Seanad debates

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Death of Former Member: Expressions of Sympathy.


2:30 pm

Rory Kiely (Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context

My first duty today is a sad one. I must announce to the House the death of our esteemed colleague, Senator Kate Walsh. Her sudden and untimely death has shocked and saddened everyone.

Kate Walsh was a lady. She was proud to be a Senator and was especially proud to have been nominated by the Taoiseach on the advice of the then Tánaiste, Deputy Mary Harney, on 26 July 2002. Her contributions to debates were always based on a shrewd political awareness combined with common sense. Although plagued with ill health, Kate was always cheerful and had a ready smile and a pleasant and witty remark for all. Her quick wit and love of people and conversation made her friends on all sides of the political world. She was unfailingly reasonable and courteous at all times to both Members and staff. Indeed, I can say that she was one of the most popular Members of the House. Actually, she was the most popular Member.

I had the pleasure of attending the IPU conference in Geneva with Kate in 2005. Again, her zest for life and agreeable nature made her the life and soul of the delegation. Kate's passing leaves a deep void in the Seanad, the Progressive Democrats Party and, especially, Celbridge, a community and town she loved and served so well. She will be sadly missed by all her friends and colleagues in Leinster House. I extend my sincere sympathies to her brother John, her sisters Noreen and Ann and her extended family on their sad loss.

John Dardis (Progressive Democrats)
Link to this: Individually | In context

I thank the Leader for giving me the opportunity to lead our tribute to Senator Kate Walsh. It is my sad duty to mark her passing — the passing of an esteemed and much-loved colleague — and pay tribute to her life and work. In expressing our sadness and great sense of loss at Kate's untimely passing, I know I speak not only for myself, my Progressive Democrats colleagues and all the Members of Seanad Éireann, but for the entire community of the Houses of the Oireachtas, including all staff. I can say that with confidence because I know that Senator Walsh, or just Kate, as we all affectionately knew her, touched everyone here who came into contact with her and we were all enriched and made happier by the experience. Many more people in her home town of Celbridge and around the country were touched by her in the same way. Kate's whole life was about giving of herself to help others without ever wanting a reward or anything in return, other than friendship. To be a friend of Kate Walsh was a prized and precious gift.

Kate Whelan came from the rural community of Mageney on the Laois-Kildare border, a community she was immensely proud of and where her roots were deep. She went to live in Celbridge, where she married Eugene Walsh and lived on the main street. She saw Celbridge grow from a small village to a city suburb, but the values at the heart of rural life stayed with Kate right through those changes, such as mutual support, concern for neighbours and community action. Kate often spoke about her late husband Eugene and about his death on Christmas day. He was a member of the Garda Síochána and Kate was fiercely proud of the force, being a great advocate and defender of it. The record of this House bears testimony to that.

She was elected to Kildare County Council in 1999, securing more votes than her high profile Dáil colleague, Deputy Stagg, and exceeding the quota by more than almost anyone else in the country. She was elected as an independent member of the council and from my own time on the council, I know that she was a fearless and formidable advocate for her constituents and community. She went on to become a member of the vocational education committee. As we came to know in this House, there was no better person to come straight out and let everyone know her displeasure if she felt officials or colleagues were being obstructive when people's rights were at issue.

Kate then joined the Progressive Democrats and I believe it was the pinnacle of her life when, on the recommendation of the then Tánaiste, Deputy Harney, she was appointed to Seanad Éireann by the Taoiseach. She was never complacent or negative about being a Senator. She regarded it as a great honour and privilege to be a Member of the Oireachtas. She liked nothing better than a joke or a laugh, but she was completely serious about fulfilling her responsibilities here in attending, in speaking and in voting. When she became ill, she frequently worried about letting down her understanding Chief Whip, Senator Moylan. She wanted to be here and even when her health made it difficult to attend, she made the effort.

Her whole life was about looking after and encouraging others, especially those who were vulnerable and disadvantaged. She raised huge amounts of money for Care of the Aged and other community support groups by organising the annual Black and White Ball in Celbridge. Even up to the time of her death she was planning this year's silver jubilee event. She ran a Christmas party for 300 older citizens each year and even managed to produce the Garda band for the children's party and the switching on of Christmas lights on 8 December. She was the mayor of Celbridge for many years by popular vote and whenever there was talk of an election, the general attitude was there was no point as nobody would stand a chance against her.

The events in Kate's life simply underscore the fact that helping the community and individuals was at the core of her existence. She became politically prominent, but even if she had never become a public representative, she would have continued doing her work. She would be greatly embarrassed to have her achievements celebrated today in a public way, but she deserves no less than our recognition and our love.

Kate was a diabetic, a fact she wanted people to know and about which she spoke with real authority and passion in this House. Almost a year ago, she told the House:

Diabetes is a real and current problem in Ireland. People must go for a check-up. Diabetes is detected by a simple blood test, which is quick and relatively painless, but is so important. Until we begin to tire of stating that message, then we have not said it often enough.

With the characteristic good humour that she brought to every aspect of her life, even when talking about illness, she added:

I would have thought I did enough running around here to have fulfilled my exercise quota for the day, but according to Senators Glynn and Browne and possibly Senator O'Meara, I have not done enough. I will not, however, walk to Celbridge.

As the Tánaiste said in his tribute, Kate was a lovely person and a true friend. She was a gentle yet brave woman and her achievements made her an inspirational figure. We join together, in the presence of the Cathaoirleach, in saluting Kate's life and work and in expressing our sympathy to her brother, John, and sisters, Noreen and Ann, her many friends in Celbridge and the people in these Houses and throughout the country who knew and loved her. May she rest in peace.

Photo of Mary O'RourkeMary O'Rourke (Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context

I ask Members to excuse me as I am suffering with a cold. I will have to keep better hours. On behalf of my party, I express the fullest of sympathy on the death of Senator Kate Walsh. I can only describe Kate as a sweetheart of a woman. That is exactly what she was. Everything Senator Dardis said is correct. She had a smile for everyone no matter how down she might have been, and there must have been several days when she felt down. For everybody to whom she spoke, the smile was there. It was the most amazing thing, lighting her up and warming everybody to whom she spoke.

She was a community activist in the correct meaning of that phrase. We often hear that a particular person is a community activist, but this may be a slightly suspect description. Senator Kate Walsh was a community activist in the roundest and fullest sense of that description. Living on the main street of Celbridge, her doorbell rang incessantly and she answered it incessantly. I advised one young couple who moved to Celbridge from Athlone to call to her. They did so one night at 9 p.m. and she brought them into her home and attended to their query, which was subsequently resolved. She did all this herself and was not surrounded by programme managers or secretaries. She was simply Kate Walsh, community activist, who looked after people.

I recall a magical afternoon in her company on Wednesday, 12 November 2003 when she invited me to the St. John of God institution in Celbridge for a general discussion with the membership of that facility. Kate lit up the assembly and I was proud to have had the opportunity to accede to her request in going to Celbridge and being in her company for that length of time.

She was a formidable political person even before she entered this House, recording a huge vote — some one and a half quotas — in the local elections. This was not easily done, especially for a female, but she achieved it because almost everybody who left their homes to vote that day voted for Kate Walsh. They did so because they knew her, had been to see her, dealt with her and loved her. The Progressive Democrats Party was lucky that a person of Kate's calibre joined it. This is not to say that all members of that party are not of the highest calibre, but Kate shone like a candle among everybody else. This was because of her innate goodness. One can be as hospitable, engaging, funny, adaptable and nice as can be. Above all, however, she was fundamentally a very good woman and a good person. This goodness spilled out of her to everyone else with whom she dealt. That is a lovely accolade. We all would like to be remembered as such.

I heard her speak about her late husband during debates on two Garda Síochána Bills. She was so proud of him because he was a member of what she correctly called the highest force in the land. Whether in an informal or formal debate, she always fiercely defended the integrity and behaviour of the Garda Síochána. It was sad for her to be left a widow at a young age but she went on with her life and with what her late husband would have wished her to continue doing.

She left a brother, John, and two sisters, Noreen and Ann. We offer our sympathies to them and to her huge circle of friends, not only in Celbridge but throughout Kildare. However, it is to the wider political family of the Progressive Democrats in particular that we offer our sympathies today. That party has lost a true and valiant member. When she was not blessed with a family, her political family became her family. What Senator Dardis and the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy McDowell, have said in regard to the love, respect and understanding they had for Kate Walsh has spilled out of all that. I thank the Deputy Leader who called me very early in the morning after he got the sad news about her. I reflected on her for a while and thought we will be all the poorer in this House for her passing. The last Member who died in office was Senator Paddy McGowan. Accordingly, we have made arrangements for all those Members who wish to pay tribute to her.

Photo of Brian HayesBrian Hayes (Fine Gael)
Link to this: Individually | In context

On behalf of my Fine Gael colleagues I express our deepest sympathy to the extended family of Senator Kate Walsh and, particularly, to her colleagues in the Progressive Democrats, on this great loss. It is a particularly sad occasion when a sitting Member of the Oireachtas dies and it is particularly poignant as we are on the eve of a dissolution. Kate Walsh is the first Member of this Oireachtas to have died in office. It is a great sadness. While everyone knew for the past year that Kate had been unwell and was fighting her illness with great conviction and courage, when the news came to my office yesterday morning it was a shock because we had seen her in the House before the Easter recess and she was in good form. She was still in the middle of treatment and was an inspiration to people who have to battle that awful disease and illness. While we knew she was unwell for a long period she showed great courage and stoicism in fighting her illness. It is a great shock that this should have happened.

The qualities that mark out Senator Walsh are many and are recognised on all sides of the House. She had a kind word to say of everyone. Anytime one met Kate she inquired, first, for the family and, second, how things were in the constituency. She had that remarkable capacity, unlike most politicians, of being interested in other people and of not being self-obsessed. She made one feel at ease and was always a terrific listener. That is the quality that stands out most, her ability to be kind to people and her interest in what one had to say.

There was no bitterness, no cynicism, no political bent to her. She was an inspiration to Members and staff in the House because she always had a kind word to say. She was so encouraging of individuals, particularly if one had made a mistake or said something that was untoward. She was a natural magnet to people. People loved to be in Kate Walsh's company. As Senator Dardis said people who were at the IPU conference loved to be in Kate's company because she was so good with people and was liked by so many.

She enjoyed her time in the Seanad and was greatly honoured at having been selected by the Taoiseach to be one of the 11 nominated Senators, on advice from the then Tánaiste, Deputy Harney. She felt greatly privileged that at this stage in her political career she had managed to become a Member of the Oireachtas. When she did speak in the House she spoke with great conviction and respect. Like Senator O'Rourke, I remember her contribution to the Garda Síochána Bill because I was involved in the passage of the legislation. I remember specifically her contribution on community policing. It was clear that she had a wide knowledge of community policing and had put much thought into the matter. Her contributions on that issue were utterly sincere, with no cheap lines or smart-alec remarks to get publicity. She did not contribute as much as others, but when she spoke, it was with great conviction and people listened with respect because she had something important to say. She also spoke regularly on matters concerning the elderly and social welfare. She was the Progressive Democrats spokesperson on social welfare.

During the last by-election campaign in north Kildare, in which she was the Progressive Democrats candidate, I recall visiting in my role as Fine Gael's director of elections for that constituency. Kate Walsh invited me to her house where we chatted for about two hours over tea. She then went back into her van and over the following few weeks greatly enjoyed waving regally at people as she went around Celbridge. During the course of that by-election I learned how hugely respected she was by people in that area. Celbridge is a unique community in many respects. In effect, it is a small village that has become a suburb of Dublin in recent years. Senator Kate Walsh's ability to garner votes from all political shades and backgrounds was astonishing. It was a great testimony to her work as an activist who was rooted in that community. As others have said, she was an astonishing vote getter, recording the highest number of first preference votes by any female candidate in the 1999 local elections.

On behalf of my party, I offer our sincere sympathy to Senator Kate Walsh's colleagues in the Progressive Democrats. Her influence as a member of the Progressive Democrats parliamentary party was of tremendous benefit to that party. Smaller political parties need the presence of people such as Kate Walsh as a means of reaching agreement, finding consensus and progressing with various matters. She certainly was such a person.

Her late husband, Eugene, was the greatest love of her life. Others have mentioned his commitment to the Garda Síochána, which Senator Kate Walsh continued in this House and in public pronouncements elsewhere. As they had no children, their love for each other was all the more profound and we can confidently say that they will now be finally reunited. She was looking forward to that day in so many ways.

I extend my sympathy and that of my colleagues to Senator Kate Walsh's colleagues and to her extended family. May she rest in peace.

3:00 pm

Photo of Joe O'TooleJoe O'Toole (Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context

Táimid tagtha le chéile chun slán a ghabháil le cara agus comhghleacaí, an Seanadóir Kate Walsh. Tar éis di na blianta a chaitheamh ag troid i gcoinne an galair, theip uirthi ar deiridh, faraoir. Chaith sí a saol ag obair ar son mhuintir Celbridge, go mór mhór. Dhein sí obair den scoth ar son mhuintir na háite sin.

Watching the flag flying at half mast over Leinster House yesterday, I remembered the first time I met Kate, which was many years before she became a Member of this House. A friend of mine had written a history of Celbridge and Kate organised the book launch. He introduced me to her and she, in turn, always called him "the master". He was the local school principal and she insisted on using the old, politically incorrect term of address. By an amazing coincidence I met him last Saturday. He said he had just been in St. Vincent's Hospital, thought he might get in to see Kate, but unfortunately things had gone too far and it looked like it was finished. He asked me if I would be very sad and I told him that every single week in the House she had kept me up to date on his family and what they were doing.

On her first day in the new Seanad, I remember she said she felt it was a privilege and an honour to be a Member of the Oireachtas. I always believed she carried that honour well. In this House she was always courteous, calm, friendly and gentle and she was always ready to chuckle and tell a joke. She may have had different views from other people on certain issues but she had no political enemies. In recent days I have encountered people from all parties in both Houses who I thought might not have met her but they all knew her and had a kind word to say about her. This is a measure of the person she was.

I visit Celbridge regularly and I know she is a legend in her community. Local voluntary groups could not have survived without her support and, to my knowledge, every local voluntary group that sought her support received it. She was a Trojan worker who organised fundraisers at least three times a year for the elderly or for community action groups. She was very successful in this regard and always managed to fill the hall, sell the tickets and ensure the coffers of the relevant group were filled. It was no surprise that she did so well electorally in the area because everyone there voted for her. Friends of mine who live in the locality and who are diehard members of other parties voted for Kate when she stood as an Independent and when she stood for a party and this reflects the great respect people had for her.

Her great interests, especially the Garda Síochána, have been mentioned and her work for the elderly marked her out in recent times. She was courageously open about the battle she fought against the diseases that affected her. In an objective manner that informed, and without making people feel uncomfortable, she gave us running reports on her health and on how she dealt with her illness.

Today we bid farewell to an honourable Member of Seanad Éireann and in doing so we celebrate a life given to public service. I pass on my condolences to her family, colleagues and party. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam.

Photo of Brendan RyanBrendan Ryan (Labour)
Link to this: Individually | In context

Is cúis mhór bróin dom go pearsanta agus do mo pháirtí go bhfuil sé seo le rá againn go léir. Ba mhaith liom, chomh fada agus is féidir, bheith pearsanta faoi seo.

When thinking of Kate in recent days one word has repeatedly come to mind and that is "warmth" because it radiated from her. I do not say such things lightly. One could feel her warmth both inside and outside this House and it was indicative of the things people have said about her. The warmth she emanated was recognised by her community in Celbridge, with which I am familiar, and by her party colleagues. Her commitment to the well-being of other people was extraordinary by any standards. She would have been embarrassed had anyone mentioned her generosity to her but, listening to her friends and colleagues, it is clear it was widely recognised.

When I first met Kate I asked my party colleagues from Kildare for their views on her. These colleagues will be known to Members of the House and at least one of them is not given to saying soft words about the political party of which she was a member. However, mentioning the name Kate Walsh caused an entirely different view to emerge and there was genuine affection, respect and feeling for her and the manner in which she cared for others. There was an extraordinary consensus on this among all those in County Kildare who had dealings, political or otherwise, with Kate.

Kate Walsh's capacity to be aware of other people was well illustrated by an experience of my colleague, Senator McCarthy, who, in a casual conversation, mentioned to her that he could not get a ticket for a rugby match. Within five days Kate Walsh produced a ticket to enable Michael McCarthy to go to the match in question. Senator McCarthy and I have no idea how this happened but it was typical of the woman and the way in which she dealt with other people.

It was an extraordinary privilege to have known Kate and I do not use those words lightly. She was a woman of exceptional qualities. Braithim uaim í, agus braithimid inár bpáirtí uainn í. Braithimid go bhfuil duine den scoth imithe uainn. Braithimid nach raibh leath dár theastaigh uaithi a dhéanamh déanta aici nuair a tógadh uainn í. Déanaim comhbhrón lena clann go speisialta, ach chomh maith leis sin leis an bPáirtí Daonlathach, mar tá ball den scoth caillte acu.

The Progressive Democrats have lost a formidable member and wonderful friend. In a personal capacity and on behalf of the Labour Party, I express my sorrow and sympathy with Senator Kate Walsh's family and party. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam uasal dilís.

John Minihan (Progressive Democrats)
Link to this: Individually | In context

I join previous speakers in expressing my sympathy on the death of our friend and colleague, Kate Walsh. Senator Dardis outlined Kate's political career and involvement in politics. We have lost a true friend and a person of tremendous warmth who could ride the tensions and traumas in political life with a calmness and sense of simplicity which struck everyone at times of strife.

I came to know Kate after she joined the Progressive Democrats when she brought unique qualities with her. The people of Celbridge have lost a great champion. Politics, it is said, is local and about serving the community. People bring different qualities to political life and for all Kate's achievements, as outlined by previous speakers, she had the essence of the qualities of community spirit and community service.

I extend my sincere sympathy to Kate's brother, John, sisters, Noreen and Ann, and her community, the people of Celbridge who were her family. We, in the Progressive Democrats, have lost a great friend and advocate for community activity. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam.

Sheila Terry (Fine Gael)
Link to this: Individually | In context

I join others in extending my sympathies to Kate's family and colleagues in the Progressive Democrats Party. Kate was a friend to Senators and will be greatly missed by us all. I was so happy to see her in the House just before Easter. I thought she looked wonderful that day and she was very happy to be here.

Kate had very special qualities which, as others have stated, were recognised by everybody. She drew people to her. When she became ill at first she was admitted to hospital where I visited her a couple of times. I asked her how she would cope at home. At that stage she was reasonably well and I asked her whether she would like to go out for lunch some day. She replied that she would have somebody taking her out for lunch every day. She had such wonderful neighbours and friends who looked after her that she would never be on her own. It says much about her that people extended the hand of friendship to her. She had done the same for the people around her for a long time and she had given much to her community.

Kate took great pride in her public life and was proud to be a Senator, as we all know. She loved her work and loved achieving things. It must have been a wonderful day for her when she was nominated to Seanad Éireann and she took great pride in that. She will be greatly missed by the Progressive Democrats and all its members throughout the country, and by the people of Celbridge, but she will really be missed by all of us here. We need only look across the House and we miss her.

She will be also missed in terms of the contribution she made to the Joint Committee on Social and Family Affairs, as she has been missed in recent months when she was too ill to attend. She made a great contribution to that committee because of the depth of her feelings for people who were less well-off than her. This came through whenever Kate spoke — whether on behalf of the elderly, the sick or anybody she wanted to help. She really made an impression on people.

Kate was good fun. One was no sooner beside her than one was laughing because she would just say something funny. She did this at times when I knew she was in pain. Even before her recent illness, she was in great pain at times due to the problems with her legs, but she carried that pain bravely. It was difficult for her to get about at times but she came to the House because she wanted to be part of what was happening and to make her contribution. She bore her pain bravely, which is an example to the many people who must carry pain for years.

May she rest in peace. We will all miss her.

Photo of Pat MoylanPat Moylan (Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context

I join in the words of sympathy to Kate's brother and sisters. As Government Whip dealing with all Members, I know Kate in particular was a person of exceptional talent. Her word was her bond. Her work for the voluntary and community sector was an example for any public representative to follow and she had particular concern for the elderly.

Kate was a very brave person who bore her illness to the end. She had a deep sense of duty to Seanad Éireann and to the Progressive Democrats Party. Any time one spoke to her, she emphasised that sense of duty. If every Government Member of Seanad Éireann showed the same loyalty to my office, it would be an easy job to be Government Whip. She was a lovely person and a true friend. When she was seriously ill in recent times, she often told Sarah and myself in the Whip's office that if we were under serious pressure, we should give her a call. That was the type of person with whom we were dealing — one with total loyalty to this House.

I extend my sympathy to her brother, John, and sisters, Noreen and Ann, to the Progressive Democrats Party, which has suffered a great loss, and to all her friends in Celbridge and that catchment area in Kildare. She was a figure they all looked up to and one who delivered for the area without seeking publicity for doing so.

Mary Henry (Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context

Kate Walsh was a woman who bore serious disease with great courage. I have frequently been grateful to her for the support she has given me as President of the Diabetes Federation of Ireland in promoting awareness of the condition and of the various problems arising from it. Senator Dardis quoted one of her Seanad speeches on the issue. Any time one ever wanted a problem addressed in this area, one only had to mention it and Kate brought forward an idea. She constantly referred to the need for people to be aware of the condition and to take more exercise in order to avoid developing it. She knew this too well herself. She was constantly aware of the need for more screening for the condition and for more treatment centres. When we had debated podiatry in the Seanad, she was one of those who came forward with her support.

Senator Kate Walsh will be a terrible loss to her family. However, I feel her untimely death is a particular loss to the community in Celbridge. She supported the board of Peamount Hospital in the setting up of the Rinskey centre, the day centre for elderly people opened by the former Tánaiste, Deputy Harney. It is the support of people like Kate Walsh, who work within their communities, that means much to those involved with voluntary boards. Board members know that worthwhile progress will be made if they get support from people involved in the community. Senator Kate Walsh will be a great loss to many, including people who have never been in the House, many of whom I have met. I regret her untimely passing.

Tom Morrissey (Progressive Democrats)
Link to this: Individually | In context

It is with great sadness and a heavy heart that I attend the House today as a result of the absence and untimely death of our colleague, Senator Kate Walsh. She was a great friend to all of us. For those who wanted advice, there was no better place to go than to her office. I never got more joy than from gate-crashing the many courts she held in her office where she had high tea after the Order of Business on many afternoons. One could sit there for half an hour or more recalling the political, party and local events of the week. She possibly knew more about what was going on in Castleknock and other places than she did about Celbridge due to the many friends she had throughout the country. The parish priest of Laurel Lodge, my area, knew her some 25 years ago and over the past five years not a Sunday has passed without him asking me "How is Kate Walsh?". They kept in regular contact over those 25 years and I believe he will say her mass on Friday morning.

I offer my condolences to Senator Walsh's many friends, especially those in the Visitors Gallery, particularly, Adrienne Maher, secretary to Deputy Fiona O'Malley. Senator Walsh brought much life to our corridor and will certainly be missed there. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Fine Gael)
Link to this: Individually | In context

This is a sad day for the Seanad and the Oireachtas. Senator Kate Walsh loved the Seanad. Many Senators love being Members but do not want to be here, but she loved being here and adored the House. I was in the Chair when she made her maiden speech. She was very nervous about it and about how she would perform and wanted to know afterwards how she did. Thereafter, she was a great contributor.

Senator Kate Walsh had two great qualities, warmth and humility, and these attributes attracted many to her. One would never pass her by without saying, "Hello", such was her attractiveness. I received many Christmas text messages from her which I will miss. For her holidays this year she based herself in Castlebar and visited the hot spots there and in Westport, Knock and Ballina, which she really enjoyed.

I visited her in St. Vincent's Hospital. She took her illness very lightly and bore it with great strength. Her many friends visited her constantly and I could understand, therefore, her success in politics. I wish to be associated with the expressions of sympathy to her brother, John, and her sisters, Noreen and Ann. While this is a sad day and we will miss her greatly in this House, we will remember her for many a year to come.

Photo of Geraldine FeeneyGeraldine Feeney (Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context

With great sadness and the heaviest of hearts that on my own behalf and that of Senator Wilson I pay tribute to our great colleague and dear friend, Kate. As Senator Dardis said, Kate needed no other title. Everyone who knew her respected and loved her dearly. Senator Wilson, Kate and I were elected to the Seanad in 2002. Neither he nor I had had the pleasure or honour of knowing her before then but for the past five years, she became the dearest of friends and the most trusted of colleagues. Her wisdom was unbounded and those who knew her are only too aware of the great work she did for charity and her community in Celbridge. We all know of the great event she held every November in Celbridge, the black and white ball which she ran single-handedly. Even as late as last November she was discharged from hospital a couple of days before the ball, but the show went on regardless of how sick Kate was. She regarded the ball as more important than her.

A small group of us would meet after the Order of Business for a cup of tea or coffee and a scone. It is sad to say that the seat Kate took up can never be filled. Senator Wilson and I were privileged last week to receive a call asking us to visit Kate in hospital. We were there on different days but agreed this morning that Kate still made a great effort to make us laugh. As Senator Terry said, one had only to stand beside Kate and she would make one laugh. Last week, in all her terrible pain she wanted to make us laugh. Last Friday, she wanted to keep going. She said her illness would not get the better of her and that she would continue. Sadly, however, the Great Man in the sky had other plans for our Kate. I am glad she did not suffer because the past few weeks were bad for her. She has now returned to her home in heaven where she is reunited with Eugene and Beauty.

For those who did not know Beauty, he was her child, her little dog. We had to buy Christmas presents for Beauty and anyone who called to the house was told to be quiet in case they wakened the child. Beauty, however, would go mad anyway because he knew there was somebody there.

I extend our deepest sympathy to Kate's brother, John, her sisters, Noreen and Ann, and to Marie, her dear friend who was with her almost till the end. Marie had to have a small procedure in hospital and it broke her heart that the minute she left, Kate closed her eyes. We think of Marie in a special way today and of Kate's nieces and nephews whom she adored. I look to the Visitors Gallery and see Adrienne, her secretary, and Deputy Fiona O'Malley, with whom I visited her last Tuesday. Fiona has lost a great ally and adviser. Kate's last words to me on Tuesday were: "Look at Fiona, isn't her hair lovely?" She was a great admirer.

May the great lady rest in peace.

Kathleen O'Meara (Labour)
Link to this: Individually | In context

Like Senator Feeney, it is with great sadness I note the passing of our great friend and colleague, Senator Kate Walsh, whom I did not know until I met her in the Seanad, though I had heard of her on account of her extraordinary vote-getting abilities in Kildare, to which other Senators referred. Any of us who have stood for election must have great admiration and respect for somebody of that calibre.

While some Senators may be disappointed to be Members of this rather than the other House, she was utterly happy to be a Member of the Seanad. She extended the hand of friendship to everybody, including myself. I remember with great affection having cups of tea on numerous occasions with Senators Terry, Feeney and Kate Walsh, sharing a laugh and a joke together. For Kate, party differences were as nothing and she simply wanted to be with people. One of her great qualities lay in the fact that things were never about her but about others, and there was no ego in her make-up. She had generosity, was big-hearted and was always giving to other people.

I extend my sincere condolences to her family and to her great friends in the community in Celbridge. We will not forget her and I certainly will not forget her friendship.

Photo of Kieran PhelanKieran Phelan (Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context

I also wish to be associated with the tributes to the late Senator Kate Walsh. As somebody who also hails from Laois, I developed a great relationship with Kate Walsh when I first came into Seanad Éireann. I have known her family in Mageney in south Laois for many years and I offer my deepest sympathy to her brother, John, to Noreen and Ann and her brother-in-law, John Byrne, who is a great personal friend of mine.

I am not able to say much today but I enjoyed every minute of our wonderful friendship over the past five years. Kate Walsh was an absolute lady and I have been privileged to know her and serve in this House with her. I offer my deepest sympathies to the Progressive Democrats and to her family and friends. May she rest in peace.

Photo of David NorrisDavid Norris (Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context

I have never been terribly enthusiastic about the paying of formal tributes as they are sometimes to people none of us in this House knows. This, however, is a very different occasion, as well as a very sad one. It is marked out as different by the fact none of the words uttered today is purely ceremonial or learnt by rote. Every single word is deeply felt and part of a genuine tribute to a remarkable woman.

Kate Walsh was a very decent woman with a mischievous twinkle in her eye which I always enjoyed. I also liked the fact that her roots, like my own, were in the county of Laois. The name of the last speaker, Senator Kieran Phelan, is one of the great names of County Laois, being one of the important septs of that beautiful county. I found Senator Walsh a very pleasant and professional colleague.

I met her frequently over the years in Celbridge, her home territory, always at charitable events. Groups such as St. Gabriel's have lost a stout and valiant champion. They will miss her, especially in the current controversy surrounding the distraining of grants from the mentally handicapped in residential care because she would have been formidable on that issue.

I was very shocked to hear of her death, though it was obvious she suffered from poor health from time to time, which she faced with great courage. I heard of her death yesterday. I was having lunch with another good friend of mine, namely, the last surviving nephew of James Joyce and his wife, who live in Celbridge. They were greatly shocked to hear of the news and they both said she would be a great loss. She was an extraordinarily generous woman. While others have chosen different words to describe the late Kate Walsh, I would use and endorse the word, "generous". She was generous with her money and in particular with her commitment and the time she gave to voluntary causes. I also wish to extend my deepest sympathy to her family, friends and party.

Michael Brennan (Progressive Democrats)
Link to this: Individually | In context

I also wish to share in the tributes arising from the sad loss of our great colleague and friend to all, Senator Kate Walsh. Kate was a lady in every sense of the word. She was a gentle person who respected every Member of the Oireachtas and who always listened to the views of Members whenever debates took place in this House. All Members are aware she had two favourite Ministers when they visited the House, namely, Deputies Harney and McDowell. If anyone said a cross word, her estimation of the person who made the remarks often fell. However, that was in good spirits.

She always contributed to debates in the House and often spoke of the great honour of being a Member of Oireachtas Éireann and of being nominated by the Taoiseach. Over a cup of tea, she often told Senators Feeney, Kieran Phelan, Wilson and me that every day she spent in Seanad Éireann was like being in heaven. We always replied that we agreed with her and I am sure that now she is in heaven, she will look down at us and look after us in our hour of need.

Kate dedicated her life to her work for the community, and anyone who canvassed in County Kildare during the by-elections realised the high esteem in which she was held by her community. In her work for the less well-off in society, she gave of her time, energy and commitment to all those in need. Much has been said of her fund-raising activities, which were also appreciated by all.

I also pay tribute to everyone who visited Kate in hospital in her hour of need in recent months, as well as to Adrienne and to all who looked after Kate above and beyond the call of duty. Her greatest hour was her return to the Houses of the Oireachtas after her operation and the reception she received outside the door and in this House. I also offer John, Noreen, Ann, her brother-in-law, John Byrne, and family my deepest sympathies.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
Link to this: Individually | In context

I join in the tributes to our colleague Senator Kate Walsh. She was a friend to all in the Seanad and was proud to be a Member. Kate always had a commonsense and down-to-earth approach to all matters raised in this House. There were no airs and graces about her and what one saw was what one got, which was a warmth and kindness that everyone appreciated. All Members are glad to have known Kate Walsh. I was happy to speak to her by telephone in hospital many times over many months. She was always grateful and appreciative to speak to anyone, especially her colleagues from this House, irrespective of party. It has been noted she was always more concerned about others than about herself. She will be missed by all Members and I also convey my sympathy to her family and friends as well as to her party, the Progressive Democrats. Ní bheidh a leithéid ann arís.

Photo of Ann OrmondeAnn Ormonde (Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context

I also wish to be associated with the many tributes this afternoon and express my sadness at the sudden and untimely death of Senator Kate Walsh. As all Members knew, Kate was a beautiful person. She was lovely, sincere, loyal and had great warmth. She was a listener and anyone with a problem could go to Kate and come away feeling well. This is how I remember Kate. I could never pass her in the corridor without stopping to exchange a few words. All Members rush around and do not have the time to say anything to anyone, particularly during the past 12 months. However, Kate was a person who made one want to be in her company.

She always gave to others and never thought of herself. One could feel that she simply loved being in this House and being with people. I am not surprised she received such a colossal vote in her election in Celbridge. I remember calling to her home after her election as a county councillor and that was the first sign for me. After she opened the door, I stated who I was and she made me feel welcome and at ease. An old line in the book states that how a person receives one when one calls to his or her house is a real test. In essence, this is how I knew Kate. I always left her company feeling good and that is what I will always cherish about Kate. I extend my sympathy to her brother John, to Noreen and Ann, as well as to the Progressive Democrats, on the awful sadness and loss caused by Kate no longer being with us.

Photo of Feargal QuinnFeargal Quinn (Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context

During the past hour, I have been thinking of how proud Kate would have been to have listened today. I realised that is incorrect because the word "pride" and Kate Walsh simply did not belong together, except for one aspect that has been mentioned in the House today. She was very proud of being a Member of this House and of being able to contribute to its work. While she was an inspiration to many, she showed great commitment when she spoke. While it may not have been often, she was very committed when she spoke. If anything, she might have been somewhat embarrassed by today's proceedings because I can remember her rising to speak and apologising for it being the third time she had spoken on the topic in question, namely, road safety.

She stated that Ireland has had too many needless funerals. She was highly committed to that particular topic and today's proceedings serve as a reminder of the other topics and subjects that attracted her attention. When she spoke on road safety in particular and on the work carried out by the Garda, she spoke of personal responsibility. I never heard her criticise bodies, organisations or structures. She was always positive and any criticism was constructive in that it referred to personal responsibility. She also spoke of those who drove trucks without keeping their windscreens or lights clean, of cyclists who did not have lights on their bicycles and of pedestrians. She did not blame organisations but made constructive suggestions because she was greatly concerned that Members of this House had a responsibility and could do something about it.

It has been both interesting and sad to hear the contributions today. However, it has also been an inspiration because it has acted as a reminder to those Members who may not have been aware of the work she did outside of the House. While Members knew something of her work for the aged and in the community, her other work has been revealed today. The allocation of time today, short as it is, serves as a reminder of how much Members owe to her. Their sympathies go to all her colleagues and friends, her sisters, Ann and Noreen, her brother, John, and to all those who have benefitted from her commitment, trust and inspiration over the years. She will be missed in this House.

Photo of Camillus GlynnCamillus Glynn (Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context

I rise with great sadness to pay tribute to the late, great Kate Walsh. I met Kate many years ago, long before she became a Member of this House, when she was elected as an Independent candidate to Kildare County Council. Something that struck me initially about Kate Walsh was her great friendship and her capacity to make one feel at ease in her company. She was generous to a fault. She was generous with her time and that was borne out by her many interests, especially in the elderly. She was a great champion of the elderly and that was borne out in many practical ways. Despite her genial personality she cut to the chase. If Kate Walsh had something to say, she did not mince her words. One knew exactly what she meant. This world is comprised of givers and takers. Kate Walsh fell into the category of the giver. She gave of herself and she was generous to a fault. When Kate told me that she had been asked to stand for the Progressive Democrats I said it was a great honour to be asked by a national party to be their candidate. She responded by saying she would give it a bash and whether she won, lost or draw, tomorrow life would go on. That was Kate Walsh — philosophical in every way.

The Progressive Democrats have lost a great champion and a great member but the poorer of Kate Walsh's passing will be the people of Celbridge and the wider community because she served them faithfully and loyally. If one called to her house, as I did as a Seanad candidate, one was made very welcome. Those of us who knew Kate for the length of time we did have been privileged. There is no better way to sum up Kate Walsh than by saying she was a lady. It was typical of the dignity of the woman that when I called for a debate on diabetes in the House she told me to keep up my campaign because the condition was a silent killer that had serious adverse effects on the health services. She was so supportive in that regard.

I will not repeat what has been said about Kate other than to say I am privileged to have known her and to have had her friendship. She had a great friendship with a first cousin of mine who is married to a member of the Garda Síochána and who served with her late husband. We often spoke about those matters as my forebears on my grandfather's side came from Kildare; a number of my relatives still live in the area.

Kate Walsh's passing creates a void that will be very difficult to fill. The community of Celbridge has lost a great champion. The elderly and the underprivileged have lost a great champion and this House has lost a great Member. To John, Noreen and Ann, her immediate family and her extended family, I extend my deepest sympathy. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam dílis.

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
Link to this: Individually | In context

I, too, would like to join in the generous and warm tributes to Kate. As has been described by other speakers, Kate was alwayspleasant and friendly. She always made time for everyone. She was something of a father confessor figure to her entire community in Celbridge and to others who called to her there. I got to know one of the great friends and neighbours, Damien, who assisted her in running the Black and White Ball and other charitable events. She bore her illness with great courage and, despite all the adversity, was very kind to everyone else. Several speakers said she always tried to pick out something good in the other person. Despite her own difficulties she managed to cheer up everyone else who was in her company. We will all miss her very much. I extend my deepest sympathy to her brother John, her sisters Noreen and Ann, her friends and her party. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam dílis.

Don Lydon (Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context

Now and again someone comes along who is a bit special and who, in the words of Senator Dardis, enriches the lives of those with whom they come in contact. Kate Walsh was one of those people because one could not meet her or interact with her without coming away feeling a little better. She had a great sense of humour. She loved a good yarn and many a good yarn I traded with her. I can imagine what she would be saying if she were sitting at the back of the House today listening to us. A word used by many speakers to describe Kate is one not heard too often these days — lady. People said she was a lady and we all know what we mean when we hear it. She was a lady and the lady has left us. May she rest in peace.

Photo of Frank FeighanFrank Feighan (Fine Gael)
Link to this: Individually | In context

I want to be associated with the tributes to the late Kate Walsh. I knew of Kate Walsh through friends of mine who lived in Celbridge. I heard about this amazing hard worker who garnered a huge support not just in votes but from her community because of the amount of work she put into it. The political system was honoured to have such a lady who put herself up for high office because she was honest, had integrity and a great deal of wisdom. We want people like that getting involved in the political system. Kate never appeared to be in a hurry. She was always friendly and welcoming and I am sure she did much more than most of us by the way she operated. She will be greatly missed. She was a very humble lady and this House will certainly miss her. The Cathaoirleach said she was the most popular Member of this House and I endorse that. I extend my deepest sympathy to her family, the people of Celbridge and the people of Kildare because they have lost a great champion.

Members rose.

Rory Kiely (Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context

When is it proposed to sit again?

Photo of Mary O'RourkeMary O'Rourke (Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context

At 10.30 a.m. tomorrow.

Rory Kiely (Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context

The House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10.30 a.m. as a mark of respect to the late Senator Kate Walsh.