Tuesday, 18 November 2008
Death of Member: Expressions of Sympathy
Today we pay tribute to the late Séamus Brennan, an exceptional figure in Irish public life. For more than four decades he was at the cutting edge of Irish politics and his achievements, as we all know, were many. He was driven by a deep desire to serve our country and was instrumental in shaping the modern, outward-looking Ireland of today.
In the months since Séamus Brennan left us, very many well deserved tributes have been paid to him and I, too, add my voice to those tributes on behalf of all Members of this House and of the Fianna Fáil Party on the passing of one of our top legislators.
I welcome Séamus's wife, Ann, and her family to the Chamber. I am pleased they can be with us today to hear of the high regard in which Séamus was held by Members of this House. I also welcome Frank, who we all know was the hard-working, dedicated private secretary to the late Séamus.
Séamus had very many friends and admirers on all sides of the political spectrum. His sad passing at the age of 60 has been deeply felt by many. He will be long remembered as a brilliant political strategist, a dedicated constituency Deputy, an effective Minister and a great family man.
Séamus Brennan's interests in politics were cultivated at a tender age by his late father, who had been a prominent Fianna Fáil man and director of elections in County Galway. It was no surprise when Séamus became active in Fianna Fáil during his student days in UCG. Coming to national prominence when he was appointed as General Secretary of the party in the mid-1970s, he was the youngest person to hold that office. It was the late Jack Lynch who made the inspired decision to appoint Séamus Brennan as Secretary General of Fianna Fáil. As a former secretary of a cumann and a comhairle cheantar, he was the person who was in contact with one on a bi-monthly basis. He was one's inspiration. He was the person one took the lead from and it was people like Séamus Brennan who inspired me to become more active in public life.
Séamus was appointed to Seanad Éireann in 1977 by the then Taoiseach, the late Jack Lynch. That appointment sowed the seeds of a long and distinguished career in the politics of our country. In 1981, Séamus successfully contested his first general election and was elected in nine successive elections by the people of Dublin South, topping the poll on many occasions. His great commitment to his constituents and to the service of the people of Ireland made him a formidable vote-getter.
Séamus served with distinction in a wide range of portfolios at senior and junior ministerial level and threw himself into whatever post he held with great enthusiasm. He first served as Minister of State with responsibility for trade in 1987 before being appointed Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications by the then Taoiseach, Charles J. Haughey, in 1989. In a long and distinguished ministerial career, he also held ministerial portfolios in education, communications, transport and social and family affairs. The penalty points system, which he introduced as the Minister in charge, has saved many lives and many thousands of people from serious injuries.
As a Minister, Séamus worked tirelessly on behalf of the people of Ireland and succeeded in bringing forward possible solutions to the many challenges this country faced. When Séamus moved from an economic Ministry to social welfare, many wondered how he would cope. He was passionate about the economy and had a significant interest in economic matters, particularly those relating to transport. He took on the cause of the less well-off in our society with a passion and a commitment that was truly remarkable. It is difficult to believe he had not spent his lifetime in that Department.
Séamus gave everything to every job he ever had. His achievements were numerous and were of a lasting effect. He established the Forum on Small Business and negotiated significant welfare increases for the most vulnerable in our society. He published a Green Paper on Education, which placed special emphasis on giving priority to disadvantaged students, and brought forward many new initiatives in air passenger services.
He also served with great distinction as Government Chief Whip from 1997 to 2002 and played a significant role in ensuring that that Administration completed its full term. In that role in particular, his natural talent for conciliation, accommodation and managing pressures served him and the Government of the day very well.
Séamus had a strategic mind and a good grasp of public policy. Ultimately, he believed in doing the right thing by the country and in using his objective political skills to bring the people with us. I acknowledge the key role he played in the negotiations that led to the formation of the current Fianna Fáil-Green Party-Progressive Democrats Government, with the support of Independent Deputies.
Séamus was a man of great courtesy and dignity who never uttered a nasty word or comment about anyone because he did not believe it had any role in the political process. I believe that is the reason he got on so well with everybody and was so successful in persuading people. Despite his illness and declining health, Séamus continued to work for his constituents.
On behalf of all Members of the House and of the Fianna Fáil Party, I offer my heartfelt condolences to Séamus's wife, Ann, who comes from my county, Athlone, and particularly to those on the Ballymahon Road. I first met Ann and Séamus in 1971 when the first Ard Fheis was moved to the RDS. That was a memorable Ard Fheis. Séamus was canvassing for the committee of 15 for the National Executive at that time. It is a long time ago but what a commitment Ann and her family, and her husband Séamus, have made to this country. I express condolences on behalf of the people of Ireland, Seanad Éireann and the Fianna Fáil Party. To Ann and all her family, go mbeannaí Dia trócaire ar a anam.
I am honoured to speak today on behalf of the Fine Gael group in Seanad Éireann to pay tribute to the late Séamus Brennan, Minister, Chief Whip, Deputy and Senator. He served for over 40 years in public service and, as the Leader of the House said, often he was at the cutting edge of Irish politics.
I extend my sincere sympathy and condolences to Séamus's wife, Ann, his children, who are here with us, and his extended family and friends. I hope they can take some small consolation from the words spoken here today about a much admired politician and man. Séamus served in many Ministries under three Taoisigh, including Chief Whip, Education, Communications, Transport, Trade, Social and Family Affairs, and, most recently, Arts, Sport and Tourism. What a wonderful record he has had of public service in so many Ministries and as a constituency Deputy. In all his Ministries he went about his business in a diligent, determined and effective manner. When he passed away I said how difficult it was to appear on a radio or television programme with Séamus because one could not argue with him. He explained his position and policy in such a gentle, calm and reasonable manner, always with a smile and always so courteous.
To succeed in politics requires a certain temperament. Séamus met and exceeded this requirement. We all saw the effectiveness of his people skills when he kept together a Government supported by a variety of independent Deputies from 1997 until 2002. This takes a certain character and understanding and Séamus had such traits in abundance. Towards the end of his life he showed a steeliness and determination as he battled his illness with such courage, doing his utmost to continue his public duties right up to the end. It is most sad that this courteous man, a true gent of Irish politics, passed away at such a young age.
On behalf of Fine Gael I again extend my sympathies and condolences to Ann, her children, Fianna Fáil and all Séamus's Dublin South constituents, friends and colleagues. Ireland has lost a decent, honourable man who served this country well. He is missed and will continue to be missed. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.
It is my privilege on behalf of the Independent benches chun cúpla focal molta agus cuimhneacháin a rá mar gheall ar fhear a thug a shaol ar son réimse polaitíochta na tíre seo. Is mór an phribhléid dom ómós a thabhairt d'fhear a bhí i gconaí ag obair chun aidhmeanna polaitíochta na tíre a chur chun cinn. Is mór an trua é gur tógadh uainn Séamus agus é chomh hóg.
I first met Séamus Brennan way back before I had any involvement in politics. It was 1968 at a party in Galway with some of my family. I met this young man who was involved in Fianna Fáil. Some 15 years or more after that when the discussion on the Progressive Democrats was taking place I met one of the people who was at that party and said I wondered whether Seamie Brennan would jump to the Progressive Democrats. The answer came back quickly that no way would it happen because Fianna Fáil was in his blood and he would never walk away from it. Those were very sincere words.
Ba fear é, gan amhras, ó iarthar na tíre, and he brought that west of Ireland attitude — can do, survive, move it on — with him nuair a tháinig sé isteach i saol polaitíochta na tíre seo. He had those great qualities that trade unionists appreciate more than anything else. If Fianna Fáil ever writes the ballad of Séamus Brennan it will be to say that he "went on to organise". He understood the importance of organising more than any trade unionist I ever met. He was committed to restructuring, remarketing, recreating and bringing forward a new approach, and this was the measure of the man at all times.
He had extraordinary skills of negotiation and mediation which are the essence of development and creativity. He showed that time and again in dealing with the Progressive Democrats, the Labour Party and the Green Party on behalf of Fianna Fáil. He put matters in context, always opened things up and has left an extraordinary legacy. He will be remembered as a person who understood the importance of structures, marketing, being a tactician and strategist in political life and, above all, continually changing, refining and advancing the techniques that were important to remain at the top of the tree. That is how he will be remembered. If anyone takes the trouble to make a biopic, that will come through.
I always found him to be courteous and approachable. Politics was in his blood as he went through the political steps of party general secretary, Member of Seanad Éireann, Deputy in the Lower House and Minister. That was his commitment and he was always going to achieve it. Over the years I found him a man with whom one could engage. Many times we on these benches opposed him. At other times we supported things he did. I remember having vicious arguments with him on the establishment of Ryanair when he gave away the Stansted slots and the Geneva and Liverpool routes, which were among the first Aer Lingus routes, to Ryanair to get it started. They were strategic and important issues. He and I differed fundamentally about the Green Paper on education which he produced as Minister for Education in 1992. However, that was the essence of his political life. Politics is about creative difference, argument and engagement. That was always to be done and one could always engage with him. His loyalty to his party was unwavering; it was 100% at all times.
I began by alluding to Joe Hill and we might finish with the words: "Where [Fianna Fáil] defend[s its] rights, it's there you find [Séamus Brennan]." He will never be far from that discussion, wherever it should take place. We stand here to tell his family we appreciate, value and remember his great contribution and we say it with thanks from Irish public life for his commitment to the democratic process and giving that great, full life of involvement in democracy, which is to the benefit of every citizen, even those who disagree. This is an important part of it. Ar dheis Dé go raibh sé. Caithfidh mé críochnú le comhbhrón a dhéanamh lena phairtí, lena chlann agus, go speisialta, lena bhean chéile, Ann. We remember him and in offering our condolence to the family, will celebrate a life well delivered and well lived.
On behalf of the Labour Party I extend my sympathies to Ann, their children and Seamus's colleagues in Fianna Fáil. Seamus's death was very untimely at the young age of 60 years. Séamus was young when former Taoiseach Jack Lynch appointed him general secretary. He led the modernisation of the party in the 1970s. He would have enjoyed the recent presidential election in the United States because so many new tactics were used. When he was over there studying the 1976 election he learned much, which he brought back and used very successfully in the election campaign of 1977 when Fianna Fáil was returned to power with an increase of 20 seats. He was well known as a master tactician and had a lifelong interest in the study of politics. He first ran for election in 1981 and since then he fought and won nine consecutive general elections. His election machine was formidable and my colleagues who have run against him tell me one had to be up very early in the morning to catch Séamus out. He recently got a result as high as 13,000 votes. It is a testament to his ability as a politician, his dedication to his job, the support and commitment of his family and his commitment to his constituency of Dublin South.
My colleagues found him very willing to engage in discussions and liaise with us on various levels and to discuss differences of opinion, especially when he was Chief Whip. He never had a bad word to say about his colleagues in the Dáil or the Seanad and he will be remembered for that. He took on his Government duties with dignity, panache and enthusiasm. He will also be remembered for that. He will be sadly missed by Members of both Houses of the Oireachtas, as he will be in his constituency. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.
It has passed into legend that at the negotiations on the programme for Government last year, Séamus Brennan turned to those of us who were sitting on the other side of the table and said: "You are playing senior hurling now lads." It might seem like a very condescending comment in cold print, but it was meant as a statement of encouragement. The role he played in those negotiations was that of an enabler and facilitator. I presume he played a similar role in other negotiations for other Governments. He smoothed over any difficulties that arose. During the negotiations I had with him, he never played the part of the bad cop. I do not think it would have fitted his personality, in any sense, to raise hackles or cause dissension among those he was dealing with. It was in the nature of the man to bring about solutions, wherever possible.
That Séamus Brennan succeeded greatly in his career as a public representative and as a member of the Government is probably the best dedication we can give him. He was probably single-handedly responsible for the introduction of modern campaigning techniques to Irish politics. He represented the bridge between traditional Irish politics and modern politics, which is based on design ethics. He emphasised the look of leaflets and posters and the use of colour, for example. Campaign songs were introduced for the first time, in a real sense, when he was Fianna Fáil general secretary during the 1977 general election campaign.
Reference has been made to the difficulties people always had when debating with Séamus Brennan. As Senator Fitzgerald said, his personality as a winning person meant that the way he constructed an argument made it hard to argue against him. He was a more engaging Minister than most of his colleagues in any Government of which he was a member. He was willing to engage with both Houses of the Oireachtas. He took reasoned arguments on board. He accepted amendments to legislation more readily than other Ministers. That contributed to the warmth many Members of the Oireachtas felt for him and the reputation he subsequently gathered.
Séamus Brennan has many legacies. I have already mentioned his contribution to political campaigning. If he has a legacy that is even more long lasting, I think it will be the nature of his political personality. In a political culture in which there is far too much name-calling and cheap points scoring, he achieved without causing offence. We should remember him most for the manner in which he conducted his politics. On behalf of the Green Party, Comhaontas Glas, I offer my sympathies to his wife Ann, his family, his colleagues in Fianna Fáil and the people he served in such a dedicated manner over the course of his long and successful political career. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.
I am pleased to have an opportunity to offer my deepest sympathy, and that of my party, to Séamus Brennan's wife, Ann, his family and his colleagues in Fianna Fáil. I did not have the privilege, as I am sure it would have been, of knowing my fellow Galwegian, Séamus Brennan, personally. My perception of him was always driven principally by my knowledge of his achievements as a politician and his appearances in the public domain. I have to say that he had a unique approach. Over the years, I built up a perception of Séamus as a warm, considerate and thoughtful human being who worked long and hard for his community, which repeatedly chose him as its leader, and for his country which he obviously loved so much. He brought his intelligence, courage, innovation and commitment to every Ministry in which he served over his long career. His superb organisational skills were more than apparent at local and national level.
I am informed by my colleague, Deputy Harney, that her experience of Séamus Brennan at a personal level was that he was an extremely decent and warm gentleman. She told me that Séamus had the capacity to bring people together and to encourage them to stay working with a common sense of purpose. I do not doubt, as Deputy Harney has told me, that at especially difficult times, Séamus Brennan was the glue that held the coalition structures together. He was able to refocus everyone's attention on the real job at hand — the successful governing of our country.
Another aspect of Séamus Brennan's approach that always impressed me was his appetite for reform and change. He was not satisfied to stick with the status quo. He was always seeking to change things for the better, sometimes with a bravery that is seldom seen in politics today. Senator O'Toole referred to Séamus Brennan's term as Minister for Transport when he showed an appetite for reform and change that led to the opening of Irish skies to real and open competition in the aviation sector. Séamus Brennan's most enduring legacy will be the lasting impression he made at a personal level on all those who met him. He disproved once and for all the theory that nice guys always finish last.
My own father passed away in July 1996 at 60 years of age, the same age Séamus Brennan was when he died this year. I am sure everyone will agree that it is far too young an age for any father to bid farewell to his family. The many fond memories we had of my father helped us to get through the difficult time we endured in the immediate aftermath of his death. Equally, I am sure the Brennan family has many fond memories of Séamus as a father, a husband and a friend. I know those memories will provide solace to them over the difficult weeks and months ahead. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam uasal.
I rise today to pay tribute to my constituency colleague, Séamus Brennan, and once again express my deepest sympathy to Ann and her family, and Séamus Brennan's extended family and friends. The death of Séamus has saddened us all. He was a hugely significant figure in Irish politics. He was a true professional and was greatly respected and loved by his constituents. It was only recently, at one of our monthly meetings, that it hit me forcefully that he is no longer among us. Having run with Séamus at many elections in Dublin South, I got to know him very well. As our political careers developed, we became close friends. I was always available to help him out at election time. Likewise, he supported me. Séamus was viewed with great affection in Dublin South and people loved him. The esteem in which he was held was reflected in the size of the vote he managed to attract at successive general elections. He had the ability to reach out to people, using such attributes as his personal touch, dignity, calmness and friendship. He was always calm and dignified at public meetings, no matter how rough the meeting might be. He often disarmed political opponents in the process. He had the common touch. He saw politics as the art of solving problems.
Séamus Brennan was often described as a master politician, which is what he was. He was a good listener. His gentle manner meant that it was impossible to have a fight with him. He believed that everyone had a point of view. No opposing view was ever shot down with personal political attacks. Séamus was a consummate politician. It was a pleasure to canvass on his behalf during election campaigns. He had the most professional political organisation in the country. His election machine was legendary. When an election came around, one would be given an area on which to focus one's canvassing. One would remain in that area until each house had been canvassed before reporting back to base. Séamus had a highly effective frontline team, comprising Mary Browne, Frank Lahiffe and Bobby Holland, throughout his political career. He benefitted not only from the exceptional loyalty his frontline team showed in working with him on a professional basis, but also from the assistance of others who helped his election campaigns so successfully. His family can be proud of his achievements in government, as can the Fianna Fáil Party and his constituents.
As an astute, capable and experienced Minister, his ability was beyond question in the many roles in which he served with distinction. He gave it his best no matter what Ministry he held. He served as Minister in the Departments of Arts, Sport and Tourism, Social and Family Affairs, Transport and Tourism, Transport, Tourism and Communications and Education, as Government Chief Whip and Minister of State with responsibility for trade and marketing. As Minister for Transport, he completed the work on the roll-out of the Luas and bringing the Luas to Dundrum was a proud moment for Séamus. That his final resting place is in St. Naghi's cemetery, Dundrum, in the shadow of the Luas bridge must have been one of Séamus's final wishes.
Séamus faced his illness with great dignity and he never complained. He continued to work for his constituents in spite of his declining health. The measure of the man was reflected in him turning up at Dundrum shopping centre to support the Taoiseach as he canvassed on the Lisbon treaty referendum. That also indicated his loyalty to Fianna Fáil supporters and his constituents. Séamus is missed in Leinster House and in the Government but he will also be missed in the constituency as well as in the Fianna Fáil Party. He will be missed throughout the country but, above all, the real sadness is felt by Ann and the Brennan family. They have to come to terms with the great loss they are experiencing. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.
It is fitting that we should pay tribute to our late colleague, Séamus Brennan, in the Chamber that marked the start of his life as a public representative. It is difficult to say more than has been said about Séamus. He was a man who touched all our lives and he devoted his entire professional life to politics. In the course of that time, he served the Fianna Fáil Party as general secretary, the Dublin South people as their TD and the people of Ireland as a Minister. During the Lisbon treaty referendum campaign, as people became aware of Séamus's illness, I was approached by constituents who recalled their dealings with him. They spoke of the occasions he assisted them in times of trouble and the occasions he had been with them in times of adversity and made a difference to them and their families. They recalled those moments with genuine affection for him.
When one reflects on the many tributes paid, one cannot but be struck by the deep unspoken respect in which Séamus was held by colleagues across the political spectrum throughout the years. While I, like others, will remember many things about Séamus, a particular characteristic became his trademark, which was a calm and determined approach to public affairs, always seeking to rationalise between the most strongly held opinions in the most heated of debates. This sense of calm was always effective, even in very difficult circumstances, and on many occasions he went before the public and defended the Fianna Fáil Party and the Government.
This tribute provides us with a fitting opportunity to reflect on Séamus, the public service he undertook and the contribution he made. Therein lies the necessity to appreciate the importance of public service and the contribution each of us has the potential to make. Most significantly, occasions such as this, particularly given the untimely nature of Séamus's passing, bring home to us the preciousness of life and the importance of us valuing and making the most of every moment we are blessed to have because those moments will pass and we will all be no more.
I extend my deepest sympathy to Séamus's wife, Ann, and to Shay, Daire, Aoife, Breffni, Sine and Éanna, his brothers and sister, his extended family, his friends, his loyal team of staff, including Frank, Bobby and Mary, and his supporters. This year has brought an immeasurable loss and sadness to them. May Séamus rest in peace.
I am glad to have the opportunity to commiserate with the Brennan family on the death of a man I knew all my life. As I look at all the Brennan children, I am reminded of the times I baby-sat for the family, which highlights how long our families have known each other. Séamus was a great man, as Senator Feeney reminded me, for giving a person a job, which was usually to baby-sit or caddy. I got to know Séamus first during the great holidays in Connemara which we all shared. It is testament to the public service he gave that I did not realise he was also a Senator because his career in the public service was very long. Many people have referred to his time in the Fianna Fáil organisation and the way he transformed politics and the election winning organisation that is Fianna Fáil. He had a great deal to do with that. More important, he gave great public service when he was called to serve as a Minister. His legacy remains in every Department in which he served and I regret he was not left more often to do what came naturally to him, which was to reform.
Senator Boyle referred to him opening up the country to competition through the transport sector and aviation. There was a touch of Lemass about Séamus Brennan and the contribution he made. He was as significant as Lemass as he moved us out of a more insular era into something new. He embraced competition and, in doing so, transformed Irish life. I am sorry he was not given the opportunity to do that in the bus sector and other areas. Reform and public service were the bywords of what he did.
It is lovely that the team who were always with him are present, particularly Frank Lahiffe. When I started out in politics, we were always at events together and wherever Frank was, Séamus was never far behind. He was served by a dedicated team and a dedicated family.
Since Séamus's death, the closeness of his family has emerged. I hope it offers some comfort to them to be present for these tributes. While he is not with us, he will never be forgotten in the House because of the exceptional figure he was. It is nice to reflect on and be reminded of him again.
Given the extraordinary contribution Séamus Brennan made in the constituency of Dublin South and nationally, it is not surprising that many people I meet on a daily basis in the constituency refer to how sad it is he has passed. It is striking the number of times people of all parties and of all persuasions and none repeatedly express their sadness about this to me, a political opponent of his, almost as if they want to express that feeling to anybody in political life because they had so much trust in him and relied on him for many years.
I am a relative newcomer to politics but my experience of meeting Séamus Brennan first and dealing with him subsequently was always positive. He was welcoming and friendly. He was a political opponent and people are always watching out for what is important in that regard but, on a human level, he was extremely helpful to me and extremely amiable and decent as an individual. He was an extraordinarily successful representative of the people of Dublin South and many people remark on that regularly. He has left an extraordinary gap at local and national level. Séamus Brennan was a significant figure on the political landscape for more than 30 years, going back to the 1970s, which is an amazing stretch. To have died at such a relatively young age while having been around politics for so long and having achieved so much as a Minister, in his party and in both Houses is extraordinary. I hope that is some consolation to his wife and family on their sad loss earlier this year.
I first got to know Séamus Brennan when I was a programme and radio producer in RTE covering general elections. One thing that always struck me about him was that while most, although not all, politicians were quite happy to be invited to go on radio and television, some were not very accommodating. I found him to be most accommodating; he was always available. One could have a late night programme with coverage of election results, from which people would go home very tired and perhaps a little grumpy because of the result, and it was always very difficult to get people to speak the following morning at ten o'clock when the public wanted to know what had happened over night. Séamus was somebody on whom one could rely. He would come in and, as broadcasters would say, was always good value. He always had an observation, an insight. Whereas he of course was partisan in the sense that we all are called upon to be partisan in this business, he also was capable of rising above that partisanship and being able to see the big picture.
When listening to Senator Boyle I recalled the television coverage of the 2007 election results when the wooing, if I can call it that, was starting to happen — some people can notice that more easily than others — and there were exchanges of glances across the table at some of Senator Boyle's colleagues coming from the Fianna Fáil side in the studio. Séamus, even then, was doing what he did so well and did best, which was, as somebody said recently, not closing any doors, keeping all doors open. He was very good at that.
I, personally, am very sad that Séamus has gone from us at such a young age. I am very much conscious of what my colleague Senator Corrigan said. Séamus Brennan made an extremely positive contribution to the people in Dublin South, to politics nationally and, I am sure, and most importantly of all, as a father and as a husband. I wish to be associated most sincerely with the expressions of sympathy to Séamus's family on his sad loss.
Unlike most people here, I would consider myself to have known Séamus Brennan as a political understudy. He came to me — this tells you much about his consummate grasp of politics — just after the 1977 general election. He picked me out in RTE and asked if I would like to do a programme on how they won the 1977 election. He was approaching someone he knew was a Workers' Party supporter, somebody who was incredibly hostile to his party as it stood and, indeed, with grandiose ambitions to put it out of business if we could. He picked me because he knew I shared his passion for politics as an art form. There are two kinds of politician — butchers and artists. There are some people who just want to get into politics to be there and to draw their salaries and there others who want to get into politics to do something and to do it elegantly. He was the most elegant political operator. He had an elegant mind. He had a likeness. Breandán Ó hEithir and I used to watch him in The Goatstown Inn and call him "an buachaill caoldubh". He sat there, the dark slender boy, and inside that slight frame was this amazing political brain.
He picked me because he knew I would love what he was going to show me and that I would be seduced by it, which is true. He laid out the internal structure of the 13 directors of elections who had targeted the 13 marginal constituencies and he gave me full access to the background. He knew I was taking a technical and professional interest in it, and I put many of the lessons to work later. What I was struck by was the band of brothers, the clarity, passion and belief of all those who worked with him, not just that he was a decent man, an elegant man and a man of vision, but that they had the same kind of vision. They were a very attractive bunch of people and they had his passion for a politics of public service.
I will not labour the point but, at a time when we are talking about reform of the public sector, Séamus Brennan gave value for money. He worked hard as a public servant, but not just in that pedestrian way. I was very struck by what someone said about Lemass, that he worked as a public servant in the great Whitaker tradition where it was not enough just to put down a day's work but one had to bring something extra, something visionary, something passionate and something patriotic to it. No doubt Séamus had that Lemass-Whitaker touch and he was a very underestimated man. He left an indelible mark on Irish life in that he modernised Irish politics.
I did not meet anybody in Fianna Fáil in these years — except Jack Lynch — who impressed me the way Brennan impressed me. He was a modern mind and a modern person. He had the great last gift of a great politician and a great artist, he had great manners, and one needs that too in politics.
My sympathy to his wife, family and that great bunch of political colleagues around him. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam uasal.
I would like to be associated with the expressions of sympathy to Ann and her family. I have the unique distinction of the membership of this House as being the one who came into this House on the same day as Séamus Brennan 31 years ago in 1977. We all came in here full of joy and full of hope, a young new group of people. However, many of us had come here only because of the previous four years' work of the late Séamus Brennan. He totally modernised the Fianna Fáil Party, from approximately 1974 until the 1977 election. He took us all, root and branch, and remodernised the party. His work is still to be seen in how politics have moved on in this country.
He will be remembered also as being the ultimate politician. Everything was possible if one went about it the right way. That was the approach that Séamus Brennan took, first, as general secretary of the Fianna Fáil Party, then as a politician here in the Seanad, and when he moved to the Dáil in 1981 and into the various ministries.
As a Minister, if one approached him with a problem, it was not a matter of what he could not do for you but that he would see what could be done for you. That epitomised Séamus as well, I believe, with his constituents who found his approach to be that if he could, he would and if it was possible, it would be done. That is what politics is all about. Politics is the art of the possible. We can talk about matters impossible and we can talk about the dreams, and everyone who comes into politics has a dream.
Séamus's biggest contribution, as far as the Oireachtas is concerned, is the way he served in all the ministries in which he had the honour to serve. He left a mark everywhere he went. It did not matter whether he was a long or a short period in that ministry, he took action that remains to this day.
To his wife Ann and to his family, it is a tragic loss that somebody should be taken away at the age of 60. I suppose it is the way of the Lord. We do not have any say. We live for today and we hope that we see tomorrow. I want to be associated with the expressions of sympathy to Séamus's wife Ann and to her family, and to his close colleagues, Frank and Mary, whom I have known for practically as long as being Séamus's back-up team. Everybody, right across this House and this country, was saddened by the untimely passing of a true and loyal Irishman.
Ba bhreá liom, mar ionadaí ó Chontae na Gaillimhe ó dhúchas, cúpla focal a chur leis na focail álainne atá ráite ag mo chomhghleacaithe. Ar an gcéad dul síos, déanaim comhbhrón le muintir Uí Bhraonáin, Ann agus a clann uilig.
I am a relatively new addition to this House. I spoke with Séamus Brennan only once but growing up in Galway, he was a very familiar name and face. First, we are all aware that he was a Galway man and we are proud of all he achieved. Also, as I grew to have a deep interest in politics, I remember enjoying — I am glad Senator Alex White mentioned it — his great analysis on television, particularly at election times. He was one of those voices, one of those people who was brought on to speak at those times. He had a forensic approach and he had something interesting to say. He had a great knowledge of all that had gone on and could crutch numbers with the best of them.
What was also attractive about him was that he gave service from a very young age. He was one of those public servants, one of those politicians, who started young and, sadly, the service ended far too soon. His analysis always struck me as impressive and reasoned. On that reasonableness that he exuded, I often thought, looking at him on "Questions and Answers" and other programmes, that he sometimes developed a pained look when he was in disagreement with colleagues, perhaps from a different political viewpoint. It struck me often that this look of pain served him well because it communicated that here was a reasonable man. As was appropriate for a man from the city of the tribes, he loved his tribe and supported it but he could do so without being tribal and that was to his great benefit and was one of his attractive political characteristics.
I was working for the Dublin diocese during the jubilee millennium year, in which he played a major role. He was an imaginative and supportive figure in his role as Minister in enabling, supporting and providing for the various celebrations by Church and State during the great jubilee year of 2000.
I only met him once but it was an interesting encounter. I found myself in Galway by accident when I was canvassing for the Seanad election. I saw him in a hotel and decided I would canvass him. What I did not notice was the television camera coming in behind him. I realised it might compromise my independent status if people saw me canvassing him as they would not know why I was in the hotel. He must have sensed my discomfiture because he steered me to one side and said, "You're not supposed to be here, are you?" I do not know whether I got the vote but I was struck by his gentleness, politeness and courtesy.
The last time I saw him I could not help feeling sad but I admired his bravery as he sat in this House eager to continue the business that was his as a Minister. I know it is a matter of pride and sorrow for his family to be here today. They would rather not be here but I am sure it is with pride that they hear these well deserved tributes to their beloved father and husband. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam uasal agus suaimhneas síoraí dó.
I deeply appreciate the opportunity to say a few words as a fellow Galway person. I would like to be associated with the sympathy and condolences offered to Séamus's wife Ann and his family and friends today. Growing up, I was not aware that Séamus Brennan was a Galway man when I watched him on television. I came to know his sister Carmel and served on the board of GMIT and Network with her. I also got to know his brother Terry. I saw they were movers and shakers in Galway and I was not a bit surprised to see the family link with Séamus Brennan.
As a new Member of Seanad Éireann, it is interesting to hear about the contribution he made over 40 years in public life. The word "awesome" comes to mind because few make such a contribution. It must be remarked on as outstanding in its own right. His contribution was significant when one considers all the portfolios he held. As a political watcher, I also noticed what Senator Mullen said. Fianna Fáil was lucky to have Séamus Brennan. He had a wonderful way of explaining away difficult decisions in difficult times, particularly on programmes such as "Questions and Answers".
My personal meeting with Séamus Brennan was what impressed me most. It occurred when he held his final portfolio as Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism. I proposed an awards night for Galway basketball, which has been impressive in its growth. I saw how he listened to me and it impressed me as I rarely experienced it. No doubt he was listened in that way through his entire life. His family was lucky because that is a special trait. His party and colleagues were also lucky.
He was impressed with my proposal. He told me he saw no difficulty with it and asked me to write it up. I did so but, sadly, it was just before he passed away and his successor did not see it in the same light. The memory stays with me as a powerful demonstration of how all-embracing he was. Although I was a member of the Opposition, the Galway links made a major difference to him. I agree with what most people said, that his death was most untimely and he is missed. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.
I got to know Séamus in 1973 when he became secretary general of Fianna Fáil. I am the only Member of this House who was a Deputy in 1977. I pay tribute to his fantastic work for the party. He was selected by Jack Lynch on the recommendation of his father, who was a member of the national executive. He was the most outstanding secretary general we ever had in Fianna Fáil. He reorganised the entire party. He had an arrangement in the constituency of Roscommon-South Leitrim where John Ellis, Seán Doherty and I were the three candidates. We were all in our late 20s and early 30s and we won two out of three seats in the election. He did not have to contact us much during the campaign and he left us at it to get the votes and seats, which we did.
I sympathise with Ann and the family. Ann met Séamus at NUI, Galway, where Séamus was a member of the cumann. He was the most outstanding public representative this country has ever had. The tributes today are the finest I have heard from the Leader, the Opposition and everybody else. Never have I heard finer or more sincere or honest tributes to any politician at any time than those I heard to the late Séamus Brennan. I want to be associated with all the fine comments that were made. They are all genuine, true and factual. He is a terrible loss to Ann and the family at such an early age. He is a loss to everyone in this House where he was so willing to come and work with us. We will all miss him sadly.
I also wish to be associated with the tributes to the late Séamus Brennan who, as was stated, was a Member of this House from 1977 to 1981 having been nominated by the then Taoiseach, Jack Lynch. My first meeting with Séamus was in April 1976 when I was first elected to Offaly County Council. He was general secretary and I attended a meeting of young councillors. I have always considered that the advice he gave at that time has stood me in good stead in all this time.
It came across always that Séamus was an extremely safe pair of hands on television and radio and in any portfolio he held. He made an outstanding contribution to Irish political life, in both Houses of the Oireachtas and as a Minister in many portfolios. I extend my sincere sympathy to his wife Ann, his sons and daughters and all family members on a very sad loss. May he rest in peace.