Tuesday, 8 March 2011
Death of Former Member: Expressions of Sympathy
Before I pay tribute to a dear friend and colleague, former Senator Willie Farrell, I acknowledge the presence of his lifelong friend, former Deputy Mattie Brennan and very many friends, including Councillor Patsy Barry, John Feeney and their respective wives who are attending this very special occasion in company with Willie's family.
With a heavy heart I shall say a few words about the sad passing of a truly remarkable man who was both friend and colleague to all of us in the House. I had great admiration for the former Senator Willie Farrell who, we all know, was a great person and a highly intelligent Member of Seanad Ãireann and a truly excellent public servant.
Born in the shadow of Ben Bulben 82 years ago, Willie came from a family steeped in the republican tradition and ideals to which he was true all his life. There are many facets to Willie Farrell and the political life he served so long and honourably. There was Willie Farrell the businessman. There was the man who was so much involved in the community and there was the family man. As far as Willie was concerned his family were the most important people in the world. He was blessed with a wonderful marriage to Mary who passed away in 1984. In latter years he was blessed to have a second marriage to Brenda who passed away in 2007.
Senator Willie Farrell often spoke with pride of his three children, Seamus, Liam and Helen, his daughter-in-law, Siobhan, his son-in-law, Pauric, and his five grandchildren. He was so very proud of all of them. They must feel a great loss today but it is nice to see all of them in attendance.
Before entering public life, Willie Farrell had very many other jobs. He was an entrepreneur long before his time, even before the word "entrepreneur" became fashionable. He had many jobs especially the one he became most involved in, the cattle trade, and went on to become a director of the North West Cattle Market in Grange. The late Senator was also an undertaker and worked for the ESB. During that time he suffered a great personal tragedy when he sustained a very serious injury. Drawing on his own inner strength and with the love and support of his beloved wife, Mary, he recovered and went on to achieve very many great things. He became involved in the milk business and spent many years running the agency for Alfa Laval and for milking machine suppliers in the west of Ireland. In 1960, along with his wife, Mary, he opened a restaurant and filling station in Grange in the north west. In latter years Willie became involved in the auctioneering business and was very successful, becoming its national president.
His political career spanned 35 years. He first joined Sligo County Council in 1967 and served for a remarkable 30 years, becoming chairman of the council in 1989. In that year I had the great honour of visiting New York for St Patrick's Day as chairman of Westmeath County Council and Willie and I had the great distinction of meeting Cardinal O'Connor. That occasion was one of the great memories we had of our public life as county councillors.
Willie was also a member of the North Western Health Board for many years and served as chairman in 1982. During his time on the health board he gained a reputation for his very progressive ideas. Arising from this involvement he served as chairman of the National Health Boards of Ireland for an unbelievable 12 years, such was the esteem in which he was held by his fellow councillors. The same esteem and respect saw him elected to the Seanad in 1982 on the industrial and commercial panel. His frequent speeches were carefully listened to by politicians of all parties in the House. Willie lost his seat in 1983. Deputy Brennan and I were with him and Mary at 2.20 a.m. when that happened, a sad occasion. However, Willie came back and was re-elected in 1987, holding his seat until his retirement in 2002.
Although he was very successful at national level, Willie never lost sight of his roots or from where he came. He stayed active in his community all his life, believing that local groups working together can achieve great things. In 1982 the chairman of the North Western Health Board gave him Â£1,000 for his expenses which Willie used to help disabled people. He bought a pony and trap and raised money by travelling from Bundoran to the horse show in Ballsbridge. He received another Â£1,000 from the Bank of Ireland manager, Brian O'Neill, and raised a total of Â£20,000 which enabled the construction of a home for the disabled in Bundoran.
In latter life Willie took up golf and won the world putting championship for one-armed golfers. Sport, especially golf, played an enormous part in Willie's life. As many Members know, golf is a difficult game at the best of times. To become a world champion was a truly remarkable and wonderful achievement but I would not expect anything less of the former Senator. Willie Farrell was determined to succeed in all he ever attempted. He went on to become captain of Bundoran Golf Club and of the Oireachtas Golf Society.
He was well regarded throughout the local community for his hard work, and his enthusiasm and warm personality won everybody over. He was a great support to many people and was always willing to help and offer guidance. Senator Willie Farrell was an excellent orator and commanded attention when he spoke. He was often involved in heated discussions on matters close to his heart both on the Seanad floor and in the parliamentary party of Fianna FÃ¡il. He was a lifelong member of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association and was well known for his strong stance on the dangers of alcohol abuse.
Willie was a very honourable and loyal public servant, serving at both local and national levels for more than 35 years. He was an immensely popular man and his loss will be felt widely among his friends and colleagues. He leaves behind the legacy of what he achieved during his life and the memory of a fantastic spirit and a great character. No challenge was too great for Senator Willie Farrell.
We on this side of the House knew Willie to be a great servant of the Fianna FÃ¡il party of which he was so proud. He was a staunch defender of the party and a great upholder of its traditional values. We will miss him dearly.
On a personal level, I was privileged to serve as Leader of Seanad Ãireann during Willie's tenure as a Senator. He served as assistant Government Whip. I personally owe him a great debt of gratitude, as do all colleagues on this side of the House, for his loyalty, service and sound advice which he gave to many of us from time to time.
On behalf of the House and especially the Fianna FÃ¡il group, I offer sincere condolences to Willie's sons, Seamus and Liam, daughter, Helen, daughter-in-law, Siobhan, and son-in-law, Pauric, as well as his five grandchildren, on the loss of a truly wonderful father and grandfather. Go ndÃ©anfaidh Dia trÃ³caire ar a anam.
On behalf of the Fine Gael Party, I offer sincere sympathy to the Farrell family. Willie died on 8 April 2010 after a political career which had spanned almost 35 years. As the Leader of the House stated, he served on Sligo County Council, to which he was elected in 1967. In 1982 he was elected to the Seanad on the Industrial and Commercial Panel. Having lost it in 1983, he regained his seat in 1987 in the 18th Seanad and held it until his retirement in 2002. It is only right and fitting that we should pay tribute to a person with so many years of public service. To his family, friends and colleagues in the Fianna FÃ¡il Party, we offer our sincere sympathy on their sad loss. Ar dheis DÃ© go raibh a anam dÃlis.
I am privileged to add to what has been said and offer from the Independent benches our condolences and sympathy to the family of the late Willie Farrell and Fianna FÃ¡il. I remember Willie for his argumentative nature and because he was always willing to take up a challenge. He never let his party down and Fianna FÃ¡il could do no wrong, although in private he might say if it had acted in the wrong way. Generally, he was reidh i gcÃ³naÃ chun an fÃ³d a seasamh. Whenever we on these benches got near to ousting him in an argument, he would say it was okay for us on the university seats, but he was brought up in the university of life and knew more about universities than we did.
On a more serious note, I should mention two matters. I tend to say the following to those who knew the deceased personally and are aware only from a distance of what they did in their public life. I spoke earlier about the importance of democracy which will only live if people are prepared to put their names on the ballot paper, take responsibility and speak out. Willie Farrell had the courage to do this and I would like his family to remember him for this. No matter how strong the Constitution or our democracy is, it can only work if people are prepared to put themselves on the line, as Willie was prepared to do. I stand in awe of him. He spent 35 years in public life which I hope his family and grandchildren will grow to value even more as time passes.
Wearing my education hat, I regularly raise disability issues and time and again Willie Farrell was first into the fray to offer support from the other side of the House. He was a classic example of somebody who had turned his disability into an ability. He never let the fact that he had had a serious accident stop him; he never relied on or hid behind it. He was proud of what he had achieved. In that sense, he was a great role model for those dealing with disability issues at various levels.
One would always remember the glint in Willie's eye when he came at someone. There was always a smile and he was always ready to get involved. He was a very diligent Senator at a time when the Whips might have been hard pressed to get Members into the Chamber to speak. He was always reliable in being present for votes and making contributions with which I may have regularly disagreed. However, that is not the issue; the importance of the Seanad comes from having different voices expressing different points of view. We make progress when there is creative tension in having different voices and views. Willie contributed to this.
Ba mhÃ³r an onÃ³ir domsa aithne a bheith agam air. Ba mhaith liom a rÃ¡ lena chlann go ndearna sÃ© an-obair don tÃr seo san am a chaith sÃ© ar an obair sin sa Seanad, san rialtas Ã¡itiÃºil agus in Ã¡iteanna eile, go hÃ¡irithe dÃ¡ dhaoine fÃ©in ina shrÃ¡idbhaile fÃ©in. That is what makes people like Willie Farrell great and we want his family and friends to recognise that we recognise and celebrate such qualities. Ar dheis DÃ© go raibh sÃ©.
On behalf of the Labour Party, I would like to be associated with the tributes paid to the late Willie Farrell. I am sure the family is immensely proud to hear the details of what he did during his life, although I am sure it will not capture enough of the essence of the man. He had a long and distinguished career. As has been mentioned, anyone who can overcome a disability and turn it into an ability by achieving greatness shows what can be done. I did not have the honour or opportunity of serving with Willie, but having listened to the contributions of those who knew him, I feel very humbled to be in a Chamber in which he served so long and well. I offer my condolences and those of my party to his family on their sad loss.
I am glad to have the opportunity to say a few brief words about the late Willie Farrell. Coming from Sligo and a political family, I first came to know him personally from a very young age. I remember the 1977 general election and, although I was only four years old at the time, remember distinctly that he drove a car that I was convinced was from outer space. Those who knew him well will recall that he was a great supporter of Citroen vehicles and had an enormous loudspeaker, the biggest I have ever seen. I will always recall him from a child's perspective. I always knew him to be someone who was gentle and grandfatherly, if I can use that term. I became extremely fond of him.
On the political front, the Leader of the House has covered all of the ground that needs to be covered and Willie's legacy is very significant. If I was to pick one item, it would be his legacy of employment in the north west - north County Sligo and his native Grange - and the country as a whole. Even in these difficult times, the employment figures are most significant. SF Engineering is headed by his son, Seamus, but there are many other industries in the area. There is no town or village of similar size which could compete in terms of the diversity of enterprise and the numbers employed. That is the legacy of Willie Farrell more than anybody else, including those currently in business in the area.
It extends throughout north County Sligo. People from the county will know that Willie strongly supported getting Branley's Yard in Rathcormack and many other enterprises off the ground.
Willie Farrell championed people with disabilities, having snatched victory from the jaws of defeat when he turned a terrible accident into an advantage by becoming a world class sportsman in golf and other pursuits. He also had a commitment to health and other causes and was involved in fund-raising activities, including, I recall, a golfing trip in which he played a game in all four provinces and for which he may have used a helicopter. The Leader referred to Willie's great fund-raising efforts on behalf of a home for people with disabilities which involved travelling to Dublin by pony and trap.
I extend sympathies to all the Farrell family, including Seamus, Liam and Helen, their husbands and children and Seamus's father-in-law who is also present. Tributes have been paid to many people in my nine years as a Member of the House but I do not recall so many supporters and other associates of the deceased being present in the Gallery as are present today. I note, for instance, the presence of Councillor Patsy Barry and his family, the Feeney family, Hugh Gallagher and former Deputy Matt Brennan. That the president of the Institute of Professional Auctioneers and Valuers is also here is a reminder that the IPAV was the body that nominated Willie to run for the Seanad. The presence of so many in the House epitomises the respect in which Willie was held and the contribution he made.
The Leader referred to Willie Farrell's contributions to local government, the Seanad and many aspects of the Fianna FÃ¡il Party. As Senator O'Toole stated, Willie had a can-do attitude. He rose to the challenge and fought for the cause of Fianna FÃ¡il. While I am sure he would have been saddened to have noted the much depleted numbers of the party in Leinster House, he would have insisted that we rose to the challenge. The spirit of the Willie Farrell I knew from my childhood, the man who showed through his entrepreneurship what Grange in north County Sligo could achieve, will encourage me, as a relatively young person, to be the best I can in life, business and the Fianna FÃ¡il Party. If there is one thing I have learned from Willie, it is do the best I can. I will sum up Willie Farrell in a single sentence, one I have used to describe other people but which has never been more appropriate. He was all graces and no airs.
I welcome to the House the many friends, colleagues and family members of former Senator Willie Farrell and wish to be associated with the words of sympathy extended to them. The relationship between the late Willie Farrell and me dates back to the early 1980s when County Leitrim re-joined the same constituency as County Sligo. At that time, we had the benefit of Willie's wise counsel on many occasions. I and former Deputy Matt Brennan, who is present in the Gallery, benefited from Willie's wisdom, sometimes quietly in the ballot box, which was very important because we always needed a few extra votes to survive. I very much appreciated that.
Willie served his apprenticeship on Sligo County Council before entering the Seanad. Anyone who enters either House having served their apprenticeship on a local authority will have a good grounding for continuing to represent their people at this level.
Willie did a tremendous job for disabled people by showing that a handicap is not a handicap unless one wants to make it one. That was his contribution. He never considered the accident which caused his disablement as anything other than one of the things that happens in life. One gets up and moves on to the next stage.
North County Sligo has a proud record in terms of service to this House and Willie Farrell did justice to that record. The late Eugene Gilbride also served the area in my early days. Councillor Barry, who replaced Willie at local authority level, and Senator MacSharry, who is the only Fianna FÃ¡il Oireachtas Member in north County Sligo, carry on the tradition Willie established. Ar dheis DÃ© go raibh a anam dÃlis.
Like other Senators, I speak with a heavy heart. I am, however, proud and privileged to have known the late Willie Farrell. The former Senator's great achievement in politics, from the time he was elected to Sligo County Council in 1967 until he stood down to facilitate the co-option of Councillor Patsy Barry, who is present, has been placed on record.
Willie Farrell had a habit of never losing. He got what was best out of people. A story told about Willie on the Seanad trail is that he usually asked for a number three or four when he came knocking on doors. When asked about number ones he would say it was the number threes and fours that would elect him. There is a lesson in that for all of us.
While Willie Farrell was a proud, loyal Sligo man, he was also a proud, loyal north Sligo man. There is a difference. Willie always said the creature in a Sligo man changed from the moment he came in to the area around Teesan and that townies and north Sligo men and women were breeds of their own.
I entered the Seanad in 2002 when Willie retired and would not have been elected without his support and encouragement. He was a wonderful mentor and although he did not travel the country with me, he certainly made telephone calls. When I knocked on doors, people knew of me through Willie.
In sympathising with Willie's family, I also sympathise with Patsy Barry, Mattie Brennan, who was Willie's great friend for many years, and Senators Ellis and Mooney who soldiered in the House with Willie in difficult times. As someone who has been living in County Sligo for 30 years, I know that the four men in question came to every Comhairle Ceanntar and Comhairle DÃ¡il Cheanntar. Sadly, this may be what is lacking in political life today. The likes of Willie Farrell are no longer around.
Willie died on 8 April 2010. When I visited him around 5 April his daughter, Helen, was also visiting. I knew at the time that Willie did not have many days left. Even in his lowest, darkest hour, however, he continued to think of others. The newspaper on the day in question featured a report on a death and Willie gave out to me for coming in to see him when I would have been better employed down the country at a funeral looking after my vote, as he would have said.
Willie would never fail or let anything flop and a lovely story is told about a big concert he had organised in Grange. I believe it was held in the village hall rather than Barry's pub. On the night in question, the musicians who had been booked let Willie down and he was awfully knocked about. No one could get the better of him, however, and he decided he would work something out. He went on to the main street of Grange, a village people are inclined to speed through quickly, and flagged down a car approaching from Cliffony, which is near Bundoran. Maisie McDaniels and her two sisters were in the car and whatever chat Willie put on the three women, they were brought into the hall and entertained all night long. Willie was still on a winner and no one was any the wiser as to who had let him down.
As everyone knows, Willie's family were very important to him. He used to say to me that he was blessed to have the love and support of two great women. His first wife, Mary, was the mother of Seamus, Liam and Helen. He used to say that he could not have been where he was without that support. When Mary died, he met Breda with whom he shared a few very good years until her death. He was immensely proud of his children and even more proud of his five grandchildren of whom he spoke lovingly. When his eldest grandson graduated and went to work abroad, Willie thought that young people like that had a wonderful chance today. He was proud to see his grandson going so far afield.
As Senator MacSharry said, Willie Farrell left his legacy in Grange. In fact, I would say that he made the town. When I went there 30 years ago there was a small cafÃ© called Willie's CafÃ©, but now there is a small industrial estate on the main road with some of the finest supermarkets and pharmacies, together with SF Engineering which holds its head high in world markets.
Today we are joined by Willie's three children, Seamus, Liam and Helen, as well as Siobhan, Pauric and their five grandchildren. We are also joined by a man of whom Willie thought an awful lot, Paddy Smith, who is a great Fianna FÃ¡il man in Sligo. He is also a proud Cavan man, as I told my Cavan colleague, Senator Wilson.
I certainly miss Willie Farrell. If there was any trouble - and for the past few years there has been plenty of trouble in Fianna FÃ¡il - he would always lift the phone and give some advice to be passed on to the Taoiseach, Brian Cowen. Willie Farrell will be sorely missed. Ar dheis DÃ© go raibh a anam dÃlis.
I wish to join with previous speakers in expressing sympathy to the extended family of the late Willie Farrell, including his children Seamus, Liam and Helen. I knew Willie Farrell for a good number of years and served with him in this House from 1989 to 2002 when he retired. His contribution to public life was wonderful and spanned 35 years. He served the people of Sligo, and of this country, with distinction for 16 years in this House. He was a member of the old North Western Health Board and also served as its chairman, a role of which he was proud. He was elected national president of the Professional Auctioneers and Planners Association. Willie was always proud to invite members of that association to Leinster House where he entertained them. He always enjoyed such occasions.
Willie was a good man who achieved much in life, despite his handicap. He excelled in golfing circles and was well known throughout the length and breadth of the country for his sporting prowess. He always enjoyed a game of golf and was great company. The late Senator Paddy McGowan was a great friend of Willie's. I am honoured to have served in this House with both of them. A number of Willie's friends and colleagues in the Public Gallery have been mentioned, including the former Deputy Mattie Brennan. I am delighted to see both him and the Sligo councillors here today, along with Willie's children Seamus, Liam and Helen.
I am delighted to join with previous speakers in paying tribute to the late Willie Farrell, who was a gentleman. May he rest in peace.
I also want to be associated with all the expressions of sympathy to the family of the late Senator Farrell. My friend and colleague, Senator Ellis, would have had a more detailed political involvement with Willie Farrell than I would. That was because Leitrim was reunited with Sligo in 1981 when John Ellis was elected to the DÃ¡il. Willie Farrell was larger than life and his name was synonymous with the north-west. I will not add to all the great detail of Willie's life, but I wish to endorse everything that has been said.
He was a great friend to us all, as well as being a tremendous contributor to Seanad debates. In addition, he was a wonderful family man. It is fitting that Councillor Patsy Barry should be present in the Public Gallery today, as Willie Farrell's successor in Grange. He continues to make a contribution in the north-west.
Senator Feeney referred to Willie Farrell's travails on the Seanad election trail. As we know, however, a book has yet to be written on Seanad election campaigns, but we will all buy it when it appears. There are many stories about Willie, and I will cite two briefly. One concerns three Senators, including Willie, who were in a lift in Leinster House on the way to their offices. I will not name the other two in order to spare their blushes. One Senator said to Willie: "By the way, I have got those rugby tickets for you". Nothing else was said until much later in the bar when the other Senator said: "I always wondered who that particular Senator voted for, but now I know, because of the tickets".
The other story concerns a practice of giving pens, that has largely died out now. I am not referring to Senator Francis O'Brien in this context because this was long before. Willie went to the house of a councillor who said how delighted he was to have received one of those writing instruments. Willie looked at it rather closely and said: "I am not so sure that you are in good standing with that". The councillor asked "Why is that?", and Willie said, "I know that he gives gold biros to his number ones". As those of us in the Seanad will know, that immediately ended any relationship with those who had an ordinary biro, and Willie immediately got the number one vote. Of course, there was no exchange of biros involved with Willie. That was the sort of man he was - larger than life.
References have been made to his grandchildren and I am sure that they will miss him as much, if not more so, than anybody else. On a previous occasion when there were expressions of sympathy, Senator O'Toole said that grandchildren can have a much warmer rapport with their grandparents than the generation in between. I know they must still be missing their grandfather, Willie Farrell, whose company we enjoyed both in the House and outside it.
I endorse everything that has been said about this wonderful Irishman, patriot, community activist and family man. He was an all-round good person. Ar dheis DÃ© go raibh a anam. I convey my condolences to Seamus, Liam, Helen and their extended family.
I wish to pay tribute to Willie Farrell, although I did not serve with him in this House having become a Member after his departure from public life. I knew him for many years outside the House, however, coming from the neighbouring county of Mayo. I also met him at ard fheiseanna. I am delighted to see people in the Gallery with whom I spent many late nights during that period.
Willie made a fantastic speech on the fifth floor at what was my first parliamentary party meeting and his last. He was proud of his republican Fianna FÃ¡il credentials and did not hide them from anyone. He was a man of integrity, but I can say no more about him than what has already been said by people who knew him far better than I. To his family, I offer my sincere sympathy. To his sons, daughter and, especially, his grandchildren who are present, I hope this will be a memorable day.
I am delighted to see another old friend today, Mattie Brennan, as well as Patsy Barry, John Feeney and quite a few others. It is a wonderful tribute to Willie that they came to pay their respects. Ar dheis DÃ© go raibh a anam dÃlis.
This has been a wonderful tribute to a wonderful man. Senator Willie Farrell was an extraordinarily intelligent man who brought great progress to north County Sligo, in particular the Grange area. I extend my sympathy to his sons, Seamus and Liam, his daughter, Helen, his five lovely grandchildren who are in attendance and his good friends and supporters in north County Sligo who supported him for many years on the council, in particular Mattie Brennan, who is looking well, and Councillor Patsy Brennan, who was re-elected to the council in 2004 and 2009 after being co-opted onto it and who continued a great tradition in the area after Willie left the council.
I got to know Willie through the parliamentary party. From my Sligo connections, I knew of his work there. I also knew him from my time as Minister of State at the then Department of Industry and Commerce when he made great contributions to legislation passing through the Seanad. He invited me to open a lovely enterprise in Grange, Innisfree Crystal Limited. I have a lovely cut glass crystal decanter on my sideboard from that company. It is lovely and I will not return it unless someone wants it back.
It is a valuable piece. This is the kind of generosity in question. He arranged the event and we went to his restaurant. I was impressed by Grange. It is an example of a village that has developed well over the years. This is a tribute to the local vocational school, in which he was involved, its teachers and the people of the area. It is an extraordinary place. People could follow the work that has been done.
Willie was extraordinary. After being disabled in an accident, he was innovative in raising funds for charity. He was so intelligent, he could raise a great deal of money when things were difficult. I am delighted, honoured and proud to have known Willie Farrell, to have been at his funeral and that he is being remembered today. A video that will be made available will show he was a man of great integrity and ability who achieved much and who left behind a great family and a considerable reputation, which is invaluable.
I am honoured and privileged to speak of my memories of Willie Farrell, who died one year ago. I have the notes of my meeting with him on 4 June 2002 when he advised my husband and I on my future election campaign for Seanad Ãireann. I kept the notes as a souvenir of Willie's wisdom.
Just two months before the Seanad election, I decided that I should take the plunge because there were so few women in politics. Having been elected in 1993 to our national executive by all of the Fianna FÃ¡il Dublin women and having been re-elected to same, I felt I had a responsibility. When I heard on the airwaves about how there were not enough women in politics, I made my decision on the spur of the moment. Willie spelled out an awesome and difficult proposal for my election campaign, namely, that I would need to travel 10,000 miles over the following 25 days. I was to start at the remotest point, which was counties Cork and Kerry for me. As Senator Feeney stated, I was to look for preferences. This was a new word to me. The language was new and the strategy was daunting. How was I to win the election? I am forever indebted to my friend.
The first time I heard of Willie Farrell was from my father-in-law in the neighbouring county of Leitrim. Mr. Batt White was an agricultural instructor for that county and for a part of north County Sligo. Some of the people in the Gallery will remember my father-in-law with respect and endearment. I loved him passionately. My natural political inclination was towards the Labour Party and republican socialism.
Both of my parents were dead when, thanks to my father-in-law, Mr. Batt White from Kinlough, County Leitrim, I made the pragmatic decision to take the plunge into public life. He had spoken to me about Willie Farrell.
The other coincidence is that I would not be present today if Willie had not decided to stand down that year. Of the two vacancies on the industrial and commercial panel, I filled one. I am delighted to take this opportunity to say-----
I have met Helen. She is a great young woman living in Roscommon who has supported child care in that area. Willie's esteemed colleagues have come all the way from the west. I am honoured by everyone's attendance. I hope I have filled Willie's shoes in some way.
I would like to be associated with the many tributes paid to the former Senator, the late Willie Farrell. I first met him when he came looking for a vote in the 1980s. I was a councillor at the time and he called to my house. He seemed like a nice man, someone who was charming, courteous and knew how to make his case. One could learn much from his understanding of politics. He knew it inside out. He had a political nose. He never needed to learn that skill. One either has it or one does not; it cannot be learned. There is no doubt that Willie Farrell had it in abundance. When he spoke with people, he knew whether they were going to give him a vote or what part of it. He was twigging all of the time. This was reflected in how he was elected at every election he contested. One can only get elected if one is good at one's job and knows one's politics. It is not about the book politics or the rumours here and there.
Willie went after politics. He was an ambitious man, a high achiever. This was clearly reflected in terms of his "disability". It was not a disability. He turned it around. If anything, he is an example of what one can do in life if one sets one's goals high, as he did. He scored particularly on the political scene, but he also scored on the golf course. No matter how many times he was asked to speak in the Seanad if we were short of numbers, he was always available and always made fine contributions.
I am delighted to be here today to say my few words and to acknowledge Mattie Brennan, who is a good friend of this House, and Councillor Patsy Barry, who took over the seat and is still minding it very well. That is an achievement as a result of the late Willie.
I endorse all the other tributes that were paid to the former Senator and extend my sympathy to his whole family. He will always be in my memory.
I wish to add my voice to the votes of remembrance for the late Willie Farrell. I served two Seanad terms with Willie, from 1989 to 1992, when I lost out, and again in 1997, and I remember Willie coming to my home town of Bantry in west Cork to canvass in 1987 and probably also in 1989, when I was not competing in the campaign.
I have a couple of fond memories of Willie. In early October 1989, I was in Sligo at a conference and met Willie outside the hotel on a nice autumn evening. He had got wind of the fact that I was likely to be one of the Taoiseach's 11 nominees to the Seanad, which was the first positive news I had got. We were all waiting and hoping, but Willie had some inkling after having been in Dublin. He gave me great encouragement and wished me well. I remember that I thought he might have been leading me up the garden path, because Willie was a lovable rogue, but he was not. He had obviously had some hint that I was likely to be nominated, and as it transpired, he was correct in that information.
In 1997, I happened to be running for the Seanad on the same panel as Willie, the industrial and commercial panel. I was down in Kerry canvassing and went to call at a particular house, which shall remain nameless, on a nice Sunday evening in summer. I waited an hour and a half outside this particular house, and I said to myself that whoever the hell was inside holding confessions must have been having dinner, after-dinner mints and everything else. It was a normal courtesy not to impose one's self if someone else was ahead; one would wait one's turn, which could sometimes take 15 minutes. However, this was taking a terribly long time. There might be differences in footballing terms between Cork and Kerry, my neighbouring county, but normally we are politically quite close. As I was walking outside the house, I heard the man of the house, who has since also gone to his eternal reward, saying goodbye to Willie. He told him that he could be assured of his vote and support, so I went into the house meekly, knowing that I certainly was not getting that vote. I said to myself that if Willie Farrell was getting votes down in Kerry, over the hills from my home town, he was certainly a strong contender. However, as it happened, we were both elected.
I have fond memories of Willie in this House, where he was a great contributor. He was the essence of a man of the people. He had no airs or graces, but he knew very well the fundamentals of politics and what his Fianna FÃ¡il and republican ideology was all about. I am glad to be here today to convey my good wishes to his family, to Councillor Barry and to the great retired Oireachtas Member, Mattie Brennan. It is great that we are here to pay deserved tribute to the late Willie Farrell.
I did not have the pleasure of working here with Senator Willie Farrell, but I did know him as a voter, when he used to come to Kerry at election time, and I found him, as did everybody else, a pleasant and charming man and most interesting company. He used to play a bit of golf in Ballybunion; I am not certain whether he had relatives in that area, but he used to go there quite a lot. I am in the menswear business, and he used to come to me for his golf gear. He always got great value but, of course, it was the number one he was really after. He was a lovely man. My cousin, the late Kit Ahern, served with him for a period; she certainly served with Mattie Brennan, of whom she always spoke highly. When I went on the road myself and found myself in Grange, he could not have been kinder. He brought me straight to Councillor Patsy Barry and did everything he could to shorten my road.
I have nothing further to add to the lovely tributes that have been paid, but this will be a great record for his family and his grandchildren in the future.
Go raibh maith agat, a Chathaoirligh. Ba mhaith liomsa aontÃº leis an mÃ©id atÃ¡ rÃ¡ite ar son an SeanadÃ³ir Liam Ã FearghaÃl anseo inniÃº. I first came to be aware of Willie Farrell back in the early 1980s - I think it was 1981 - when a good friend of his and of mine, Sean McQuaid from Roscommon, approached me to suggest that we nominate Willie for the Seanad on the industrial and commercial panel. Sean was president of the Irish Road Haulage Association and I was vice-president at the time. I agreed, we met Willie, and he went for it. I cannot recall the outcome at this stage; I know there were a number of elections together, and he won some and lost some. Little did I realise at that time that I would subsequently come to serve with him in Seanad Ãireann. I found him a great mentor and a wise head, as many people have recognised today.
Those who were here in 1997 will remember that a great friend of mine, Tom Fitzgerald, with whom I served for many years on the General Council of County Councils, was Whip at that time. Tom could be quite a cantankerous Whip at times, and many of us developed a pattern of going to Willie, who was his aide-de-camp and associate Whip, if we were looking for a pair or some other concession, because he was always much more accommodating. I got to know him well during that period and I came to admire him and what he stood for. As a politician, he stood for many of the values and aspects of republican philosophy which most people of our party and of his era would have espoused, and which I hope we will return to in fairly strong fashion in the near future.
We developed a friendship, and I remember Willie coming to me before the election in 2002 to seek advice and ask whether I would take some soundings on his prospects for re-election because I was the chairman of LAMA at the time. By the time I got back to him about it he had already decided not to run, but the fact that he was considering it was indicative of the commitment he had and of his young outlook. It was only subsequently that I found out he had at that stage passed his mid-70s. It was a hallmark of his enthusiasm and commitment that he was still as interested as he was the first day he entered politics. He is an example to many young people who now decide to play their part by entering politics.
I will conclude by sympathising with his son, daughter and extended family. They will miss him. Ar dheis DÃ© go raibh a anam dÃlis.
I join in the words of tribute to my late colleague, Senator Willie Farrell. It is many years since I served with him in the Seanad, but he is certainly a politician who existed in what Americans would call the no-spin zone. What Willie thought, he said. His views were expressed clearly and strongly, and political correctness was not part of his vocabulary. He spoke from the heart. He represented something that is now a thing of the past among politicians, namely, the ability to call things as they are. Without fear or favour he expressed his views strongly in the House. I served with him for three years in the Seanad and from time to time on various Oireachtas committees, and he had sincerely held views which were always strongly expressed.
Senator Farrell always wore a smile on his face and he enjoyed his politics. He enjoyed the friendship of people right across the political spectrum and was respected because of that. He wore his disability lightly and was an inspiration to many people who suffered similar burdens in life. To his friends, and particularly his family, I express my sympathy, although it is some months since he died. He is one of those political figures whose legacy remains strong. We all remember him in a very fond fashion. May he rest in peace.
I, too, want to be associated with all the kind remarks about the late Senator Willie Farrell. I served here with him from 1997 until 2002 and we were on the same panel. I joked earlier about chocolate, but that was a reference to slightly later. Despite that fact, however, we became great friends. He had lovely stories and was always prepared to give one the arm, and advice, which was unusual for people on the same panel in this House. As my colleague here said, he was very much a straight shooter. He contributed in practically every sitting, particularly on the Order of Business, and he was always extremely practical in what he dealt with.
I was always very happy to be in his company. I recall a nice summer's day in Rosses Point, when he scored very well in an Oireachtas outing. He was adept at the golf, despite his disability and greatly enjoyed it. He did not seem to be handicapped because he could beat the blazes out of many of us, as I discovered. I am delighted to be associated with this celebration of his life, in a sense. There is much more that we could say but the Cathaoirleach does not want us to hold up the House any further, since we have an important Bill to deal with. That said, I am delighted to be associated with all the tributes that Willie richly deserves. Ar dheis DÃ© go raibh a ainm dÃlis.
I am very glad that I managed to get back in time to say a few words on the late Senator Willie Farrell. I knew him for many years in the House. We crossed swords regularly and we both enjoyed it. I would meet him in the corridor afterwards with a glint in his eye. Once or twice matters got fairly hot but we never lost our tempers and there was always a good degree of humour. That is what I appreciated about him.
He was very much of the country. He spoke about his educational background, the traditional Ireland from which he came which now, sadly, is almost entirely gone. I miss him, he thought I was a rogue and I thought he was another one. We got along fine. I have been in Sligo a couple of times recently. The last time, not so long ago, I sent a message to him and asked whether it might be possible to see him. By that time, however, he was in a nursing home, it was within a few weeks of his death and it was not appropriate for me to go and see him. I doubt if any message would have registered with him, in the event.
However, I have affectionate memories of Willie Farrell, and he certainly stood for certain values. He came to realise that I shared many of those values, but I approached them in a different way, and from a different period. I was slightly younger, I believe, but now I am about the oldest person around, so perhaps I am of another age. In any event, he will be remembered in this House.
The one thing we will not remember about him is that he lost his arm, because it never stopped him. However, it did impel him to work on important initiatives for people who were disabled, and he spoke effectively on these issues. This is not for me a sad, but a nostalgic day. I have affectionate memories of him and I should like to extend my sympathies to the family, which must still mourn his passing and feel his loss, although a number of months have passed since he died. I think kindly of him, and I am quite certain that this House will not see his like again, because even in Sligo they are not being made any more.
My colleague, Senator Prendergast, has already spoken and I should like to be associated with the remarks made by her and other colleagues here today. They build a picture of a very fine man. I did not know him personally, nor serve with him, but what has been said has really painted a lovely picture of him. I join others in offering condolences to Senator Farrell's family, who are here today.
I would like to be associated with the expressions of sympathy to the family of the late Senator Willie Farrell. I knew him from the early 1980s, and regardless of whether it was at a council meeting, in the Chamber here or at a CPP meeting, whenever Senator Farrell spoke everybody listened. He always had something worthwhile to say and as the Leader of the House said, he was very much into the issue of alcohol abuse. He spoke very strongly about it and made it a national campaign in this House on several occasions. Week after week he raised the issue of the abuse of alcohol and the difficulties it caused to families and homes throughout the length and breadth of the country.
Willie Farrell was a great golfer. He was a former captain of Bundoran Golf Club. When he was captain of the Oireachtas Golf Society here he led an outing to his beloved home club, Bundoran. He took us to Rosses Point as well and we had a great few days there. He enjoyed playing golf, which is hard enough to play with two hands. Willie Farrell, however, was a champion with one arm. Whether in wind, rain, hail or snow, if there was an Oireachtas outing Willie Farrell was always there.
I have very fond memories of the late Senator and I want to be associated with the motions of sympathy to his family.
I too would like to be associated with the tributes to the late Willie Farrell. He was a Member of this House from 1982-2002, where he successfully contested five Seanad elections on the industrial and commercial panel. I had the pleasure of serving with him as a Member of Seanad Ãireann and voting for him on a number of occasions in his Seanad campaigns.
He was reliable, good humoured and totally committed to the Fianna FÃ¡il Party and Seanad Ãireann, especially in his role as deputy and Government Whip. I also knew him on the General Council of County Councils and the Association of Health Boards in Ireland. I recall one occasion when he was acting Whip in the House on a late Thursday afternoon when we were dealing with a Bill. The understanding was that there would be no vote, but at that time, people could be Members of the European Parliament as well as Seanad Ãireann. A particular MEP used to return here on a Thursday, on occasions. Luckily, Willie happened to spot this individual coming through a gate, relatively late, and immediately did a round of the House to ensure sufficient Members were present in case of a vote. Sure enough, there was a vote and I believe the result was seven to six. Willie always referred thereafter to the "magnificent seven", but on that occasion he ensured that a section of a Bill was not defeated here in this House.
He made an enormous contribution to Irish political life and served the people of Sligo with distinction for many years as a member of Sligo County Council. To his daughter Helen, sons Seamus and Liam, daughter-in-law, Siobhan, son-in-law, Pauric, and all his grandchildren I extend my sincere sympathy. I now ask Members to stand in silence for one minute. Members rose.