Seanad debates

Tuesday, 12 November 2002

Death of Former Member: Expressions of Sympathy.


Photo of Mary O'RourkeMary O'Rourke (Fianna Fail)
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On behalf of my party, I wish to express our sympathy on the sad death of Richard Hourigan. I did not know Richard Hourigan, even though I was a Member of the Dáil on one occasion when he was a Member of the Seanad. I cannot accurately place him but, having read about him and spoken about him to Senator Brennan, I have obtained a clearer picture of him.

Richard Hourigan served as a Senator from 1983 to 1987 and from 1989 to 1992. He was famous in agricultural circles and was particularly well known in the IFA. He was especially noted for his expertise and knowledge, which he used professionally in the field of agriculture.

Mr. Hourigan was from Murroe, County Limerick, and he contested one Dáil election. He and members of his family were well known for their public spiritedness and civic engagement. His brother has been a long-time member of Limerick County Council, which he served on one occasion as cathaoirleach and he is currently a member of the local authority.

This is the second occasion during this session we have had expressions of sympathy in respect of a former Member of the House. It is a noble sentiment and rite that we should continue because Mr. Hourigan served here as a Member. He served in the interests of agriculture, a topic on which he contributed his expertise during his two terms as Senator. I am sure his wisdom and knowledge of agriculture were of great benefit in the Seanad debates. On behalf of the Fianna Fáil Party, I extend our sympathy to the members of his family, his wide circle of friends and acquaintances and, particularly, the agricultural community where his loss will be deeply felt.

Photo of Brian HayesBrian Hayes (Fine Gael)
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Richard Hourigan was a Limerick man. The Hourigan name is synonymous with Fine Gael politics in County Limerick and it is with great sadness that on behalf of my colleagues in Seanad Éireann I mark the untimely passing of Richard Hourigan. He was a distinguished member of our party for a long period, not just in the Seanad, but also as a committed Fine Gael activist. Today, we mark his untimely passing.

Richard Hourigan was a Member of the Seanad from 1982 to 1987 and from 1989 to 1992. I did not know him, but during the last Seanad election campaign I got to know his brother, Paddy Hourigan. I was very well treated when I called to the Hourigan household in County Limerick on a beautiful summer evening, where I spent a long time doing my best to put forward my point of view. Richard will be sadly missed by his family, his community in County Limerick and the Fine Gael activist base in the county.

Richard Hourigan had a distinguished record of service as a Member of Seanad Éireann. He won three of the four elections he contested, which is a remarkable achievement for a person who was not a former Deputy. It was an excellent electoral performance. He was also an excellent debater. He won a gold medal at UCD for his debating skills which I am sure he honed to good use when he was elected to the Seanad in 1982. He was an agriculturalist who was elected to the House on the Agricultural Panel. He was also a farmer and had graduated with a degree in agricultural science from UCD. Not many people undertook that course at the time. He was an expert in agriculture and was an official, in many capacities, for the Irish Farmers Association from 1962 to 1979.

To his wife, Nora, their three children, his brother, Paddy, and his cousin, Michael, another Fine Gael councillor in Limerick city, I extend our sympathy at his untimely passing.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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I have been asked by my Independent colleagues to speak on their behalf in memory of the former Senator, Richard Hourigan. I do so with sadness because I was unaware of his illness and impending demise.

Unlike the last two speakers, I had the privilege of knowing Richard Hourigan. He was a most delightful and charming man and represented the best of the Fine Gael tradition. Like everybody else, my roots were in the country. My grandfather was an auctioneer and farmer; in fact, he did a little bit of everything. I gather it was similar with Richard. He sat in front of me in the Chamber and was an authority on farming. He was large in body, in mind and sometimes, as he rose to his feet, one wondered if he would really get off the ground, oratorically speaking. It does not surprise me that he won a gold medal for debating and oratory because suddenly this large frame would appear to lift and passion would come into the debate, even late at night. He was an ornament to the House. He is somebody of whom I have fond memories and who will be missed. I send my sympathy and that of my Independent colleagues to his family.

My extremely efficient secretary-PA seems to have used the same research as Senator Hayes which, if I am correct, is Jim Farrelly's Who's Who in Irish Politics, 1990-1991, an authoritative book which describes Mr. Hourigan as "an able, witty speaker who is extremely knowledgeable on farming and on farmer politics". That is the kind of person we always needed in this House. I have often criticised the method of election to the Seanad and I am afraid that I can be a bit snotty about it sometimes.

Photo of Martin ManserghMartin Mansergh (Fianna Fail)
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Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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Here was somebody, however, who came through on the Agricultural Panel and was also an authority on agriculture. This is the way to use the somewhat convoluted electoral system of the House. I, for one, am glad that it brought Mr. Hourigan here so that we on the backbenches could share in the warmth of his companionship.

Photo of Brendan RyanBrendan Ryan (Labour)
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Bhí aithne agam ar Dick Hourigan. Bhíomar le chéile sa Tigh seo ar feadh roinnt blianta agus bhí cairdeas eadrainn. Chaitheamar cuid mhaith ama trasna an bhóthair i dtigh ósta nach dtabharfaidh mé ainm air. Dick Hourigan made many efforts to explain farming to me, particularly late at night. I would not be recognised as the most sympathetic commentator on the ups and downs of agriculture but Dick saw it as a personal crusade to enlighten me about it. As well as being an authority on agriculture, he was also farseeing and passionately committed to it. He considered its future as much as its present condition. His loyalty to Fine Gael was taken for granted and whatever his personal thoughts might have been about things that were said or done, his loyalty to the party was unequivocal and absolute.

I was saddened to hear that Dick Hourigan had left us because I did not see him as being of an age where death was a likely prospect. The last time I met him he still had hopes of returning to some sort of political activity and while that particular ambition has been denied him, he made a contribution both to his party and to this House for which he deserves to be remembered. Ar dheis lámh Dé go raibh a anam fíordhílis.

John Dardis (Progressive Democrats)
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I was shocked and saddened to hear of Dick Hourigan's death. I shared a similar background to him both in the farming sector and from having served with him on these benches from 1989 to 1992. Dick Hourigan was a formidable figure in Irish agriculture and it could be said that the IFA was, in many respects, a product of his energy and enthusiasm. It is not readily appreciated that he was one of those who tramped through the highways and byways organising the IFA in its early days, but he did so effectively and well. Subsequently, he became a formidable fund raiser for the IFA. Indeed, on one occasion he castigated me for not allowing my grain levy to be deducted for the IFA's coffers, and he left me in no doubt as to my responsibility in the matter.

Mr. Hourigan was an effective advocate in this House for the agriculture industry in general and for farmers in particular. He never lost sight of his farming background which was always to the fore in his contributions to debates. In the latter stages of his membership of the House he suffered an accident from which he never fully recovered. It was with a deep sense of shock and sadness that I learned of his death. I had known him for a very long time. On behalf of the Progressive Democrats I extend sympathy to his wife and family, and to his Fine Gael colleagues. May he rest in peace.

Michael Finucane (Fine Gael)
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I attended the removal of the remains of Richard Hourigan yesterday, and the massive turn-out demonstrated just how popular he was. I met many Oireachtas representatives and councillors from around the country and many senior members of the IFA were also present. It was testament to his long service in the IFA and in farming, of which he had a great knowledge.

I was not aware that he had won a gold medal in debating until my colleague referred to it, but it does not surprise me because over the years Richard was always a person who could be asked, even at short notice, to address a local Fine Gael meeting at branch, district or constituency level. He was a very convincing orator at those meetings and was recognised for his great understanding of agriculture in particular.

I extend my sympathy and that of all the other Members of the House to his wife Nora and their family, to all his brothers and sisters, especially to his brother, Paddy Hourigan, who is at this stage the longest serving member of Limerick County Council and who is well known to you, a Chathaoirligh, and to my county council colleague, Senator Michael Brennan. Paddy is one of the most solid members of Limerick County Council.

It came as a shock to all of us because it was an untimely death. I agree with Senator Dardis that he probably did not recover properly from that injury. Richard's passing will leave a big void in Fine Gael circles because the Hourigans have been synonymous with Fine Gael over the years. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

Michael Brennan (Fianna Fail)
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I too would like to be associated with the expressions of sympathy to the Hourigan family. In County Limerick we recognise the contribution of Richard Hourigan to Seanad Éireann. His brother, Paddy, is a member of Limerick County Council and was cathaoirleach on one occasion. I have had the honour of serving with him for the past 18 years. We appreciate the contribution to political life of the Hourigan family. All political parties were represented last night at the removal of Richard's remains.

Richard Hourigan was a man of all the people and that is recognised by those who turned out last night to pay their respects. We also appreciate the contribution he made to community organisations throughout the county. He was admired for that. To his wife Nora and family I extend my deepest sympathy.

Rory Kiely (Fianna Fail)
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I also would like to be associated with the expressions of sympathy on the death of the late Richard Hourigan. I first met Richard through the IFA, where he was an organiser and I was a member. Later he joined me here in Seanad Éireann, also on the Agricultural Panel. As a member of the Fine Gael front bench he proved to be a fine spokesperson on agriculture

I would have to agree with Senator Finucane that the esteem in which he was held and his popularity were definitely in evidence last night at the removal. I arrived at the church in Milford in Limerick 9.30 p.m. and the remains did not arrive until 11 o'clock. That will give an idea of the popularity of Richard and the Hourigan family. I would like to convey my sympathy to his wife Nora, to his family and to his brother Paddy, a colleague of mine on Limerick County Council.

Members rose.