Wednesday, 26 May 2010
Death of Member: Expressions of Sympathy
My duty today is a sad one. In accordance with Standing Order 151, I must announce to the House the death of our esteemed colleague, Senator Kieran Phelan. His sudden and untimely death has shocked and saddened everyone. As a personal friend, I am very aware of the impact of this announcement to his many friends and colleagues in Leinster House. Kieran's integrity, calm demeanour and unfailing sense of humour made him one of the most popular Members of the House and won him the respect and friendship of Members from all parties and groups.
I first knew Kieran when he was a member of Laois County Council, on which he served the people of County Laois for many years. He was elected to the Industrial and Commercial Panel of Seanad Éireann in 2002 and again in 2007 as a nominee of the Irish Country Houses and Restaurants Association. As a temporary Chairman, he regularly presided over sittings of the House, during which his sense of fairness and procedural knowledge was very obvious. To his wife, Mary, and all his family and friends, I extend my sincere sympathy.
I now call on group leaders to make their expressions of sympathy. Other Senators will have an opportunity to contribute when formal tributes are made to the late Senator Phelan at a later date.
Owing to the sudden and tragic death this morning of our dear friend and colleague, Senator Kieran Phelan, I propose that we adjourn the business of the House until 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 1 June.
Senator Phelan was a true gentleman and a great Senator. He was loved for his humorous personality and genuine way. He was proud to be a Member of Seanad Éireann and was one of our best attendees. He was elected to the 22nd Seanad in 2002 on the Industrial and Commercial Panel and re-elected in 2007. Like his late father, Paddy, he had been a member of Laois County Council for a number of years, having been given the great honour of being chairman of that council.
Despite his love of Seanad Éireann, his main priorities were his wife, son, four daughters, mother and extended family. His sudden death has robbed them of a great husband, father, son, brother, uncle and friend. On behalf of the Fianna Fáil Party, I offer our sincere condolences to his wife, Mary; his five children, Fiona, Martina, Brenda, Aisling and Patrick; his mother, Delia; his 16 brothers and sisters, including Brendan who is a member of Laois County Council; his family and friends. May God comfort them and console them on their great loss. Go ndéana Dia trócaire ar a anam.
It was with a real sense of shock and sadness that we heard this morning of the sudden passing of our dear colleague, Senator Kieran Phelan. That sense of shock will have been multiplied hundredfold for his wife, Mary; his four daughters, Fiona, Martina, Brenda and Aisling; and his son, Patrick. My heartfelt sympathy and that of my party goes out to them on this very sad day. Death is always numbing for the loved ones of the person who has passed away, but to have an unexpected death such as this is truly tragic.
Only yesterday I sat at a meeting which Kieran attended, with other colleagues in this House. He was his usual jovial self. Jovial, kind, friendly and warm are the key words I would associate with him. One could always be sure of a warm smile and an encouraging word from him and he did his work very diligently in this House. His loss will be greatly felt by his colleagues in the Laois-Offaly Fianna Fáil organisation and in the council where he played such a major role for so long. He made his contributions effectively in this House and was clearly enjoying his second term in the Seanad. His passing will be felt keenly by all of us who interacted with him in politics. To his friends and colleagues in Fianna Fáil, staff and supporters, I offer my condolences on behalf of the Fine Gael Party. We join them all in offering our deepest sympathy to Kieran's wife, Mary, and his five children at this very sad time. Ar dheis Dé go a raibh a anam dílis.
Sudden death stops us in our tracks and we have all taken a hard hit this morning. We on the Independent benches would like to be associated with the expressions of sympathy to Kieran's wife and family and his Fianna Fáil colleagues and staff. He always came across to us as being a good natured, honest and decent person. He was a person of integrity, on whom we could rely. He was a man of his word and always loyal. He had a total commitment to and love of this House. He had a voting record in the House that, I believe, was the best the last time I checked. I do not know whether that was out of complete loyalty to his Whip, with whom he was very friendly. He took pride in his country, particular pride in his county and party, which he was always ready to defend, even at the worst of times, and, of course, pride in his family. As late as yesterday at the meeting of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges he played an active and committed part and, again, showed clarity of mind and confidence in dealing with some tricky issues. He was a man who loved life and politics. He gave a lot to public representation. He was a model public representative in terms of commitment and taking his job seriously. He believed in this House and its contribution and what should happen in public life. He is somebody we will dearly miss. There will be time later to go into more detail on his commitment and contribution to local and national politics. In the meantime, those on these benches wish to be associated with the expressions of sympathy. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam. I express our sincere condolences to his family, colleagues, friends, staff, etc.
I also express my sympathy and that of my colleagues in the Labour Party to the family of the late Senator Kieran Phelan on his untimely and shocking passing. This is a very sad day for all of us. I also extend my sympathy to the Leader of the House, the Fianna Fáil Party and Fianna Fáil colleagues on the opposite side who must be feeling a great sense of loss on the passing of such a dear colleague.
As others mentioned, it could be fairly said it was impossible not to like Kieran Phelan. He was a great and wonderful colleague. I also attended the meeting of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges yesterday, to which my colleagues referred. When some of us were more inclined to indulge in the complexities of the issues referred to by Senator O'Toole, Kieran Phelan was able to cut through the complexities and actually reach the bottom line with a fantastic sense of humour and common sense. He had a very ready smile. I recently heard somebody say in a different context — I believe it was Cathal O'Shannon — that it was important in life, whether in politics or elsewhere, to take one's work seriously but not to take oneself too seriously. That is a philosophy to which Kieran Phelan adhered. His loss is a terrible shock to all of us. Once again, I express my sympathy to his wife, Mary, and family on this very sad day.
Death has visited the 23rd Seanad far too often. While we might have been better prepared for the passing of other colleagues, an unexpected death is particularly hard to take. The warm words expressed about the late Senator Kieran Phelan cannot be repeated by me because they have been said far too well and will be repeated into the future. On behalf of my party, the Green Party, Comhaontas Glas, I express sympathy to his wife, Mary, family and colleagues in Fianna Fáil. I acknowledge his contribution to this House and public life in general. Part of his greatest contribution was made from your bench, a Chathaoirligh, as Acting Chairman. As we think in the coming days of those who knew him best, the House should treasure his memory for the contribution he made.
I wish to be associated with the words used on the sad and tragic passing of the late Senator Kieran Phelan. It was with great shock that I heard of his passing this morning. I am sure it was small compared to the shock the wider community, in particular his family, would have experienced when the news reached them. I extend my sympathy to his wife, Mary, children, mother and extended family. I also extend my sympathy to all his colleagues in Fianna Fáil, supporters and friends on both sides of the House. As others said, he was always a person who greeted people with a warm smile or gesture. He will be sadly missed in this House. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.