Seanad debates

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Death of Former Member: Expressions of Sympathy


12:00 pm

Photo of Donie CassidyDonie Cassidy (Fianna Fail)
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It was with great sadness that we learned of the death last August of the former Senator and Deputy William Kenneally, better known as Billy. Billy had a long and eventful life, packed full of achievements and public service. He was one of Waterford's favourite sons and as a businessman and politician and in everyday community life he made an important and lasting contribution to the development of the south-east region.

Billy was a lifelong member of the Fianna Fáil Party. On behalf of the parliamentary party, we were grateful for his tremendous efforts in promoting and working for the party for many years. Through his dedication he played a massive part in its success. His father, William Kenneally Snr., was a prominent figure in the party in Waterford, serving the people of Waterford in Dáil Éireann from 1952 to 1961. This was the proud political legacy on which Billy built in the course of a remarkable career which brought further distinction to him and the Kenneally family.

Billy took his first steps as a public representative in the Lemass era. He was very much a politician of the time and, like Lemass, had a strong sense of patriotism and shared his impatience for progress. He had a deep-seated belief in business and enterprise, seeing it as the engine to drive national development.

Billy's background was in business. He was a partner in the very successful Kenneally City Bus Company which for many years was a great Waterford institution and provided an important transport service for the people of Waterford city and county.

Billy contested his first election in the general election of 1961 and was unlucky not to take a seat on that occasion. However, he persevered and was subsequently co-opted onto the council, of which he was a member for 15 years. He also served as mayor of the authority. He understood well Tipp O'Neill's famous saying that "all politics are local" because for him the whole purpose of politics was to serve his local community, take on board their concerns, make them his own and do everything in his power to improve the quality of life of his native community. The respect his neighbours, friends and fellow citizens of Waterford had for him is evident in the fact that he was given the great distinction of serving the community as mayor of Waterford. It is also obvious from the fact that on five consecutive occasions the people of Waterford elected him as their representative in Dáil Éireann. In the general election of 1965 he topped the poll and repeated that feat in the 1969 and 1977 general elections.

Billy was an immensely popular politician who was held in high esteem and with great affection by colleagues on all sides of the House. He did valuable work at the Council of Europe from 1971 to 1973, during a period in which Ireland's relationship with the European Union was a dominant theme in public debate. He served as Fianna Fáil Front Bench spokesperson on fisheries in opposition between 1973 and 1975 and had a close relationship with George Colley and Jack Lynch.

When Fianna Fáil returned to power in 1977, Jack Lynch asked Billy to perform the difficult role of chairman of the parliamentary party and his tenure coincided with one of the most volatile periods in Fianna Fáil's history. It is testament to his character and abilities that he is still remembered as an excellent chairman of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party. When I first took my seat as a Senator in 1982, Billy was the chairman of the party and utterly fair at all times. His focus was always on the betterment of the party and his community, never on personalities or in-fighting. He lost his Dáil seat in 1982 but was elected to Seanad Éireann that year on the Administrative Panel.

Right to the end, Billy maintained a keen interest in politics and public life and was rightly proud of the political achievements of his son, Brendan, our friend and colleague in the Dáil and Seanad. I am sure Brendan will draw on his father's fine legacy and exemplary public service as he continues to serve the people of Waterford in the same dedicated and distinguished fashion as his father. Brendan was a distinguished Member of this House from 2002 to 2007.

I extend my sympathy and that of the Fianna Fáil Party to Billy's wife, Maureen; his sons, Brendan, Donal, Kevin, Patrick and Martin; brother, Jackie; sister, Kathleen; grandchildren, Cathy, Sarah, Liam, Fionn and Megan; daughters-in-law, Martina and Monica; brothers-in-law; sisters-in-law; his niece, Marion; his extended family and very many friends. I acknowledge the presence of his family in the Distinguished Visitors Gallery. He would be very proud to see them present today. We salute a great parliamentarian, a great friend and, above all, a great family man. Go ndéanfaidh Dia trócaire ar a anam.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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I am honoured to lead the tributes to Billy Kenneally on behalf of the Fine Gael Party. The Kenneally family has been the backbone of the Fianna Fáil Party in Waterford for generations. Billy served with distinction in this House and the Dáil for many years. His father was a member of the city council, having been elected in 1942. He also served with distinction in this House from 1952 to 1961. Deputy Brendan Kenneally continues that family tradition, having been a member of this House and Dáil Éireann. I served with Billy from 1979 to 1985 on Waterford Corporation, as it was then called, now Waterford City Council. To be in his company and so many other stalwarts was an educational experience.

I had the pleasure of meeting Billy on many occasions, especially during mayoral elections. We have a tradition in Waterford that former mayors are invited to attend mayoral elections. It is a wonderful tradition because it recognises the efforts of former mayors and what they have done for the city.

I also served on Waterford Harbour Board and we had many good years after 1985. Billy served on that body with distinction.

As the Leader of the House stated, Billy was chairman of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party during turbulent years in the party. I often spoke to him about those occasions. It is no secret that he was not an admirer of the leadership style of the then leader of Fianna Fáil, Mr. Haughey. However, he always remained loyal to the party and I am sure he was delighted in later years to see his son, Brendan, elected to Dáil Éireann. Likewise, he was thrilled to see him, after a short sojourn in this House, regain his seat at the last election. This must have been a great source of pride to Billy.

Billy was a proud Waterford man and for many years served the people of Waterford city and county with distinction. There is no doubt that he was held in high regard by the people of Waterford. As the Leader stated, he was returned on many occasions, often topping the poll, which is testament to the esteem in which the people of Waterford held him.

On my own behalf and that of Fine Gael, I express my sincere sympathy to his wife, Maureen; his brother, Jackie, and the lads. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

Photo of Joe O'TooleJoe O'Toole (Independent)
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I welcome the extended family of former Senator Billy Kenneally. I did not know him, although I know his son only too well. I never had the pleasure of serving with him. Nonetheless, on behalf of Members on the Independent benches, I wish to be associated with the tributes being paid to him today. At a time when politics is held in low esteem by the media and the general population and it is hard to be a politician, Billy Kenneally's record of decades of service at local and national level is what is required in a functioning democracy. Without this, it would not happen. People talk about families trying to take over areas but I salute this family for giving members of three generations to public representation. This is something about which it can be extraordinarily proud. No doubt Mrs. Kenneally carried the burden of raising a family and running a household. I express to her our appreciation of her personal commitment. This would not have happened without her support.

Children expect their parents to pass on at some stage. Very often, however, the pain of someone dying is felt by the grandchildren. Billy's grandchildren have great memories and can be proud of their grandad. He did a lot of good things. At some stage they might read about some of the things he said in these Houses and learn more about him.

On behalf of my colleagues on the Independent benches, I express my condolences to Billy's family. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

Photo of Dominic HanniganDominic Hannigan (Labour)
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On behalf of the Labour Party, I extend condolences to the wife and children of the former Senator and Deputy, Billy Kenneally, on the family's great loss. Billy Kenneally was a member of the 16th Seanad, having been elected on the Administrative Panel, in 1982 and 1983. While I did not have the honour of serving with him, from speaking to Deputies in the constituency of Waterford, I know that he was all that is good in politics. He was committed to the people of Waterford, his party and family. I have heard nothing but positive things said about him from those who knew him. I convey my sympathy to his wife, Maureen, and family but also to the Fianna Fáil Party, to which he gave great service for a large part of his life. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

Photo of Dan BoyleDan Boyle (Green Party)
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On behalf of the Green Party, An Comhaontas Glas, I wish to be associated with the tributes paid on the passing of the former Member of this House and Dáil Éireann, Billy Kenneally. The contributions to date, especially by those who worked directly with him, show a person with fierce commitment and no inconsiderable achievements in public life. That the people of Waterford recognised this on a regular basis is enough recognition.

I also wish to be associated with the comments made about the presence of the family and the contribution made by it over three generations. This takes commitment in its own right. I also wish to be associated with the expressions of sympathy to our Oireachtas colleague, Deputy Brendan Kenneally. To be part of the service of three generations may be unique. I am not sure of the historical precedent but it must be rare for a father and son to have served in both Houses of the Oireachtas. That the House is addressing his father's contribution is an expression of the contribution the Kenneally family has made towards the working of these Houses, to life in Waterford and politics in the country.

On behalf of my party, I wish to be associated with the comments made.

Photo of Paudie CoffeyPaudie Coffey (Fine Gael)
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I wish to be associated with the expressions of sympathy to Maureen and the Kenneally family on the passing of Billy. As a relatively new Member of the House and a Waterford representative, I am proud to be following in the footsteps of a man like Billy Kenneally. I did not know him personally but he was known to me as I grew up. I was surrounded by political activity, albeit on the other side, representing the Fine Gael Party. My late father, Mr. Pat Coffey, was a friend and colleague of Billy Kenneally and they worked across many sectors in representing the people of Waterford for many years.

There is no doubt that Billy Kenneally did not serve the people of Waterford by chance. It is well known in Waterford how connected he was to the grassroots and the people who really mattered, the people of the constituency. Billy put great faith in clinics and meeting people on a regular basis so he could represent their views at national level. It is important we remember we are here to represent the views of the people who elected us.

Generations of the Kenneally family have been involved in politics. Senator O'Toole spoke about the impact of politics on families. As the father of a young family, I understand the pressures we can face. Maureen and all the Kenneally family gave great support to Billy over the years. Nobody could stay active in the rough and tumble of politics in the absence of a supportive family. I consider generational politics as a good thing. Several Members of these Houses have followed their fathers or mothers into politics after learning over many years how to represent the people of their respective areas. We should encourage this practice at every opportunity.

I offer my sincere sympathies to the Kenneally family, including my Oireachtas colleague, Deputy Brendan Kenneally. The people of Waterford will always respect Billy.

Photo of Ann OrmondeAnn Ormonde (Fianna Fail)
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I acknowledge the presence of the Kenneally family and pay tribute to the late Billy. The Kenneally family has been a household name for me since I was a child growing up in Waterford. That three generations of the Kenneally family have been involved in politics since the 1940s says a lot about their commitment to the country. The late Billy Kenneally was elected to the Dáil in 1965 and the Seanad in 1981, as well as serving on Waterford County Council for many years. He was dedicated to public service all his life.

I continued to follow his progress even after I moved from Waterford to pursue my earlier, non-political, career in Dublin. He was a charming man with a great way of dealing with people. Even when he was no longer a public representative, he remained in touch. As Tip O'Neill famously stated, all politics is local. The Kenneally family had the grassroots touch for politics. It is vital that we retain our grassroots commitment to the people. One always knew a Kenneally was the local representative for Waterford. His son, Deputy Brendan Kenneally, has to fill a big pair of shoes in maintaining the proud record of his father and grandfather. It is lovely to see the entire family, including Mrs. Kenneally and her grandchildren. Waterford is at a loss without Billy. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

Photo of John EllisJohn Ellis (Fianna Fail)
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I offer my personal sympathies to Billy Kenneally's wife, Maureen, his sons and brothers and his extended family. When I was elected in 1977, I had the honour of sharing a fourth floor office with Billy. I learned a lot from him from the day I arrived as the youngest elected Senator. His wise counsel prevented me from committing mortal political sins on many occasions. There could be an odd rough day in that era, to put it mildly. I recall him advising me as a young lad to keep out of the fray. It was good advice because it was not wise for a rookie in the Houses of the Oireachtas to get involved in controversy.

He was dedicated to his constituency and he never arrived without a case full of queries and problems. We did not have great facilities at the time. Younger Members may not be aware that we could only nominate two external telephone numbers. Most of us could only call home or our respective county councils. Billy was more often on the telephone to the county council than he was to his home.

I greatly appreciate the advice and counsel he gave me when I was a young Member and offer my deepest sympathy to his family. Deputy Brendan Kenneally has continued a noble tradition and any family which has been represented in this House over three generations can claim a proud record.

Photo of Pat MoylanPat Moylan (Fianna Fail)
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I wish to be associated with the tributes paid to the late Billy Kenneally. He was elected to this House in 1982 as a nominee of the Administrative Panel. I had the honour of voting for him in that election. He made a huge contribution to Irish political life and the Houses of the Oireachtas in his roles as Deputy and Senator and to Waterford city and county as a member and mayor of the council. In keeping with the Kenneally tradition his son, Deputy Brendan Kenneally, is an industrious and respected Member of the Dáil and an outstanding former Member of this House. I extend my sincere sympathy to Billy's wife, Maureen, and his family on their sad loss.

Members rose. 3 o'clock