Seanad debates

Wednesday, 21 January 2004

Death of Former Member: Expressions of Sympathy.


2:30 pm

Photo of Mary O'RourkeMary O'Rourke (Fianna Fail)
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All Members of the House wish to sympathise with the family of Mr. Pat Joe Reynolds. A former Cathaoirleach of the Seanad, he had a long and distinguished career in the Dáil and at one time served as a Parliamentary Secretary. His career was crowned with his term as Cathaoirleach of the Seanad.

The Reynolds family is much connected with democratic politics. Its members have known the heat of the sun and endured many difficult situations. On behalf of the Fianna Fáil Party, I extend our sympathy to Pat Joe's wife, Tess, his sons, Gerry and Peter, and his daughters, Ita and Regina.

When we express sympathy with the family of Pat Joe Reynolds, we think of the Reynolds family and what it has contributed. His father, Paddy, as he was known, was elected to Dáil Éireann in 1927. When he died in tragic circumstances in 1932, his wife, Mary, took the seat and held it for 29 years. We talk about female participation in both Houses. It was remarkable that Mrs. Mary Reynolds held that seat for such a long time. The family gave 75 years of unbroken service to the Oireachtas. That is a great record of commitment to politics.

I knew the late Pat Joe Reynolds well because my brother, the late Brian Lenihan, shared the same constituency of Roscommon-Leitrim for a number of years. One of the warmest expressions of sympathy we received as a family when Brian passed away was from Pat Joe Reynolds and his family. It was touching and evocative and I never forgot them for it. He gave great service to the people of his constituency and to the GAA. His family were huge players, literally, on the field and in the council chambers of the GAA. We all know Gerry, who was an esteemed Member of the other House.

I know you, a Chathaoirligh, have memories of him, which I am sure you will share. He was a fair Cathaoirleach. He expressed the wishes of the people and he had dignity and bearing. He carried out his functions with great dignity and aplomb. Thank God he lived to the good age of 83. He died in the bosom of his family. It is truly memorable that his family gave 75 years of unbroken public service in both Houses of the Oireachtas. It is not something we are likely to come across again.

To his wife, Tess, his two sons, Gerry and Peter, and his daughters, Ita and Regina, I, on behalf of my party, express our sympathy and friendship to the Reynolds family.

Michael Finucane (Fine Gael)
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I join the Leader in expressing sympathy to the Reynolds family. She indicated that the Reynolds family was steeped in a strong political tradition which straddled more than 75 years. Gerry Reynolds, who succeeded Pat Joe Reynolds, held the seat from 1987 to 2002. I did not know Pat Joe Reynolds, as he preceded my time in the Oireachtas. However, I have heard much about him.

He represented the constituency of Roscommon-Leitrim where he was highly respected. He was a great family and community man. He was involved in many organisations throughout Leitrim, particularly in the Ballinamore area. He also had strong business links with the Ballinamore area and he was a prominent employer. I read recently that he attended many funerals during his time because he knew the community well. I understand it was a huge funeral because many people who identified with and respected him attended it. The Reynolds family made a significant impact on the business and political life of the area.

I join the Leader in expressing sympathy to his wife, Tess, his two sons, Peter and Gerry, his two daughters, Ita and Regina, and his extended family.

Photo of Shane RossShane Ross (Independent)
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I was privileged to serve in this House with Pat Joe Reynolds for many years. He was not only popular, but principled. He was almost rigid in his adherence to those things in which he believed. He was a traditionalist, although some would say a conservative. However, he was humane and sincere and not prone to bending his opinions with the fashionable winds of the time. This was most potently illustrated by his stance on violence. He came from the Border counties where in the 1980s and earlier, some people came under pressure to be softer on terrorism than others but Pat Joe Reynolds never yielded to that and unambiguously supported the forces of those who opposed terrorism without any ambiguity. That is not intended as a veiled criticism of anyone. It was not easy at the time to do that but he did it with immense courage. We should acknowledge his role and that of others in doing so at the time.

He was an excellent Cathaoirleach. His successors could take a leaf from his book in that his way of dealing with those who grew too hot under the collar about certain issues was to laugh at them, and he would do so from the Chair. It was very difficult when one felt strongly and emotionally about an issue to hear the Cathaoirleach laugh at one and move on to the next business. One could not engage him in the row and, as everyone knows, one of the great skills of parliamentary debate is to engage the Cathaoirleach in the row. If one cannot do that and he or she laughs at one it is very difficult to be taken seriously. He always defused those difficulties with great charm and style. We should be proud that he was a predecessor of the present Cathaoirleach and a fine Cathaoirleach in his time.

I have one other anecdote which I like because I held Pat Joe in great affection, as did others who knew him. One day he said to me "I hear you are a great one for night-clubs." This was a long time ago.

Photo of Mary O'RourkeMary O'Rourke (Fianna Fail)
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I am glad Senator Ross qualified that.

Photo of Shane RossShane Ross (Independent)
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It was many years ago. He asked what they were like and I told him I would take him to one. We went to a night-club in Baggot Street or Leeson Street and I never saw a man's eyes pop out of his head so obviously as Pat Joe's. He was fascinated. It was a world to which he was not accustomed and we left at a very early stage. Nevertheless, he told the story afterwards and repeated many times in Ballinamore that he had once been to a Dublin night-club and that it was not a place to which he particularly wanted to return.

He was a wonderful man with a great sense of humour and innocence. I join with everyone else in this House in expressing my sympathies to his son Gerry, his wife Tess and his entire family.

Photo of Brendan RyanBrendan Ryan (Labour)
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Like Senator Ross, I had the good fortune to be a Member of this House when Pat Joe Reynolds was Cathaoirleach. I had the misfortune perhaps to be suspended under his auspices on at least one occasion. When one considers what Senator Ross has just said I must have severely provoked the man and while I cannot recall the circumstances of my suspension, I am now certain that he was right and I was wrong. Pat Joe was all that Senator Ross said and there is no point in my repeating his comments. My memory of him is very similar to that of Senator Ross, of joviality, good humour and a capacity to generate affection. We all have our ups and downs in politics but one had affection for Pat Joe Reynolds and would always be delighted to see him on his occasional return visits to Leinster House after he had ceased to be involved in politics. He also had the dignity and seriousness that goes with holding a high office of State and the integrity to stand up for issues in which he believed. He often spoke of his bewilderment as many of the intricate issues connected with the first pro-life amendment were debated here in almost clinical anatomical detail. He talked of his own bewilderment at some of the material being debated in Seanad Éireann. Bewildered he might have been, but he was never out of control. He was a dignified, effective, efficient Cathaoirleach of this House, for whom I always had great affection and great respect, in spite of my occasional clashes with him. I personally regret his passing and on behalf of my colleagues in the Labour Party, I pass on our sympathies to his family and particularly to Gerry, whom I knew very well. A good person is gone from us, a good politician who brought dignity to this House, and we all deeply regret his passing.

John Dardis (Progressive Democrats)
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On behalf of the Progressive Democrats, I wish to be associated with the other groups in the House in extending our sympathy to the wife and family of the late Pat Joe Reynolds. He had a remarkable long life of public service to the State and to the people of Leitrim. His family's continuing service to the State since its foundation is very noteworthy, particularly in the circumstances of his father being assassinated. It is easy to talk about democracy, but when it is tested to that extent, it is a tribute to the Reynolds family and to Pat Joe Reynolds that they persisted in their defence of democracy over that extended period. He had a long and successful life and his record stands in this House as Cathaoirleach and as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Local Government and the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs in the days when we had Parliamentary Secretaries before Ministers of State.

When he was re-elected in 1973, Pat Joe Reynolds played a crucial role in returning Fine Gael to Government. That party clearly owes him a particular debt of gratitude. He was a very loyal Leitrim man, very committed to his community of Ballinamore and to the Gaelic Athletic Association, and he made a considerable mark. We extend our sympathy to his wife Tess and in particular to his son Gerry, who has served in both Houses.

Photo of Paschal MooneyPaschal Mooney (Fianna Fail)
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I am grateful to the Cathaoirleach and to the Leader for allowing me to make a brief acknowledgement of the enormous contribution made to politics in my native county by Pat Joe Reynolds and his family. I could not help but reflect that there were two Pat Joes. Speaking well of the dead is a great Irish trait, but we do not always speak well of people while they are alive. Senator Ross used the word "innocence" when talking about Pat Joe Reynolds, which did not strike me as a word I would have used in the context of my knowledge of him. I assure the House that he certainly was not innocent. He was one of the old ward bosses in the best traditions of the term. He ran the Fine Gael organisation in Leitrim with a ruthlessness that we all envied and admired. As Senator Dardis said, the contribution he made and which his family continues to make to public life in Leitrim and nationally is immense.

In doing research some years ago for the book, Women in Parliament, Ireland: 1918-2000, I discovered some details about Mary Reynolds. The Leader rightly made a glowing reference to Mrs. Reynolds, widow of the late Paddy Reynolds, for her service of 29 years in the Dáil. She holds the record for the longest serving woman in Parliament since the foundation of the State. In our research we found that she did not make a great many speeches, but she was very effective in doing a great deal of work in the Sligo-Leitrim constituency as it was then.

The Reynolds family and mine were very greatly intertwined and I will surprise some people by telling them that the intertwining was not just personal but political. My grandfather, whom I did not know, had been a member of Cumann na nGaedheal and fought numerous elections, both selection conventions as well as general elections, with the Reynolds family, who lived only some 12 miles away. I have grown up with this very strong tradition of the impact of the Reynolds family on politics in Leitrim, which is continued by Gerry, currently a member of Leitrim County Council.

Pat Joe had some wonderful qualities and was the quintessential politician at local and national levels. While I was not a Senator when he served as Cathaoirleach, it is obvious he had mellowed considerably in political terms by the time he arrived here. This view is widely shared by many people in County Leitrim, of all parties and none. The contribution the Reynolds family has made since the foundation of the State and continues to make is immense and admired by everybody.

Senator Ross is correct in that Pat Joe Reynolds was unbending in his political views, one of which was the strong constitutional position he adopted at a time when the troubles in Northern Ireland were spilling across the Border into Leitrim. It is interesting that there is a public monument in Ballinamore to the late John Joe McGirl, a politician who also made an immense contribution in his own way but who did not take the constitutional path, yet there is no monument to Pat Joe Reynolds who stuck rigidly to the constitutional path. The legacy he, his father, mother and grandfather left is one we enjoy today. Sometimes we forget that they lived in difficult times.

I convey my sympathy to Tess, Gerry, Peter, Ita and Regina, all of whom are good friends of mine. The Reynolds family has always been and will remain good friends of the Mooney family, irrespective of politics. That was what was great about Pat Joe Reynolds and his family. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

Rory Kiely (Fianna Fail)
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I wish to join in the tributes to the late Pat Joe Reynolds as we both served together in Seanad Éireann. As has already been said, following distinguished service as a Deputy and Parliamentary Secretary, Pat Joe was elected to the Seanad in 1977, the same year I was first elected. Elected Cathaoirleach in 1983 he was, as has already been mentioned, notably by Senator Ross, a very good Cathaoirleach. His successors will have reason to remember his fairness, in particular, and his impartiality.

Despite political differences over the years, Pat Joe and I became very good friends, perhaps due to our association with the GAA. I deeply appreciated and treasured our friendship. I participated in Interparliamentary Union delegations led by Pat Joe, who was a great ambassador for Ireland. He was also widely respected nationally and in his native Leitrim and this was evident in the large attendance at his funeral in Ballinamore. To his wife, Tess, sons, Gerry and Peter, and daughters, Ita and Jenny, I extend my sincere sympathy on their very sad loss.

Members rose.