Tuesday, 10 October 2006
Death of Former Member: Expressions of Sympathy.
Bertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
On behalf of the Fianna Fáil Party and on my own behalf, I extend our deepest sympathies to Deputy Kenny and the Fine Gael Party on the death of Tom Fitzpatrick. In particular, my party and I wish to join Deputy Kenny in extending our sympathy to Carmel and Geraldine, Tom's son, Tom, his brother, John, his extended family and all his friends back in his native home.
Tom was a very well respected and senior Member of this House. In recent years, I had the opportunity of meeting him when he came back for former Members' occasions. He was a good attender and whenever he could he would come back to those occasions, which was much appreciated by all our parliamentary colleagues from the past.
Tom was born in Scotshouse in Clones in February 1918 and educated in St. Macartan's College, the Incorporated Law Society and UCD. He was a very bright and talented individual and took second place in the country in his examinations as a solicitor. In his political activity, he was a member of Cavan UDC and Cavan VEC for a long, extended time and was elected to the Seanad and then the Dáil where he held his seat in every election until he retired at the end of the 1980s.
As Deputy Kenny said, Tom had a career in many ministerial posts, including lands, transport, fisheries and forestry and we all remember his period as Ceann Comhairle. He also showed his vast experience because if one adds in his portfolios in defence, health, social welfare, justice and the environment in his days in Opposition, he covered almost the full ambit of responsibilities a Member can have. That shows the depth of his intellect, parliamentary knowledge and experience and the service he was able to give to his constituency and the wider country.
The factual account of a long and distinguished career does not convey the regard in which he was held both as a wise and respected voice within his own party and as a very well regarded Ceann Comhairle of the whole House. Tom was a gentleman and very able man who was always easy to talk to and always prepared to give a view and advice. As Deputy Kenny wrote of him at the weekend, he possessed a sharp intelligence and steely determination in support of his cause. Like all good representatives in this House, he served the people of his constituency — Cavan-Monaghan — with diligence and integrity for almost 40 years, both locally and nationally. This is a huge commitment from one's life. He was personally and politically warmly regarded on all sides of the House and while he was of an opposing party, we on this side respected him highly.
I remember well when I entered the House as a Government backbencher with a large majority that Tom was a member of the Front Bench who always came into the House with a copy of Standing Orders and the decisions of the House. The Ceann Comhairle will recall, as he knew Tom very well, that he was absolutely determined that whatever happened, one could only follow what was in Standing Orders and the judgments of the House. He fought strongly in order that the laws and their interpretation were not there to be moved. He fought those in opposition for his party and when he became Ceann Comhairle, he scrupulously upheld them. His example should be followed by this generation of politicians.