy’s last days and constructed from scratch by his brother Conor, a highly valued long-time Campaign member and organiser. Accompanied by a Garda cycle escort, the cortege of scores of cyclists diverted past the Mater hospital where Paddy had received treatment over the previous year, and had spent his last hours. He was applauded by an honour guard of nurses, doctors and specialists. Even those hours were deeply experienced: Paddy married his long-term partner Jonia in the hospital just hours before slipping into his final sleep. He will be sorely missed.

Members, friends and volunteers in the Campaign extend heartfelt sympathies to Paddy’s wife Jonia, his parents, his brother - our close colleague - Conor, his sister Pam, and his extended family and many friends.


News Item

Wednesday, 21 April 2021 - 12:00pm

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