Dáil debates

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Death of Former President: Expressions of Sympathy


2:30 pm

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context

I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing or our former President, Patrick Hillery. My first thoughts and, indeed, my prayers today are with Mrs Hillery as she and Paddy were married for over 50 years. I know that Mrs. Hillery's great strength of character and quiet dignity, which have so long been admired by the Irish people, will serve her well in the sad days ahead. I offer my sympathy, that of the Government and the Fianna Fáil Party to Maeve, her son, Dr. John Hillery, his wife Carolyn, their children, Sarah Jane, Patrick, Michael and David and the extended Hillery family and friends.

Patrick Hillery, as a private citizen and in his public role over many years, gave outstanding and unrivalled service to the Irish State and the Irish people. Paddy Hillery defined loyalty and embodied integrity, he was clever and wise, but most of all he was a people's person, a Clare man proud of his heritage and at home with his people. Paddy Hillery loved people and people loved him. People admired his achievements and respected his sense of decorum but they loved him for his humanity and his innate decency.

On the passing of his former colleague and great friend, Jack Lynch, Paddy Hillery wrote: "Something emanated from him that made you feel good about him and good about yourself if you were near him." That same sentiment applied to Paddy Hillery. Even in the darkest of days, Paddy had a great ability to make the Irish people feel good about themselves and we were always very proud to be represented by him.

On Saturday when I learned of his passing, I said that Dr. Hillery's entire career sums up what is best about politics and public service. He set the highest of standards in the administration of public affairs and history will record the huge contribution made by Patrick Hillery, not just to the progress of Irish society but also to our democracy. Patrick Hillery was an exemplary President. He brought stability to the office when it was needed. In volatile political times he was a cool head who exercised his powers wisely and assiduously protected the independence of Ireland's highest office.

Addressing Dr. Douglas Hyde in 1938 at the inauguration of our first President, the then Taoiseach, Éamon de Valera, said: "We are glad to pay you honour as one worthy of the office to which you have been called." Seventy years on, the people of today again honour a most worthy President who carried out his duties with great dignity, skill and generosity.

Today in Dáil Éireann we pay final tribute to Paddy Hillery as one of this House's finest sons. Patrick Hillery won fame but he never lost his sense of modesty. He gained power but he never lost his respect for others. He attained the highest honour this Republic can bestow, however his dignity came not from any office he held but from the spirit of public service with which he fulfilled every position in which he served.

He was young when this country was barely born. The ideal of what Ireland could become inspired all his life and work. He was first elected to this House to represent County Clare alongside Éamon de Valera in 1951. He first served in Government under de Valera's great comrade, Seán Lemass. The young doctor whom Dev brought into politics would, as Minister, do much to bring Ireland into the modern world. As Minister for Education he brought a reforming republican ethos to his portfolio. He was committed to a radical expansion of participation at every level of education. He set about making the entitlement to a good education not the privilege of the few but the destiny of all. As Minister for Industry and Commerce and subsequently as Minister for Labour, he made strategic and far-sighted economic choices which sowed the seeds for future prosperity. As Minister for Foreign Affairs he brought Ireland on to the world stage and succeeded in internationalising what had been labelled as the Irish question but had been seen as a purely British problem.

He was always a voice for peace and sanity. With Jack Lynch he led Ireland into the European Economic Community. That historic departure was not just a question of economics, although as economics it proved to be of immeasurable importance. More than material support, Ireland regained her self-confidence as a nation on the European stage. It was important that our first Commissioner was the modest and patriotic country doctor from County Clare. By introducing the equal pay directive and the equal treatment directive, Patrick Hillery not only put the rights of women at the heart of European policy, he put Ireland at the heart of European social progress.

Now that his life is over, the State he served for so long and so well will pay its final respects. The passing of Dr. Patrick Hillery, our former colleague in Dáil Éireann, our first European Commissioner, our sixth President, is not just the end of a life or even the end of an era, it is the end of a political age. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
Link to this: Individually | In context

This week, Ireland says goodbye to President Patrick Hillery. Here in Dáil Éireann and in County Clare, we say goodbye to Paddy Hillery, who was sent here as one of our equals. Acres of newsprint have been devoted this week to Dr. Patrick Hillery, a country doctor from County Clare who served as a Minister, a Commissioner and, for two terms, as the President of our country. In his tribute, the Taoiseach rightly listed Paddy Hillery's remarkable and extensive contributions to this country. He spoke about what Dr. Hillery achieved in the many jobs he held.

In my short tribute, I talk as Fine Gael leader about Paddy Hillery's remarkable contribution to this country. I will speak about something more basic — even essential — which is the matter of who Paddy Hillery was and what that signifies. He was a Clare man and a proud member of Fianna Fáil. He was a man of the highest integrity, the utmost probity and signal patriotism. He did not talk much about his patriotism — instead, he lived it. That patriotism was so real, ordinary and natural that one could touch it. It did not require any interpretation or explanation. It was there in every choice, word and action of a long and distinguished public life that was, at the same time, ordinary and unassuming. Paddy Hillery's plain and flaming patriotism made him an exemplary man, politician and servant of Ireland and the Irish people.

The Roman philosopher Seneca, who died on the same date as Paddy Hillery, albeit a couple of millennia earlier, wrote "Be silent as to services you have rendered, but speak of favours you have received". Paddy Hillery was silent — stony silent — about the enormous service he did this State, but those of us who knew him could not keep him quiet about the favours he received in the form of the joy, satisfaction and peace of mind he received in return.

An old neighbour of Paddy Hillery summed it up on television this week when, in tears, she spoke of the Commissioner and President as "Dr. Paddy", who delivered some of her siblings. She spoke about the time Paddy Hillery came down the wooden stairs of the farmhouse in which she grew up to deliver the best news of all — the arrival of a new life. As she put it: "who better to deliver it and who better to announce it". It should be noted that, along with his late father Michael, who was a commandant in the Free State Army, and his sister Eleanor, Paddy Hillery pioneered home births throughout west Clare.

When news of Paddy Hillery's death broke at the weekend, the former President, Mary Robinson, spoke on the radio of how kind and warm he was to her and her husband Nick when she won the presidential election in 1990. She said she was invited to Áras an Uachtaráin to get a feel for the house. She listened to him telling his stories. She said something that many of us here could echo when she said that she and Nick would often make a beeline for Paddy at any event they attended. They were regaled by his stories, which were always told in a crackly Clare voice and filled with fun and great wit. They were never at anybody's expense, except his own. That alone is a measure of this decent man.

Paddy Hillery often spoke about the Spanish armada, which gave his home, Spanish Point, its name. History teaches us that the armada exasperated the English for a while with its tight and unrelenting advance on the shore until one night the English sent in a few huge and terrifying fireships to panic the Spanish and ultimately rout them. In his own way, Paddy Hillery learned well the lesson of those fireships. When political elements launched their fireships against him in the form of whispering campaigns there was neither panic nor terror. He held his dignity, nerve and honour against them and against the odds. He was a quiet man but a man with necessary steel, which was exemplified in the quiet, unassuming Clare way that was his hallmark.

This week, I saw comments that Paddy Hillery was Fianna Fáil royalty. I do not fully agree with this. For someone of his character, royalty might have implied too much entitlement. In any case, the celebrity attached to royalty these days would not have sat well with this ordinary Clareman. I prefer to see Paddy Hillery as political nobility, which he personified with flawless integrity, extraordinary empathy, the utmost probity, impeccable standards and, as a consequence, impeccable standing. What we must remember in paying this short tribute to him today is that these remarkable qualities were never qualified because they were always, absolutely and truly his own. These were conviction and not convention, principle and not pragmatism and loyalty to the country and his people before all else.

He lived his public life bound not by any political or party obligation but by moral and national obligation. We saw the clearly distinguished yet personally difficult moves when he first went to the EU Commission, as the Taoiseach pointed out, and then to Áras an Uachtaráin for two terms. He knew these moves would be, and were, at great personal and political cost to himself. Much later, we saw this true patriotism clearly in the events surrounding the collapse of the Fitzgerald Government in 1982. I remember standing at the top of the stairs with all of the tension of that evening and subsequently. Paddy Hillery was clear in his view on what he should not do.

Many people in Ireland and in Fianna Fáil would state he put his principles and his patriotism before any personal ambition he might have had, to the degree that he could never have become leader of Fianna Fáil, and therefore Taoiseach, following that other great gentleman to whom tribute was paid in the past, Munsterman Jack Lynch. Paddy's fellow kindred Clare spirit, the poet and philosopher John O'Donohue, stated one of the worst offences and injustices is what he called "the life unlived". This is the unlived life, the shadow life of infinite possibility. It is the one we did not choose so it follows us and shadows us always. In a profound way, Paddy Hillery's patriotic choices gave Fianna Fáil a life unlived.

Many, including within Fianna Fáil, believe the party might possibly have had a richer, better and prouder life if led by Paddy Hillery than the life it had when led by others, but this was not to be. In many ways, this is because it would have benefited who Paddy Hillery was, a man of high honour, a man of ideas and a true patriot as opposed to having to constantly bend and comfort itself as to the "what", the limiting, permissive "what" of sheer pragmatism and party loyalty. He would never and did never masquerade pragmatism as principle.

Tomorrow, Paddy Hillery will be buried in St. Fintan's Cemetery in Sutton beside his daughter, Vivienne.

It is the feast day of St. Benedict and of Pope Benedict XVI whose stated mission is to evangelise Europe, that same Europe Paddy Hillery served so well and in which he believed so personally and passionately. It is a testament to his connection with the people that over four fifths of the electorate voted for EC accession on his say so and that of many others because he engaged them and engaged with them and brought Europe to their door in a way in which they believed. That is a salutary lesson for all party colleagues with another crucial vote on the way.

Today I offer the Taoiseach, the Fianna Fáil Party, his wife Maeve and their son John the deepest sympathy of the Fine Gael Party and all its supporters. We mourn a colleague, friend and a President but his wife Maeve and son John miss a man who loved family life, with a sureness and an emptiness which takes their breath away. Thank you Paddy Hillery and God bless you and may the fairways in the sky be broad and open.

Let me give my three personal reflections on Paddy Hillery. I came in here as a student like a lot of other sons and daughters of those who might have served here. On the morning after the all night debate on the great arms issue in 1970, I met Paddy Hillery, Frank Taylor and Sylvie Barrett, who are all gone, just outside where the old post office was. Paddy Hillery, the future President, knew who I was and said "There is big stuff going on here today".

With no disrespect to all of the incumbents of the Presidency — we admire immensely the job they do — many years after he left Áras an Uachtaráin he said to me over a cup of coffee in Ballyconnelly one windy evening "Do you know, I was up there for 14 years cutting tapes and planting trees and they never knew I was in the place".

I was honoured once to be the captain of the Oireachtas golf society. The family of the late Joe Brennan — he had discovered some sort of cup in the bowels of his House and revived the golf competition — asked on the tenth anniversary of his death that we might bring the competition to Donegal Golf Club at Murvagh. We did so around Easter time and as I stood on the first tee with Paddy Hillery in a shower hailstones under the same umbrella, I wished him luck in his game. He won that competition not because he was with me but because of his skill as a golfer.

The following morning I went to Magee's shop and was making arrangements for Mr. Temple to supply the Oireachtas golf team with proper outfits to go play the Brits. The first prize in the competition the day before was a Magee suit. When I went into Magee's in Donegal there was Paddy Hillery and his wife Maeve parading up and down in various cuts of tweed suits. When the final selection was made he said "God Maeve wait until the Chinese see this, they will be blown out of it with envy".

So in the Pro-Cathedral today and all across Clare and Ireland until we meet again slán, a chara, gasúr, mac léinn, dochtúir, fear céile, Teachta Dála, Aire Rialtais, Coimisinéir Eorpach agus Uachtarán na hÉireann. Tá turas amháin thart agus tá súil agam gur ar lámh dheis Dé a bheidh tú as seo amach go síoraí.

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
Link to this: Individually | In context

Thar ceann Pháirtí an Lucht Oibre, déanaim comhbhrón le clann Uí hIrighile ar bhás an iar-Uachtaráin, an Dochtúir Pádraig Ó hIrighile. Ní raibh aithne pearsanta agam ar an Dochtúir Ó hIrighile, ach is cuimhin liom an ard-mheas a bhí air ón phobal mar Aire i rith na seascaidí, mar Aire Stáit ag tús an fhoréigin sa Tuaisceart, mar Aire Gnóthaí Eachtracha a rinne an idirbheartaíocht a thóg an tír seo isteach sa Chomhphobal Eorpach, agus ina dhiaidh sin mar Coimisinéir Eorpach. Is cuimhin liom freisin an bhealach neamhspleách a chomhlíon sé a dhualgaisí mar Uachtarán na hÉireann.

It is an indication of the respect and esteem with which Dr. Patrick Hillery was held that the tributes paid to him since his death on Saturday by those who were his political opponents were as warm and generous as from those who were his political colleagues.

While he had kept a relatively low profile since his retirement from Áras an Uachtaráin in 1990, Dr. Patrick Hillery had a remarkable achievement of public service during the previous 40 years and was one of the most important and influential figures in Irish public life for four decades. There are few public figures who have left behind such a record of achievement at constituency, national and international level. Dr. Hillery was a loyal son of Clare and proud to represent that county in this House. He maintained his affection for the county and its people until his death.

Dr. Hillery was one of the political figures who emerged during the 1950s and 1960s who provided a link between the men and women who fought for Irish freedom and established an independent State and the modern generation of political representatives. He was a running mate of Éamon de Valera's in the 1951 general election and they represented their county together for another eight years. I am sure when approached to run with Mr. de Valera in 1951, the young doctor could never have envisaged that more than 30 years later he would be one of his mentor's successors as President of Ireland.

It was inevitable that such a talented and capable man would rise through the ranks. Dr. Hillery proved to be an innovative Minister in a number of key Departments. He was a Minister who recognised the potential of education and during his term in that Department laid much of the groundwork for the subsequent announcement by Donogh O'Malley of the introduction of free second level education.

When appointed Minister for External Affairs in 1969, Dr. Hillery would have been aware of the task he was likely to face in terms of the final negotiations for Ireland's entry into the then EEC but he could hardly have appreciated the challenge with which he would be confronted by events across the Border. It is, perhaps, in his role as Minister for External Affairs, in that tumultuous period between 1969 and 1973, that he made his greatest contribution to Irish life. Young people will have little appreciation of the instability and dangers to Irish democracy that emerged as events in Northern Ireland threatened to spill over the Border and engulf the entire island. The arms crisis and subsequent trial, the arrival of British troops in Northern Ireland, the introduction of internment, the developing bombing campaign, Bloody Sunday and the burning of the British Embassy were all hugely challenging issues that confronted him in that short period.

At a time when cool heads and calm words were never more important, Paddy Hillery rose to the challenge. We owe him a debt of gratitude for the crucial role he played in ensuring the stability of the institutions of the State and our democratic system during that turbulent period. Given the role he played in the negotiations for admission, Dr. Hillery was an obvious candidate to be Ireland's first European Commissioner. The groundbreaking role he played as Social Affairs Commissioner demonstrated in practical terms the benefits that EU membership could bring to the living and working conditions of the Irish people. Despite the difficulties created by the first oil crisis, he was a genuinely reforming Commissioner introducing many additional protections and benefits for workers across Europe. His term of office also saw the establishment of the first combat poverty programme. He demonstrated his independence when he was prepared to take on the Government and insist that the principle of equal pay for men and women was proceeded with.

If, as has been suggested, Dr. Hillery was a reluctant nominee for President, it was an indication of his sense of public duty that he was prepared to take on the position and to serve in it for 14 years. If he was a reluctant nominee, he never allowed it to show or to interfere with his constitutional and public duties. He brought a quiet dignity to the office of President and following the dramatic developments of the previous few years — the premature death of President Childers and the resignation in controversial circumstances of President Ó Dálaigh — that is perhaps the quality that was most needed in the Áras at the time.

If I were to pick four words to sum up the public career of Dr. Patrick Hillery, they would be dignity, duty, commitment and honour. The loss of a husband and father is always a sad occasion. I only hope that the genuine esteem and affection in which Dr. Hillery was held by the Irish people will bring some degree of comfort to his widow Maeve, his son John and the Hillery family. On behalf of the Labour Party I offer them our profound sympathy.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

3:00 pm

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Minister, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Dublin South East, Green Party)
Link to this: Individually | In context

Fear ciúin séimh ab ea Pádraig Ó hIrighile, but like many quiet people, he was not to be underestimated. Patrick Hillery's career had taken him into well deserved retirement by the time I was elected to Dáil Éireann, but memories of him and his colleagues remained here long after he had ceased to serve as a TD. Like many here today, my abiding boyhood memory of him dates from those television images of his party's conference in 1971 when he gave full public vent to the anger so rarely seen from this quiet Clare man. Candid television shots of turbulent political gatherings are not so rare nowadays but four decades ago they were novel indeed and the images of dramatic RTE footage of Patrick Hillery stays etched in the minds of many of us today.

In 1971 that turbulent Ard-Fheis television footage carried echoes of other disturbing television images from Burntollet, Shankill, the Bogside, Portadown and elsewhere. Those pictures augmented all our fears that matters in Ireland, North and South, might spiral out of control and that the men of violence might have their way over the people who cared about democracy. It was a dark time in Ireland, which threatened to get even darker, and it is for those turbulent times in the early 1970s, when Patrick Hillery stood rock solid beside Jack Lynch, that we owe him our primary debt of gratitude. The courage of people like Patrick Hillery saved many lives on this island. It is as stark and as simple as that.

There are also many other reasons we should celebrate the life and varied career of Patrick Hillery. He was a dedicated medical doctor who became a conscientious TD for his native Clare. He was a reforming Minister, especially in the then Department of Education. He was the Minister for external affairs who led us into the European Union. He was our first EEC Commissioner who, while in charge of social policy, piloted through many equality measures. He served two seven-year terms as Uachtarán na hÉireann with dignity and distinction.

In the exercise of politics he was always his own person. He shunned factions in favour of honesty, dignity and integrity. To my mind, he was a true statesman and he is a role model for all of us who work in public life.

His low-key approach masked a steely determination. As EEC Commissioner he faced down his own Government over the need to promptly implement equal pay for women. As President he brushed aside attempts at interference and upheld the Constitution.

In many ways he was the quintessential Clare person, modest and mild of manner but with intellect, knowledge, talents and skills, and all that accompanied with an abundance of courage. Like all good Clare people, he loved sport, music, culture and good company. For these and many other reasons, the Green Party Members would like to join all parties in this House in extending our sympathies to Patrick's wife, Maeve, his son, John, and the other members of the extended Hillery family. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam cróga dhílis.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
Link to this: Individually | In context

Ar mo shon féin agus ar son Teachtaí Shinn Féin ba mhaith liom comhbhrón a dhéanamh le clann Uí hIrighile ar bhás an dochtúra Pádraig Ó hIrighile. Déanaim an comhbhrón sin chomh maith le ceannaire Fhianna Fáil agus le baill an pháirtí sin agus le pobal Chontae an Chláir a raibh an Dóchtúir Ó hIrighile mar ionadaí tofa acu le blianta fada. On my own behalf and on behalf of Teachtaí Dála Shinn Fhéin, I extend deepest sympathy to the Hillery family on the death of Dr. Patrick Hillery. I extend sympathy also to the Leader and members of Fianna Fáil and to the people of County Clare, of whom Dr. Hillery was a public representative for many years.

It is obvious, from a review of his long life, that Patrick Hillery possessed a strong ethos of public service. It was manifest in his love for his profession as a medical doctor in his native County Clare. It was seen in his response to the call to become involved in active political life as a Teachta Dála, as a Minister, as an EEC Commissioner and, finally, as a long-serving President from 1976 to 1990.

On these occasions, and I speak of today, political differences are set aside. It is right that we reflect on the personal qualities of the deceased, as well as the service he or she has rendered in public life. I did not know the late Dr. Patrick Hillery personally but he was, by all accounts and by agreement across the political spectrum, a modest and unassuming man who used his talents and energies effectively but preferred to do so without any great fanfare. This, no doubt, made the transition very difficult for Dr. Hillery when he was asked to assume the office of President at the relatively young age of 53 but he fulfilled the role dutifully.

There has been some comment on the role played by Dr. Hillery as Minister for Foreign Affairs during the outbreak of the conflict in the Six Counties in 1969 and in the subsequent years up to the aftermath of Bloody Sunday in 1972. It is not appropriate at this time to enter into controversy on that period and the role of the Irish Government in it. Let it be said, however, that when Dr. Hillery sought to call the British Government to account before the United Nations for its disastrous role in this country, his words reflected the views of the vast majority of the Irish people and across the political spectrum. The British Government, sadly, ignored the expressed will of the Irish people, with the most tragic of consequences.

I am sure Dr. Hillery was glad to have lived to see a successful Irish peace process and a developing all-Ireland political process after decades of tragic conflict on our island. Generations, including those of Dr. Hillery and his parents whose home was burned by the Black and Tans in their time, have dreamed of lasting peace and real reconciliation. People across all political parties and none can take pride in their efforts in turning that dream of the past into today's developing reality. Thug an iar-Uachtarán Ó hIrighile seirbhís fhada do mhuintir na hÉireann. Déanaim comhbhrón arís lena bhean, Maeve, lena mhac John agus le clann Uí hIrighile uilig. Ar dheis lámh Dé go raibh a anam.

Photo of Mary HarneyMary Harney (Minister, Department of Health and Children; Dublin Mid West, Progressive Democrats)
Link to this: Individually | In context

Patrick Hillery was a modern Irish patriot. He was a man of substance, character and values who helped build a new Ireland in the latter part of the 20th century. His patriotism was the principled patriotism of non-violence and loyalty to the Constitution, a stance taken not on easy words and rhetoric but tested in the fire of integrity under pressure.

His patriotism was also the practical patriotism of bringing Ireland into the European Economic Community as Minister for External Affairs and driving through real advances for social equity as Minister for Education and for women's equality as our first EU Commissioner.

His patriotism was also a personal patriotism. He applied his considerable personal talents in life to the betterment of his community, first as a caring and committed general practitioner in his beloved County Clare and then for the whole country. He gave a personal medical service to everyone, with no distinction between the wealthy or the poor, the powerful or the disadvantaged. He lived these values and instilled them in his family and those around him in public life. It was this combination of principle, practical skill and personal commitment, all underpinned by enduring values, that made our former President and colleague in this House a true leader.

Patrick Hillery was among a group of leaders born shortly after independence who, when it came to their time to lead and to be tested, stood rock solid for the peaceful resolution of constitutional and political issues. They rightly saw this as the only moral and practical way forward, with no backward glances at or tacit encouragement of violent alternatives. He shared a republicanism that was totally constitutional, robust, generous and peaceful in equal measure. It was that brand of republicanism, his loyalty to the constitutional imperative of collective Cabinet responsibility and his deep integrity that impelled him in the early 1970s to withstand raw political pressure to go down a different and dangerous path that would have been catastrophic. Speaking in a confidence debate in this House 38 years ago, in May 1970, he said:

If the solution in the North of Ireland means anything to me . . . it is a solution which will permit Irishmen of different traditions, different religions and different classes . . . to live together in peace and harmony.

. . . We will have to establish our right to find solutions in our own generation at our own time. We are all influenced by history and we cannot disregard it. At this time I would like to establish the right of every generation to start their own tradition if necessary, and their total freedom to seek a solution in honesty with themselves.

How good it was that he lived to see the full fruits of this ideal he espoused borne out in the Good Friday Agreement.

He was also one of a group of leaders who saw that it was time for Ireland to modernise economically and socially. He was a great, modernising Minister for Foreign Affairs and had the vision and determination to lift our conduct of foreign policy to a new level. Clearly, one of his greatest, lasting achievements was to shepherd Ireland into membership of the European Economic Community, a turning point in our economic and social history. He was clear that, by joining, Ireland would be participating in the political shaping of Europe in the long term, as he said, shaping "a unified Europe that would be a potent force for peace not only on our Continent but in the world".

It was not enough, in his eyes, merely to get in the door as a member on a political level. As our first European Commissioner, he showed how important it was to follow through and deliver the practical benefits of EEC membership to our people. His courageous insistence as EU Social Commissioner that the European equality directive had to apply in Ireland delivered one of the most practical equalities for women — equal pay. The women of Ireland can be truly grateful for his quiet determination.

His devotion to the country, to our people and to our Constitution led him to accept nomination and appointment as Uachtarán na hÉireann. He held faith with the Constitution and the people in every aspect of his discharge of that highest office over 14 years. In word and in deed, in both quiet times and testing times, he reinforced that office as being above politics, as intended and provided for in our Constitution. He demonstrated that constitutional principles are not sustained merely by words on a page, but need leaders of loyalty and integrity to give life and substance to them. For those 14 years, and throughout his entire career in public life, he remained grounded in the Constitution and rooted in the people, particularly in his native County Clare. He loved his country and did it proud; he was a true patriot and a quiet hero of modern Ireland.

I extend my sympathy to his wife, Maeve, his son, John, his daughter-in-law, Carolyn, and the Hillery family.

Members rose.