Seanad debates

Friday, 1 July 2005

Tributes to Head Usher of the Houses of the Oireachtas.

 

11:00 am

Rory Kiely (Fianna Fail)
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Before I call the Leader to reply on the Order of Business, I remind Senators that the Head Usher of the Houses of the Oireachtas, Mr. Ray Hesse, who is in the Distinguished Visitors Gallery, will retire during the summer. I invite the Leader of the House and the leaders of the other groups to pay tribute to Mr. Hesse.

Photo of Mary O'RourkeMary O'Rourke (Fianna Fail)
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I will be happy to do so. All Senators appreciate the work of the Head Usher of the Houses of the Oireachtas, Mr. Ray Hesse, who is present in the Chamber for the last time today. He plans to retire on 30 August next after 32 years of service in the Houses of the Oireachtas. During that time, Ray Hesse and his gorgeous gold braid have been essential features of the Houses. Senators strongly appreciate his courteous demeanour and the civility he shows to everyone. He was the first member of staff to attain Head Usher status from the service officer ranks. He was a service officer under the tutelage of Paddy Halligan for two years, before he became an usher in 1975. He worked in the textile industry before he joined the staff of the Oireachtas.

Ray Hesse's expertise in the Houses centred on Chamber attendance and a font of knowledge about the history of the Houses. I understand he is a great family man. He and his wife, Maura, have a daughter, Karen, and a son, Paul, both of whom have very successful careers. I am indebted to the Superintendent and his staff for the information they have supplied. Ray Hesse is a figure of great courtesy and dignity. That somebody of the calibre of Ray Hesse is minding the Chamber and minding us as we go about our business has been of great benefit to every one of us. We wish him great happiness.

Senators:

Hear, hear.

Photo of Brian HayesBrian Hayes (Fine Gael)
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On behalf of the Fine Gael group, I echo the Leader's comments in wishing Mr. Ray Hesse a long and happy retirement from this August. He was right to choose to retire in a month when the Houses will not be overburdened. He has given great and sterling service to the Houses over a long period of time, as the Leader has said. We are grateful for Ray Hesse's work and contribution, not only to the Houses but also to the notion of parliamentary democracy in this country. Members too often forget the contribution made by the officers of the Houses. I refer to the permanent Civil Service, who run the Houses in all our names.

I thank Ray Hesse, on behalf of the thousands of citizens he has met over the years, for organising for tour groups to visit the Houses and for giving them information on such occasions. We often forget that the ushers are an essential cog in the wheel when schoolchildren and other groups come to Leinster House. They give the public the information they need about the workings of the Houses. I wish Ray Hesse a long and happy retirement. I hope he enjoys a break with his family after many years of distinguished public service.

Photo of Joe O'TooleJoe O'Toole (Independent)
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I would like to associate the Senators on the Independent benches with the words which have been said by my colleagues about the retirement of Mr. Ray Hesse. I wish to express our gratitude to Ray for many years of diligent and polite service in these Houses. We have been impressed on many occasions by the even-handed manner in which he deals with people, regardless of whether they are mere schoolchildren or foreign dignitaries. He carries himself with the authority that is required of him in his position. He has represented us very well on many occasions. When I had the pleasure of meeting Ray Hesse and his daughter in other circumstances recently, I was impressed by him and his family. I know that he enjoys the success his family has achieved, as he is always happy to discuss such matters and to bring us up to date with developments.

We have always found Ray Hesse to be approachable and supportive. He has always been diplomatic when he has had to deal with difficulties over the years. Many of us have lost our cool, got a bit above ourselves or pushed things to the limit in that time. In such circumstances, Ray Hesse has always behaved in the manner that has been required of him in the discharge of his responsibilities as an usher of the Houses. None of us was surprised when he continued to act in a similar manner when he adopted additional duties in recent times. We wish him well in his retirement. We thank him again for the support he has given us, our visitors and other people who have come to this House over many years.

Derek McDowell (Labour)
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On behalf of the Labour Party Senators, I would like to be associated with the remarks made by the Leader about the retirement of Mr. Ray Hesse. We seem to be going through a curious period at present. We are losing many of those who have been linchpins of the Houses over recent decades.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
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Hear, hear.

Derek McDowell (Labour)
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It is quite remarkable.

Photo of Mary O'RourkeMary O'Rourke (Fianna Fail)
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Yes.

Derek McDowell (Labour)
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Ray Hesse, who has worked in the Houses of the Oireachtas for over 30 years, is one of those linchpins. He has always been extraordinarily polite and civil in the guidance he has given all the Members of the Houses and the manner in which he has dealt with the various issues which have arisen over the years. I was looking forward to seeing his firm guidance coming into play yesterday, to deal with SenatorBannon. Perhaps it was not any harm that we were deprived of that last hurrah. In some ways, it is unfortunate that one does not learn much about servants of the Houses until one receives notes setting out their backgrounds when they are retiring.

Photo of Mary O'RourkeMary O'Rourke (Fianna Fail)
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That is true.

Derek McDowell (Labour)
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It is interesting to learn about people's diverse backgrounds. It is obvious that retirement is just another stage. On behalf of the Labour Party group, I wish Ray Hesse all the best in what I hope will be a long and happy retirement.

John Dardis (Progressive Democrats)
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On behalf of the Progressive Democrats group, I am delighted to be associated with the tributes to Mr. Ray Hesse. I wish him well in his retirement, which I hope he will enjoy. It is extraordinary that some of the staff of the Houses, like Ray, have served us for 32 years. Such an enormous record of public service is not generally recognised as it should be. Ray Hesse has always been a discreet, quiet and, as Senator O'Toole said, authoritative presence. He will probably bring some secrets with him when he leaves the Oireachtas. I am reminded, perhaps inappropriately, of the Johnny Cash song:

I've seen 'em come and go and I've seen them die

And long ago I stopped askin' why

Ray Hesse might be able to reflect on those lyrics. We are very well served by all the people who look after us in the Oireachtas. Ray has been a model to such people. I am sure other people will endeavour to follow in his footsteps, but it will be very hard to fill his boots. We wish him well in his retirement.

Rory Kiely (Fianna Fail)
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I would also like to be associated with the tributes which have been paid to Mr. Ray Hesse, who will retire from his position as Head Usher of the Houses of the Oireachtas later this year. On behalf of all the Members of Seanad √Čireann, I wish Ray many years of good luck and good health. As everyone knows, Ray has always been very courteous, helpful and calm, a combination that has made him one of the most popular members of staff. He has given great service to the Houses of the Oireachtas and will be sorely missed by his many friends here. Ray has always been a great family man. Now that his late nights in Leinster House are coming to an end, Ray and his wife Maura will have a great opportunity to pursue their hobby of ballroom dancing.

Photo of Mary O'RourkeMary O'Rourke (Fianna Fail)
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Good.

Rory Kiely (Fianna Fail)
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Again, we wish Ray, Maura and their children many happy years of retirement. Thank you, Ray.

Senators:

Hear, hear.