Dáil debates

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Death of Former Member: Expressions of Sympathy.

 

4:00 pm

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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On behalf of the Fine Gael Party and my colleagues, I welcome to the Distinguished Visitors Gallery the husband and family of the late Nuala Fennell, former Deputy, Senator and Minister who served in this House with distinction from 1981until 1987, in Seanad Éireann from 1987 until 1989 and again in the Dáil from 1989 until 1992.

I cannot really describe Nuala Fennell and her work any better than she described it herself. It is a testament to her life and career that, despite her illness, she put pen to paper and completed her political memoir, Nuala Fennell: Political Woman - A Memoir, just a few weeks before she passed away. Those who take the time at the back end of the year to read her political memoir will note it is a beautiful book about a beautiful person, as I described at the launch. Nuala Fennell described herself in the book as having to contend with her own mother's dilemma, which involved being one of the footsoldiers in a vast army of suburban housewives. She was part of an irreversible movement that made the status of women a political issue for the first time in Ireland. Reading her book invites one to consider the marriage ban that applied to women and the fact that women were owned as chattels and that one had to have a second signatory for cheques and books from libraries. People could not visualise now the circumstances that obtained in the 1950s and 1960s. Nuala described the loneliness of being part of what she deemed an almost exclusively male club during her first period in the Dáil. She expressed this sense of loneliness when going about her work here as an elected Member.

With regard to the AIM movement, encompassing action, information and motivation, Nuala Fennell made the point in her story that, in respect of family law legislation, including the Maintenance Orders Act 1974, not enough recognition was given to the then Minister for Justice, Mr. Patrick Cooney. She made an outstanding contribution as a politician to increasing awareness of domestic violence and the necessity to provide shelter, through the women's aid movement, for battered wives and those at the receiving end of male domestic violence. When she subsequently stood for election as an Independent in 1977, she received more than 3,800 votes and was elected in 1981 and re-elected in both elections of 1982. Those of us who were here in that period remember the many stirring events and tension-filled occasions in the early 1980s. Nuala Fennell was here for all of that.

When she was appointed, in 1982, as Minister of State with responsibility for women's affairs, she found there was no plan, no blueprint, no budget, no recognition and no office. When she spoke to the Secretary General of the Department of Justice he suggested that it would be better for her to work from the Department of the Taoiseach, to which she was assigned. She replied that she had lots of things to do which were relevant to the Department of Justice and that if she did not have an office, he might find her a broom cupboard from which she could do her business. She later referred to her excitement, the following week, at finding a large office made available to her. Her small budget allocation of £50,000 seems infinitesimal now. Yet, that allocation, and her work as Minister of State, led to great things during her term and subsequently. It is a measure of the society we then had that the late Archbishop Dermot Ryan, she tells us in her book, refused to have his photograph taken with her. She was centrally responsible for the abolition of the concept of illegitimacy in Ireland and in establishing a mediation scheme for those who marriages had broken down.

Hers is a story of the journey of Irish life from the 1950s until her passing. She was supported in an outstanding way by her husband, Brian. Having lived in Canada for a number of years and returned here as a journalist and later a politician, she was a woman who played her part. She was a wife, citizen, politician, Minister, advocate and a really good person. The Irish Times described her as "courageous, determined and with an original mind". She made a real difference.

I welcome her husband, Brian, her son Garrett and her daughters, Jacqueline and Amanda to the House. As we do on such important occasions, I pay tribute and respect to her and salute the work of someone who went through the constituency of Dublin South on many occasions knocking on doors and who served, with Deputy Shatter and the late Deputy John Kelly, the good people of that constituency for many years. It is only when people leave that we begin to examine the work they do. I met Nuala Fennell on many occasions in the corridors of this house but one does not understand the attributes and qualities of a person until one has to concentrate on what to say in tribute to them. To her husband and family, I say we salute a really good person who did a first class job in representing politics and the problems of people and who made an outstanding change in legislation and to women's rights and their involvement in politics. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam dhílis.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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I am pleased to have this opportunity to pay tribute to Nuala Fennell, a woman of great energy and strong achievement. On behalf of my party and the Government, I extend sincere condolences to Nuala's husband, Brian, her children, Jacqueline, Garrett and Amanda and her grandchildren, Ian, Eveline, Kate, James and Amelie. I also extend sympathy to Deputy Kenny and the Fine Gael Party on the loss of a former distinguished colleague.

Nuala Fennell was a person and politician of the highest calibre. I first got to know her over a quarter century ago when I was first elected to this House in a by-election in 1984. Nuala was then a prominent member of Garrett FitzGerald's Government and was serving as Minister of State with responsibility for women's affairs and family law reform. While she and I were not on the same side in party politics, it would have been impossible not to respect and admire her commitment and the sincerity which she brought to her official duties.

Compassion and commitment were at the core of her politics. She was a woman of great energy and her whole purpose in public life was to advance the cause of equality in Irish society. She was a moderniser and someone who believed passionately in advancing the role of women in Irish life. Her achievements in this regard are significant and she leaves behind a hugely distinguished legacy of improving and promoting equality of opportunity for women in this country.

Nuala passed away in August, when the House was in recess. Of all the tributes paid to her in the media at that time, I will quote from one which underlines the changes she helped bring about. This obituary, written by a colleague and friend, states:

The overwhelming majority of the girls who get their leaving cert results today do not know the name, Nuala Fennell, but they will study, work and live in an Ireland that is much better for women because of her. Nuala grew up in an Ireland where you could be paid half what a man would be paid for the same job. If you were in the Civil Service you lost your job as a matter of course when you got married. You had to get your husband to sign a form in order to get a library card. He could completely disinherit you in his will. Equality between men and women simply did not exist and, in some areas, did not seem possible. Her death last night was not headline news but, in one sense, it should have been because in the 70s, when a lot of pointless guff about dismantling the patriarch by the sisterhood was going on, Nuala Fennell devoted herself to women's interests in a doggedly polite, practical way and in the process helped to improve Ireland for women for generations to come.

Nuala Fennell's life's work was to ensure Irish women could come to play increasingly diverse and wide-ranging roles in the home, in jobs and in communities all over the country. She was a believer in equality among the sexes and rightly saw the progress of women in our society as one of the benchmarks of the sort of country Ireland was and could become. As a campaigning journalist, Nuala wrote extensively and persuasively on the need for enhanced equality between men and women in Ireland. This was based on a sense of social justice and a deep practical patriotism which intuitively understood that for Ireland to fully prosper we had to make full use of our greatest resource, all our people. For Nuala, a society that did not harness the full potential of all its people, men and women, was a society that was not utilising all its talents, energies, creativities, values or diversities of opinion.

Nuala was a powerful advocate and called for change with the pen. She wrote pioneering articles in the late 1960s and 1970s on women's rights in the Evening Herald, Evening Press and Irish Independent. It should be noted that she was also a front line activist who rolled up her sleeves and set about creating change, even before she entered the field of representative politics. In 1972, she was a founder member of the AIM group, which was established to look after the interests of deserted wives. She had an abiding commitment to helping the victims of domestic violence and she established the first refuge for battered women in Dublin. In 1975, she become the first chair of Irish Women's Aid and an executive member of the Irish Council for the Status of Women.

Nuala was a strong believer in the need for more women in politics and once again, she practised what she preached. She first stood for public office in 1977, when she contested the general election as an Independent in Dublin South. She subsequently joined Fine Gael and contested the first direct election to the European Parliament in 1979. In 1981, she was first elected a TD for Dublin South and held her seat in the two elections that took place in the following 18 months. In 1987, she lost her Dáil seat in an extremely competitive constituency but was returned to the Seanad. In 1989, she was triumphantly re-elected to Dáil Éireann and served in this Chamber for three more years with distinction before leaving politics in 1992 to run a successful public relations company.

Those are the facts of Nuala's tenure in the Oireachtas but behind those statistics there is a trail of inspiration which helped drive many more women into politics and public service. It is fair to say Nuala's achievements in electoral politics were a great source of encouragement to many other prospective female candidates across the political divide. Nuala Fennell did not come from a family steeped in electoral politics but, in a constituency which contained accomplished politicians such as the late Séamus Brennan and the late John Kelly, as well as proven vote getters such as Deputy Alan Shatter and Deputy Tom Kitt, both of whom still grace this House, Nuala held her own. She represented her constituents and her party with distinction. Her's is a lasting and positive impact.

She served for one term as Minister of State and although that tenure was relatively short she used her time to good effect and put in place significant foundations for a more progressive and fairer Ireland. In 1985 she oversaw the publication of the Irish Women: Agenda for Action report. That report contained strong recommendations to improve the status of women in health, social welfare, family law and employment. She also introduced significant legislation dealing with domicile and citizenship rights.

I especially want to mention today her great work in removing the stigma of illegitimacy from the Statute Book. Before Nuala came to office outdated and offensive legislative provisions in this regard dating from the Victorian era and beyond remained enshrined in Irish law. Nuala Fennell was responsible for abolishing those. Such provisions were a blight on the face of a modern republic, and especially so in a State which had its origins rooted in the objective of cherishing all its children equally. It is appropriate to say that Nuala Fennell, in a social and political climate that is very different from today, showed real political courage and foresight in ensuring children born outside marriage should have the same succession rights as children born within wedlock.

Nuala Fennell will be remembered in this House with respect and warmth by colleagues on all sides who knew her as a politician who worked hard, who was tolerant of others and was deeply committed to the betterment of our country. I extend my sympathies and those of my party, to her husband of more than 50 years, Brian, and to the rest of her family, friends and former colleagues. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam dilís.

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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I join with both Deputy Kenny and the Taoiseach in paying tribute to Nuala Fennell, and in welcoming her husband Brian, who is here with us today, her children Jacqueline, Garrett and Amanda and their families. I join the Taoiseach in sympathising with Deputy Kenny and the Fine Gael Party on the loss of a former Member of this House.

We are paying tribute to a former Deputy, Senator and Minister of State who had an outstanding reforming record. Both Deputy Kenny and the Taoiseach referred in particular to the work she did in abolishing the status of illegitimacy. We are also paying tribute to somebody who has made an enormous difference to the life of this country. One of the things I find interesting when talking with groups of young people in particular is how difficult it is to describe what this country was like 40 years ago and the enormous changes that have taken place in terms of its social legislation.

Those changes came about because of the courage of the people who campaigned for that social change, who championed what was sometimes disparagingly referred to as the liberal agenda, over a period of time opening up this country and changing its laws. Nuala Fennell was a champion of that change, because not only was this a very different country 40 years ago, a country where a woman had to give up her job when she got married, where women were not entitled to the same pay for doing the same job as a man, where contraception was illegal, where the reformation of a family was unthinkable, but where the laws were simply not in place and where there was a culture of oppression.

Not only was that the legal position, but there was also a climate that made it very difficult to seek change. It took courage 40 years ago to take on the powerful forces that were opposed to social change in this country, to take on church, State, and some very conservative opinion and thinking. Nuala Fennell was a leader who took on those forces and brought about the kind of social changes and personal and social freedoms that we now enjoy, and that to some extent, we take for granted. Nuala Fennell is owed a great debt for the role she played in that.

She has been described by both Deputy Kenny and the Taoiseach as somebody who went about that work in a very pragmatic way, who saw the advantage of making incremental changes, of making the immediate reforms, of winning the battle step by step. As the saying goes, there is more to be done, because many of the things Nuala Fennell fought for are still not fully achieved. We still have an enormous problem in this country in the area of domestic violence. We might have equal pay legally but the average earnings of women are still far behind the average earnings of men and we have still a very long way to go in terms of getting equality in political representation. As we pay tribute to Nuala Fennell it would be well that we collectively rededicate ourselves to achieving the remaining objectives of the battle of which Nuala Fennell was a part, and the things she sought to achieve, some of which have yet to be fully realised. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam.

Photo of Mary WhiteMary White (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party)
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Ar son an Chomhaontais Ghlais, ba mhaith liom cur leis na focail mholta a dúradh i dtaobh Nuala Fennell. I did not know Nuala Fennell very well but I had the privilege of meeting her on many occasions, and I have for a very long time known and revered her work in public life and in politics. I admired Nuala Fennell's trail-blazing spirit back in the 1970s when she was among a cast of formidable women who made their mark in Irish public life. I revered her practical work to help women, especially those who were victims of family violence at a time when it was a taboo subject which many people pretended was not happening.

I admired her successful entry into politics as a woman candidate who was not part of a family dynasty. I note from her memoir, sadly published earlier this month and just weeks after her death, that in 1981 she found Leinster House to be "a strange male club which felt like a political locker room". But she was undaunted. As Minister of State with responsibility for women's affairs she had few resources and little back up but her practical side won out as she worked to abolish the concept of illegitimacy, to establish a mediation scheme for marriage conflict and to introduce legislation on citizenship and domicile.

Again, I could identify with her enterprising spirit after she left elected politics in 1992, as she collaborated in the successful firm, Political Lobbying. In sum, it was the brave and spirited women such as Nuala Fennell who ensured women ceased to be invisible in political life. She and the women activists with whom she collaborated did not always agree, but Nuala Fennell and her colleagues did make an enormous difference. That is why I am so very proud this afternoon to pay tribute to Nuala and her family on behalf of the Green Party, Comhaontas Glas.

5:00 pm

Photo of Arthur MorganArthur Morgan (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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On behalf of the Sinn Féin Deputies, I wish to convey our condolences on the passing of Nuala Fennell to her husband Brian and to the entire family circle on their sad loss. I also wish to be associated with the comments of previous speakers who were elegant and no doubt accurate.

Photo of Tom KittTom Kitt (Dublin South, Fianna Fail)
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I join other speakers in expressing my sympathy to Brian and his family on the death of a very good colleague. I was very privileged to have shared the constituency of Dublin South with Nuala Fennell. Much has been said, rightly, about the tremendous contribution she has made to Irish politics, especially social legislation. As Deputy Gilmore said, it was not an easy time for people to be engaged in campaigning on many sensitive social issues but Nuala was always very brave, courageous and professional in anything she ever did.

I would also describe Nuala as a lady. She was a very caring person and always had an interest in people. When I was appointed as Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach with responsibility for European affairs, arts and culture and women's affairs, I was privileged to succeed Nuala Fennell who was very supportive of me at that time. It was unusual for a man to have such a position, but I was pleased to advance much of the work she had pioneered, in particular with regard to the equality proofing of legislation. She made a huge impact in anything she did. As a colleague, Nuala initiated ground-breaking work on equality and everything that has been said here is correct.

On a personal level, I met her a few times after she left politics and she often referred to the fact that life after politics could be very enjoyable. She did not have as many years with her husband, Brian, family and friends as we would have liked but she enjoyed every moment of her life with them. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dilis.

Photo of Olivia MitchellOlivia Mitchell (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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I, too, would like to pay tribute to my former friend and colleague, Nuala Fennell. Although I did not share time with her in the Dáil as she had retired before I was elected here, when I joined the Fine Gael Party in Dublin South she was very much a prominent national Deputy for that constituency and very much a role model for me entering politics, as she was for many women at that time. My main memory of Nuala from those days was of her personal kindness to me as somebody new coming into politics. She offered advice on all manner of issues both personal and political. Some of the advice I still treasure and observe such as the best type of high heels to wear when canvassing. It has come in very useful.

As I got to know Nuala better over the years, I realised there were no sides to her, what one saw was what one got. Deputy Kenny described her as courageous, and she certainly was that, but she was also a warm, open, kind person who embraced her friends and her colleagues and anybody who had a problem. Their problems, issues and concerns became hers because that was the kind of person she was. She cared about people and campaigned on their behalf. Those two qualities are the hallmark of a really good politician, although I believe Nuala never saw herself as a politician or considered herself to be political. She was a trailblazer on behalf of people, particularly on behalf of women, and God knows women needed somebody to blaze a trail for them in those days.

When I speak of that time to my daughter, which is not so very long ago, she can scarcely believe the regime that existed then for women in the home, the workplace and in society generally. The freedoms and opportunities that are now available to my daughter and to her generation are in no short measure due to the ground-breaking work and campaigning of a small group of women, for whom Nuala at that time was their political icon. One of the sadnesses for Nuala was that those freedoms and opportunities that now exist for women in society generally did not increase the gender equality in this House. She thought, I believe, to the very end that there were far too many suits in here. I am afraid I have to agree with her, as I am sure will many of my women colleagues.

Nevertheless, Nuala smoothed my path into this House. I can tell her family, which may be of some consolidation to them now, of the huge fondness that still remains for her in Dublin South. Whenever I canvass door to door or talk to people, it is great and encouraging to witness the number of people, primarily women, who mention Nuala, who remember some personal kindness or contact they had with her, but mostly they just want to bear witness to the work that she did for women and to record their appreciation of her legacy to all of our daughters.

Nuala had many friends and at her funeral we saw the thousands of people from all walks of life who came and who will mourn her and miss her, but nobody will do so more than her family. In every undertaking, at every meeting and in all her endeavours, both personal and political, as long as I knew her, Nuala was blessed to have her beloved Brian at her side, and she was not afraid to acknowledge that publicly again and again that she knew she was blessed. As a couple, the term "the other half" had real meaning. In every sense they complimented one another. He was her other half and she was his. I know that her sudden death - it was sudden in the end - leaves him heart-broken. I know too that their children, Garrett, Jackie and Amanda, of whom she was so proud, take great consolidation from the fact that Nuala's life was lived to the full right to the very end and that they were so much at the centre of that life, both public and private. Nuala took great delight and pride quietly from the fact that her interest in public life was passed on to her children. She will be missed and I wish to extend my sympathy to her family and extended family. I know that Nuala will rest in peace.

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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Like previous speakers, I want to extend my condolences to Brian, Jacqueline, Garrett, Amanda and the rest of the family.

Nuala Fennell and myself had a very long association. Our lives crossed in unexpected and strange ways. I first met Nuala when I was a young law student in the early 1970s. I was involved in the Free Legal Advice Centres. At that time Nuala was a journalist writing about the impact on women of marital breakdown, the fact that no refuge existed for battered wives, the inadequacies of our laws, which dated back to 1886 and did not provide protection even for wives living in the home with their husbands who were not being properly supported. The experiences I had as the director of a Free Legal Advice Centre in Crumlin and, ultimately, as the chairman of the Free Legal Advice Centres fed into Nuala's journalism and her work on behalf of women, in particular in the area of family law reform.

The year 1972 was pivotal because two major reports were published for the first time in decades on the need to reform our marital laws and to provide greater protection for women. One was published by the Free Legal Advice Centres and the second was published by the AIM Group, of which Nuala was a founding member, whose objective essentially was to reform aspects of family law. The work that Nuala did with the AIM Group and that we in the Free Legal Advice Centres co-ordinated with her ultimately produced two important items of legislation, both of which, by coincidence, were enacted through this House by Paddy Cooney. The Family Law (Maintenance of Spouses and Children) Act 1976 was the first modern item of legislation to provide for the support of spouses who were not being properly supported. Section 22 of that Act provided the first ever legislative protection for battered wives. It was the first time our courts were able to make barring orders to protect wives who were the victims of violence. Without the campaigning work in which Nuala had been involved, I have no doubt that legislation would not have been passed.

The same year, the Family Home Protection Act, which is still very much part and parcel of family legislation, stopped the injustice of the possibility - where a home was held in the sole name of a husband and where there was marital difficulties - that a wife could come home one day to find a removal lorry outside the door and the home secretly sold in circumstances of which she was unaware. It seems extraordinary now that a wife could be in that position. Meetings publishing the predicament of wives by the AIM group and political pressure and lobbying by that group, and by Nuala Fennell in particular, and the Free Legal Advice Centres contributed to the creation and ultimate enactment of that legislation. At the same time in 1970s as I was dealing with wives in a Free Legal Advice Centre who were the victims of violence with nowhere to go, Nuala was taking the pioneering step of establishing a women's refuge for battered wives in Harcourt Street, a place I visited on many occasions. It was the opening of that refuge in Harcourt Street which laid the foundation ultimately for the Women's Aid organisation and the refuges we have today.

In 1979 Nuala ran for the European Parliament elections and, by coincidence, I ran for the local elections. In 1981 we found ourselves as both colleagues and competitors on the Fine Gael ticket in Dublin South. We ran five Fine Gael candidates in a five-seat constituency in those days, something all the tacticians now would tell us we should never do. We were predicting that Fine Gael would win three seats. The only journalist in the country who believed that was possible was Nuala Fennell. There was not a single political journalist who thought there was the remotest possibility that Fine Gael would win three seats in that constituency, but we did. We retained them through the two difficult elections of 1982 and subsequent to November 1982 Nuala became Minister of State with responsibility for women's affairs. As other speakers have said, a particular monument to her work as Minister of State was the ultimate enactment of the Status of Children Act in 1987, which abolished the concept of illegitimacy which had remained far too long part of Irish law and which sought to put children in a position of equality in the context of the general statute law. Nuala remained part and parcel of Fine Gael in Dublin South until her retirement in 1992 and, as everyone has said, played a distinguished and courageous role in this House.

Deputy Gilmore is also correct in stating that some of the battles Nuala fought in those days still remain to be fought. I can remember us being at a joint press conference in the early 1970s describing the inadequacies of the courts system and the need to establish a family court - a unified family court structure to deal sensitively and comprehensively with family problems - and to this day we still do not have that structure. No doubt Nuala, if she was still with us today, would be writing yet again about these issues as they become current in the political world.

Nuala made an outstanding contribution to this House, she made an outstanding contribution to the Fine Gael Party and she made a pioneering and outstanding contribution, not only in the women's movement but as a journalist. She wrote in the 1970s about many issues that other journalists were not interested in writing about and she went to the trouble to research them and write accurately about them. It was that work of hers that laid the foundation for many of the reforms that took place through the 1980s and led to a very different Ireland and women in this country being placed truly in a position of equality in areas where for far too long they had been treated not merely as unequal, but not even recognised as persons with needs to be addressed. Nuala will forevermore have a place in the history of this country and in the history of the women's movement for her contribution to law reform.

As Deputy Mitchell stated, she will be missed greatly by all of her family, but particularly by Brian. There was hardly a meeting of a Fine Gael branch in Dublin South constituency that Brian missed during Nuala's years as a TD and Senator. As we did the constituency trail, Brian was extraordinary to the extent to which he attended meetings and provided assistance; quite clearly they were a couple who were extraordinarily attached to each other. I offer Brian, Jacqueline, Amanda and Garrett my sincerest condolences. I wish the family well. May Nuala rest in peace.

Photo of Eamon RyanEamon Ryan (Minister, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Dublin South, Green Party)
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As a representative for Dublin South, I want to mark the tremendous work that Nuala Fennell did, for that constituency but also for the country, particularly in what was called the women's movement. No doubt there were women who were more strident or more noteworthy at the time, but when historians look back asking who was the most effective in terms of making changes, many will answer that it was Nuala Fennell who, through her work in the political system, turned into real legislative change the cause that was required, namely representation. She did that selflessly and with great honour. Her family should be duly proud of her work. We should be proud that there were such representatives who were willing to go from campaigning to come into, and spend their time in, the political system, which is often difficult. One often faces votes where one may feel slightly compromised. One faces difficult compromise as we must work within a party political system. Ultimately, however, it is a way of effecting real legislative change and that is what Nuala Fennell did as a representative of the Parliament and as a Minister of State. It is a great honour.

We are now looking back some ten or 20 years. I agree there is further work to be done, but the work she did was groundbreaking and was of significant benefit for all of the people of this country. As a constituency representative of Dublin South, along with its other representatives here, I am glad to mark that.

Photo of George LeeGeorge Lee (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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I, too, want to extend my sympathies to the family of Nuala Fennell. Being a relative newcomer to politics I did not know Nuala for very long, but I did have one brief encounter with her in Dublin South, where I am now the new TD, where she told me at the time of my selection at the convention to run for the recent by-election that I was not to mind anybody who said that journalists never made it in politics. She told me that she had made the transformation and I, too, would be well able to make it. She also told me that hers was the last time Fine Gael in Dublin South had three seats and that she was delighted to see that a journalist had come along and Fine Gael would have three seats again. I found her just as Deputy Mitchell described - warm, open and kind. I can say for certain that is true because in my short interaction with her, those were some of the characteristics which shone through.

From my previous life as an ordinary citizen, having observed when I was much younger some of the work of Nuala Fennell, I know that she was a campaigning person and was quite tough in the fights that she would pick. It is to be commended that she was a fighter on behalf of others, that she was a leader, that she would identify the important issues and that she had a great sense of fairness and of compassion.

It strikes me, as everybody stated here today, that nobody doubts at all that Nuala Fennell did a great deal for women's issues and for the women's movement in this country. Indeed, great tribute has been paid to that work but as I see it, with the luxury of where we are now with many battles fought and many rights established, which should never have had to be fought for at all, to the extent that Nuala fought for women's issues, she fought for my issues too. I have a daughter, I have sisters and I have a wife, and there are women in my life. The idea that someone would fight for their rights is the same as someone fighting for my rights because they matter too.

Nuala should not be put in the camp of those fighting for one side or another. She fought for us all, and she made a significant contribution in that regard. It is my great honour to be following in her footsteps in Dublin South. From my brief interaction with her, I can say that the campaigning and fighting spirit she had and the sense of justice which she seemed to pursue regardless of the personal costs in terms of efforts, etc., is something I hope I can carry forward to some extent. I express my sympathies to her family and pay tribute to Nuala.

Members rose.