Seanad debates

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Death of Former Member: Expressions of Sympathy


10:30 am

Photo of Denis O'DonovanDenis O'Donovan (Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

Before I call the Deputy Leader and other Senators to make their contributions, I would like to pay my own tribute to the late Des Hanafin.

I extend a warm welcome to Des's wife Mona, who was his pillar of strength over many years, and to his two children, Mary and John, both of whom are well known to us here in Leinster House. I also acknowledge the presence of Des's three grandchildren whom I am sure he would be very proud of - MaryClaire, Darragh and John Jnr. I wish to express formally my sympathy to his family on their loss. Today, we have an opportunity to reflect on Des's long life and pay tribute to him for his many years of public service.

Des was first elected to Tipperary County Council in 1955, which is many years ago and the year I was born. Des succeeded his father, John, who was also a Fianna Fáil councillor but who died in 1953. Thus began a long and distinguished career in politics.

In 1969, Des was elected to Seanad Éireann in which, with the exception of one term in the mid-1990s, he served until 2002, which is an extraordinarily long record in the Seanad. During almost five decades of elected office, Des made his mark as a politician of deep conviction and a promoter and defender of conservative ethics at a time when the values to which he was committed, and which until then had been considered mainstream, were being questioned and challenged like never before. He is perhaps best remembered in the public mind for the strength of his commitment to his positions on the constitutional proposals on abortion and divorce.

Des's determination and fearlessness were evident in other spheres also. He will be remembered, in particular, for the courageous stand he took about fundraising issues within his own party.

Long after his departure from national politics Des remained a familiar figure to all of us here in Leinster House. With Mona, he was a regular and popular visitor to this home from home in which both of his children were serving Members, and both with great distinction. Mary Hanafin is also a former Minister as well. I have had the good fortune of serving with both of the Hanafins in the Seanad and the Dáil.

Des's career serves as an example to a younger generation of politicians who, regardless of their political outlook, have much to learn from his tenacity and sincere conviction that underpinned his approach to public life. Des will be missed for his friendship, good humour and honesty by all of us here in Leinster House who had the privilege of knowing him. He will be sadly missed most of all by his wife, Mona, who was his lifelong friend, pillar and soulmate, his children, Mary and John, and his three grandchildren, MaryClaire, Darragh and John Jnr.

Unfortunately, I must chair another meeting of the commission that was postponed earlier so I will not be in the Chair to hear the full tribute paid to Des in this Chamber. I also acknowledge the presence of Deputy Jackie Cahill who is a proud Thurles and Tipperary man. I am sure that everyone will have a lot to talk about during the day. If I can get back here and leave the other meeting, I intend to return to conclude this matter.

I call Senator Ardagh to commence proceedings.

Photo of Catherine ArdaghCatherine Ardagh (Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I welcome the Hanafin family to the Seanad today. I am sure they have been here on many occasions. I welcome Des's wife, Mona, his children, Mary and John, his grandchildren, MaryClaire, Darragh and John Jnr. as well as Deputy Cahill to the Seanad.

We know that the late Des Hanafin gave 30 years of public service to this country. Like many of us, he followed on a tradition started by his father. Des's children held him in such high regard that they also followed on in his footsteps.

Des was born in Thurles, County Tipperary in 1930 and he married Mona Brady in Clonmel in 1958. He had two children who are present today - Mary Hanafin who is a former Minister and John Hanafin who is a former Senator.

Des was elected to North Tipperary County Council in 1955. He held the position of chairman of the county council in 1956. He was subsequently elected to Seanad Éireann in 1969 and held that position until 1992 when he lost by just one vote. Such a loss is very hard to take but ensures one works that bit harder for the next election. Des worked so hard that he was again elected to the Seanad in 1997.

Des held very senior positions within the Fianna Fáil organisation during that period and ensured the party enjoyed serious success nationally.For this, we are all very grateful. I learned from talking to Mary that one of her father's proudest moments was in February 2000, when she was a Minister taking legislation this House. Her father, Des, was Senator at the time and other Senators commented and remarked that the father of the House, Des, was also the father of the Minister. It was a lovely moment that Mary and her father were able to share. I spoke to other former Senators today, including Olga Bennett, who have very warm memories of Des Hanafin. Olga said she would like me to note them for the record.

We know Des was also a much loved grandfather. The Hanafin family has made a huge contribution to public life in Ireland, which I do not believe will be stopping.

I am sharing time with Mary Hanafin's former constituency colleague, Senator Horkan.

Photo of Ned O'SullivanNed O'Sullivan (Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

There are no timeslots as such but we will allow that.

Photo of Gerry HorkanGerry Horkan (Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I am aware of some of the other people who are yet to make contributions, and I will try not to replicate what has already been said. It is very important that we acknowledge all of our visitors today, including Mary Hanafin, John Hanafin, Des's wife, Mona, and their three grandchildren, MaryClaire, Darragh and John, along with Deputy Jackie Cahill, who is here from Des's native Thurles. Carrying on from what Senator Ardagh said, I had a particular connection with Mary Hanafin who, like John, is a legacy of Des's great political involvement. When I was starting off as a councillor, Mary Hanafin was the local Deputy for a significant chunk of my electoral area, and she was also a Minister. I think I was the only councillor in the country with three Cabinet Ministers in his area because we had Seamus Brennan, Tom Kitt and Mary Hanafin, who were all together at the Cabinet table at one stage. It is a great tribute to Des that both of his children followed him into public life, as did his nephew Seamus, who served as cathaoirleach of Tipperary County Council last year and who is a serving councillor.

What some people might not be so aware of is Des was a past pupil of Blackrock College. He was a boarder there. He followed his three brothers to the school. He was very much influenced by his time there and by the ethos of the school. It was a huge influence on his values and beliefs over time. He found it particularly intriguing that when he went back to Blackrock in later years to canvass on behalf of his daughter outside the local church and in the general area, he met many other past pupils of Blackrock College. I was not aware of this until relatively recently.

Des had a very distinguished career in the Seanad. To be fair, he was also one of the youngest councillors and one of youngest cathoairligh of North Tipperary County Council as it was at the time. He was there before he was even 30. He spent almost 50 years in public life. A very small fraction of a vote was what lost him his seat on the one occasion on which he lost out, but he persevered and was back here for a distinguished period subsequently.

There will be other tributes to Des later and I do not want to take from other people's contributions. However, he was somebody who had his own difficulties and Mary certainly has acknowledged at many events that he had at difficult time with alcohol in his earlier years. It meant he was very non-judgmental. Even though he was very involved with the pro-life movement and the anti-divorce sentiment of the moment, he was not judgmental of other people. He had strong views, opinions and beliefs, but he understood people who disagreed with him and he did not judge them. It is always interesting and exciting in politics to have people who have very strong beliefs. One might not have agreed with his views, but they were there. He was passionate about the particular subjects with which he was involved.

Des was also a loyal member of Fianna Fáil. He was one of the few people left in the country who was elected to public life when Éamon De Valera served as Taoiseach. His father was one of the founders of the party. Des was a significant person who, after a particular era of fundraising in the 1960s, came in and, as a significant fundraiser, had a very much more open and transparent way of raising money for the Fianna Fáil Party. He gave an awful lot to public life, national life, Tipperary and particularly to his family, Mona, John, Mary, his brothers and their families and his grandchildren, MaryClaire, Darragh and John. It is nice that we are honouring him today and that his family, along with their local Fianna Fáil Deputy, are all here to join us.

I thank the Cathaoirleach and the Acting Chairman for the fact we have been given an hour in which to pay tribute to a massive figure in public life. Very few people will ever make 30 years service in the Seanad. Des is one of the top ten Senators in the history of the State in terms of service. It is a record many of us would like to emulate but few of us, I am sure, will do so.

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

I wish to be associated with the expressions of sympathy in respect of the late Des Hanafin. I welcome his daughter, Mary, his son, John, his grandchildren and his wife, Mona. I served in this Chamber alongside Des Hanafin from 1997 to 2002. I have to say, as Senator Horkan already indicated, he had very strong views. He represented County Tipperary to the best of his ability. He was very involved in local and national issues on behalf of Tipperary.

Des held very strong views. Those views were expressed throughout the length and breadth of the country over many decades. He raised those issues here without fear or favour and he was not afraid to raise any issue at any stage.

Des was a great Fianna Fáil person. He had a very long political career, serving as a public representative for almost 50 years. He must really have been a glutton for punishment because he contested nine Seanad elections. He went around the country from 1960, with no phone, driving poor cars, no communications and maybe a few envelopes. It was a great achievement to contest nine elections and to have served Seanad Éireann for 30 years. Before that, he was elected to serve on North Tipperary County Council.

As Senator Horkan said, Des Hanafin's father was a founding member of Fianna Fáil. Des had a great association with Fianna Fáil, going back to the foundation of the party. That was carried right through and into this Chamber and he was followed here by his son, John. I well remember serving with John in this Chamber and I recall Mary, in her various ministerial capacities, coming here on numerous occasions over a long period. The Hanafin family has given great service, not just to Tipperary but to the country as a whole. It has shaped the history of this country over half a century or maybe a century if we take account of Des Hanafin's father.

As already stated, Des was a great contributor in this Chamber over many years. People took heed of what he said and they listened to his words. He was a strong individual and had a very strong voice. We have all benefited from is strength over the years. I offer my sympathies to his wife, Mona, to Mary and John and to his grandchildren.

Photo of Rónán MullenRónán Mullen (Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

Des Hanafin was a colourful, talented and sophisticated man. It was an honour and pleasure for me and many other people to know and encounter him. He had a major influence on Irish politics, particularly, but not exclusively, in the 1980s and 1990s through his support of the pro-life movement and his defence of marriage for its importance to family life and social cohesion. What Des Hanafin promoted and defended in Irish political life may be well known, whereas why he did it is, perhaps, less so. It is now common to decry the connection between faith and politics and to suggest that the inspiration of spiritual convictions is a poor basis to form ideas about policy and law.That analysis does not hold up logically. Everybody, after all, has a faith in something, whether materialism or a higher power that shapes how they view things. There is also the fact, uncomfortable for some, that most of the change makers for good in our history, however, seem to have been motivated by some higher spiritual purpose. One thinks of William Wilberforce whose struggle against slavery drew its motivation and sustenance from his faith in an all-powerful, loving answer to the riddle of the universe. Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul II, Martin Luther King - the list is endless. In his own time and place, Des Hanafin chose a hard road of defending ideas and values that enjoyed widespread support among ordinary people but even then had many opponents in mainstream media and in the emerging new elite of Irish political and cultural life. To his enormous credit, he did not, as other politicians may have done, instrumentalise faith or faith-inspired social policies to boost his own political standing or electability.

Des had already made it as a politician long before. He did so at a very young age indeed. He was born into, and grew up in, a Fianna Fáil family in Tipperary, the sort of household that played host to rebels like Frank Ryan and Peadar O'Donnell and, as others have said, he was educated in Blackrock College. He left early and at 21 years of age was chairman of Tipperary County Council. Starting politics so young he could recall the founders of the State when they were in their prime. Legend has it that he had physically to restrain Dan Breen from finishing off a man who had brought a legal action against them both. When asked about the incident later in life, Hanafin shrugged his shoulders and said maybe he should have let Breen have his way. I do not know whether that story is true, but it is a good one and one that he would have enjoyed telling.

Des had made it and made it early in politics but it was with the transformation of his life through the grace that flowed in the restoration of Mona's health and his own triumph over alcoholism that there came a new set of political priorities. It was that sense of egalitarianism he always had. He said of attending Blackrock College that they were the best years of his life, the only time when everyone was equal and given the same treatment. That sense of egalitarianism blossomed in his championing of the dignity and the rights, for example, of unborn human beings. He and others saw the way the wind was blowing internationally in the courts and legislatures of America and Europe and they saw that what was happening was no basis for a just society. His opposition to divorce could easily be caricatured now as an unthinking defence of a law rooted in the State's strongly Catholic identity of the 1930s, but a law which undoubtedly had its roots in Catholic influence had by the 1980s and 1990s acquired a whole new social coherence of its own. Des Hanafin, William Binchy and others were not appealing to confessional self-interest or to some tribal loyalty but to a broad understanding of the common good and the rights of children in particular. At a time when many of the professional defenders of children's rights went missing or worse, they were concerned about how the change in divorce laws might impact on attitudes to marriage, commitment and the needs of children, and they were not proved wrong.

No politician is bereft of ego. One cannot succeed in politics without a certain self-belief, and the better politicians have a sense of theatre and performance. Des had all of those things in spades, but it took a certain death to self, a certain denial of ego, to embrace values that one knew would be good for society but which would also involve personal suffering, misrepresentation and, at times, vilification, especially when, as in Des's case, he had a taste for the bohemian life and he had very good friends in that world. He had been a pal of The Dubliners and many great musicians, and Senator Warfield may have some of that to recall. The 1965 Feis Ceoil was held in Thurles, largely in the marquees and main buildings of Des's Anner hotel. He had a good voice. I heard it on occasion and he was well fit to stop and chat with buskers because, whether it was a Taoiseach or a busker in the street, Des had the same interest in them. He would often sing along with the buskers and would be known by them. He had personal friendships with Luke Kelly and many others.

Des also became a personal friend of Pope John Paul II. He and Mona were both honoured by Pope John Paul II, himself a giant political figure in many ways when one thinks of his impact on the fall of the Iron Curtain. Des, being a great storyteller, was able to tell of one of the many occasions when he met the late John Paul II when the Pope actually spoke of Tipperary. He said that the Pope said that soldiers going to war used to sing a song and he repeated what he heard with a bar of "It's a Long Way to Tipperary". I do not think any other politician in Irish history would have an anecdote like that but that was Des Hanafin. He would have known Mother Teresa as well and he would have enjoyed the respect of those people for his principled and courageous approach to politics on issues in which he really and truly believed. He was willing to pay the political price for his values. We know that he lost his seat by a very narrow margin but later recovered it. He would have appreciated how in his song "My Way", Frank Sinatra sang that he "took the blows", but in keeping with another Frank Sinatra song, "That's Life" he would have appreciated how "You're riding high in April, Shot down in May" but are "back on top in June". That was Des's political and business story.

As a sane and sober man, with old world values and charm, Des could make people's day. He made the day of a friend of mine when I brought her to hear him speak at a meeting. He complimented her on her fine brown eyes, and it was entirely appropriate and gallant. It was a million miles away from the seedy selfishness of a thousand political and entertainment celebrities about whom we are learning with horror these days. Des knew his accomplishments. He was not above rolling down the window of a car and asking a taxi driver how he had done on television the previous night or it might have been how his Mary had done on the previous night because he was deeply proud of his family and of the achievements of Mary and John. Talent, as they proved, did not skip a generation, as it is sometimes alleged to have done with others around here, but for his wife Mona, who was honoured as he was by the Pope, it cannot always have been easy for her to have this larger than life figure in her life. Her greatness and impact on Des's life and the lives of many other people is well known. We sympathise with Mona, Mary and John and all the family on their loss but we also thank them for his great service to the common good. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

Photo of Ned O'SullivanNed O'Sullivan (Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I thank the Senator and it is a sign of Des's great popularity that there are so many here with a lot to say. I ask speakers to keep an eye on the time.

I acknowledge and welcome the presence in the Gallery of another Tipperary representative, Deputy Mattie McGrath.

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I will share time with my colleague, Senator Clifford-Lee. To Mona, John, Mary, MaryClaire, Darragh and John Jnr., I extend my sincere sympathies. They can be extremely proud of Des Hanafin. Conviction politicians are very hard to find. I am sure he would be delighted to be here now, fighting the good fight again on behalf of the pro-life movement. Des fought many battles. I saw a statistic recently in a battle against the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland. It concerned an advertisement by the pro-life campaign saying that there are 100,000 people alive today because of the ban on abortion. That is a legacy. He fought for that ban. I am sure he would be proud that the ban and the pro-life provision is still in our Constitution. It is there because of him and the campaign that he led.

Des was a sincere and honest conviction politician, a great statesman, and a great Irishman who loved all things Irish. He set a huge example and it was followed by Mary and John in their public service. It is not often that we have great examples of families following in the footsteps of their fathers and mothers into politics because people see the wear and tear on their father or mother and decide to avoid the life at all costs, yet he set such an example that his children embraced it. He was lucky to have Mona because she was his rock, like the Rock of Cashel. She was lucky to have him.I sympathise with her loss.

Photo of Lorraine Clifford LeeLorraine Clifford Lee (Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I will keep my tribute brief because I know many Senators wish to speak and we are limited on time. I will not repeat what has already been said but I would like to extend my sympathies to Mona, John, Mary, and Senator Hanafin's grandchildren, whom he adored. Unfortunately, I did not know Des personally but I am aware of the very proud tradition in his family in respect of the Fianna Fáil Party. Des continued this tradition from his father and passed this love of politics, Fianna Fáil and country on to his children, Mary and John, and his nephew, Seamus. This commitment to public service has been the hallmark of the Hanafin family who have contributed an enormous amount to Irish public life.

I would briefly like to mention Des's battle with alcoholism and his successful overcoming of the disease. Des's battle and his speaking publicly about it gave many people hope and the courage to face their own demons. He will always be remembered for that. I extend my sympathies once again to his family.

Photo of Kieran O'DonnellKieran O'Donnell (Fine Gael)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I want to be associated with the comments in respect of the late Des Hanafin. I welcome his family: his wife, Mona; the former Minister, Mary; and the former Senator, John. As a fellow Munsterman from north Tipp, I acknowledge that Des Hanafin was a political institution. Whether people agreed or disagreed with him, he was a man of conviction. That is really the hallmark of a good politician. The fact that he served for 30 years in Seanad Éireann is testament to his staying power and his popularity across the spectrum. He was liked by all, whether people agreed or disagreed with his views. He was very involved in Thurles and north Tipperary. As a Munsterman, as someone who admired his way of holding to his convictions, regardless of whether people agreed or disagreed, and as someone who would have known him through his family, I want to join with my colleagues in paying tribute to the late Des Hanafin and in welcoming his family to Seanad Éireann.

Photo of Fintan WarfieldFintan Warfield (Sinn Fein)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

Ar mo shon féin agus ar son Shinn Féin, ba mhaith liom mo chomhbhrón a dhéanamh le clann an iarSheanadóir Des Hanafin a fuair bás i mí an Mheithimh. On my behalf and that of Sinn Féin, I extend my sympathy and condolences to the family and loved ones of former Senator Des Hanafin following his death in June. While in many instances my politics are the mirror opposite of those held by Senator Hanafin, his almost 33 years in this Chamber show a significant commitment to public life and duty, which should be admired. I share the privilege of having served as a mayor or cathaoirleach, in my case I was 21 whereas Des was 22. There is probably no better example of his service than his children Mary and John who went on to have distinguished careers in national politics.

While I was waiting to speak I was recalling the pure excitement and buzz of Mary's ministerial visits to my primary school, St. Louis in Rathmines. Senator Des Hanafin retired from the Seanad in 2002, leaving this Chamber with the honour of having been Leader of the House. In conclusion, I extend my sympathies to his children, Mary and John, to his loving wife, Mona, and to the Fianna Fáil Party. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

Photo of Diarmuid WilsonDiarmuid Wilson (Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

Like my colleagues, I am delighted to join in the tributes to the late, great Des Hanafin. In doing so I welcome his wife, Mona, his daughter, Mary, his son, John, and their families to the Chamber.

As has been said, Des succeeded his father, Johnny Hanafin, on North Tipperary County Council in 1955 and went on to be the youngest council chairperson in Ireland for the following four years. He was elected to this House in 1969 and retired from it in 2002. The fact that he was here for almost 30 years places him, as Senator Horkan has suggested, in the top ten people who have served in the Seanad since 1922. That is a great distinction and a great honour to have.

One of his most famous political contributions to the Fianna Fáil Party was having been director of elections in the 1970 by-election, during which he was the director with responsibility for Donegal town. That resulted in him achieving a phenomenal result for the party in Donegal town, so much so that it brought him to the attention of the then leader of our party, Jack Lynch, whom he continued to serve with loyalty until Jack's death. He had the excellent help of his wife, Mona, neé Brady, who I believe has Cavan connections, in his many election campaigns. They divided the country up between the two of them. As a matter of fact, on one occasion I understand that Des almost achieved two quotas and they regretted that the two of them had not run for the same panel on that occasion so that they could have served together in this House. Mona is the only member of the family who, as of yet, has not been elected to the Oireachtas, but I would not rule it out.

Des was a dogged campaigner for the issues which mattered most to him, particularly the protection of life during pregnancy, but he was at all times respectful of the views of others. This won him respect from all sides of the House. He was the last remaining public representative of those who were first elected under Éamon de Valera as Taoiseach. His children, Mary and John, and his nephew, Seamus, continue his legacy in politics and service to their communities to this day, with the encouragement and assistance of their mother, Mona. While Mary and John are both taking a short respite from these Houses, I have no doubt that they will both be back with us soon. I acknowledge the presence of Deputies Jackie Cahill and Mattie McGrath in the Gallery with the Hanafin family. I will sum up by saying that thousands lived, and still live, because Des Hanafin lived. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

Photo of Victor BoyhanVictor Boyhan (Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

First, I welcome Mona, Mary, John, Mona and Des's grandchildren, and Deputies Mattie McGrath and Jackie Cahill. It is always said that one can judge people by their friends and the company they keep. I can honestly say that has always been my experience of the Hanafins. They have always been joyful, positive people who bring added value to life's experiences through their company in both their political life and their social, community and public life. I acknowledge that because it is important to say.

I was thinking yesterday about when I first met Des Hanafin. I met him in the company of the great P.V. Doyle in the Burlington Hotel in the early 1980s. I was only 20. We were having a debate about politics. I met him again many years later in the late 1980s after a lot of kerfuffle in Fianna Fáil. It was interesting that someone had said that Des was loyal to Fianna Fáil. Of course he was loyal to Fianna Fáil, but he was never blind to political faults in anyone, including those in Fianna Fáil. To me that was the measure of the man's integrity and standing. When I met him the second time it was at the time of the foundation of the Progressive Democrats by Des O'Malley in the late 1980s.I remember him saying "Be not afraid", which always struck me as his credo. That was his strong and continuous belief. I met him many times after that. He was always saying "Ah, it'll all settle. Be not afraid." I thought it was a very courageous line - a very simple but very powerful line.

I pay tribute to Des but also to John, who has done an enormous work in local government and who previously served as a Senator, and to Mary, who was a great colleague and friend of mine and who has done amazing things, with children and education being the two areas that stand out. Having been personally involved in child welfare, I can say that I have not met anybody who is more caring and compassionate about an equal start in life for children or about education. She did enormous pioneering work as the first Minister of State with responsibility for children and produced a strategy for children in Ireland. I acknowledge that. Clearly, John and Mary's great love of people comes from their father and mother. There is no question of that because their work in political life - some people might see this as a criticism but I see it as something very positive - defines them. They do not draw a distinction between their beliefs, their education, their standing or their political lives - they embody them. They are what they are. There is no other side to them, which is something that comes about only rarely in politics.

Des was an honest and outspoken man but he was never bitter. He was always kind. They are the words I want to go out from here today - "honest", "outspoken", "courageous", "never afraid", "always decent" and "always kind". He left a very special mark here and I know he left a very special mark on his family. If we have to do anything about the legacy of people, it is to live that legacy and carry their aspirations with us. We do so proudly and we never hide our beliefs or convictions, particularly in the context of the roles we play in our communities. I genuinely look forward to seeing both John and Mary not only in this House but in the Lower House in the future. I hope to see both of them back here. I also look forward to seeing Mona, an elegant and beautiful lady, in the future. It is great to see her here looking so well and it is great to see her family.

Photo of Brian Ó DomhnaillBrian Ó Domhnaill (Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I am honoured to have this opportunity to reflect on the life and times of the former Senator, Des Hanafin. He was a truly remarkable gentleman and a man of great integrity, fortitude and spirit. His legacy can perhaps be best summed up by The Irish Timesheadline "Des Hanafin: conviction politician who opposed the liberal agenda" over a piece by Stephen Collins on Thursday, 22 June 2017.

Des was a member of Seanad Éireann for more than 30 years. Perhaps his greatest legacy was the championing and promoting of the constitutional ban on abortion, which was passed in a 1983 referendum. The eighth amendment of the Constitution is Ireland's original life equality amendment. Notwithstanding the abortion legislation of 2013, the eighth amendment provides the last remaining protection for the unborn child in Ireland.

Des Hanafin was born in Thurles in 1930 to John, or Johnny, Hanafin, a draper and newsagent, who served for many years as a Fianna Fáil councillor. Des married Mona Brady on 28 August 1958. Remarkably, their two children, Mary and John, went on to serve in the Oireachtas as a Deputy and Senator, respectively. Mary, a current councillor in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, is a former Cabinet Minister. Today, I wish to use this opportunity, to again sympathise with Mona, Mary and John on their loss.

Des had a strong connection with my own county of Donegal. That connection began in 1970, when he acted as Fianna Fáil director of elections for the Donegal town area during the bye-election in the Donegal–Leitrim constituency that year. Des forged lifelong friendships during the course of that campaign with many of the people in the Donegal town area. Interestingly, that bye-election was won by the Fianna Fáil candidate, Dr. Paddy Delap, 47 years ago last weekend.

Des Hanafin had a vision which recognised that if western civilisation collapsed, a brutal and pitiless world would replace it. He also recognised that this civilisation's very survival now hangs on its ability to rediscover Christian truths and the values on which it was founded. He was a man of immense integrity who totally disregarded self-interest and self-gain and who always served the nation and the common good. His courageous work both within the Oireachtas and beyond it provided a beacon of light, hope and courage not only for his generation but also for the generations that followed. The renowned Irish statesman, Edmund Burke, laid great emphasis on the transmission of values from one generation to the next and referred to a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead and those who are yet to be born. One often wonders how many of us feel part of such a partnership? Clearly, Des Hanafin did. His work illustrated that fact. Indeed, the work carried out by Des is perhaps best encapsulated by the words of Edmund Burke to the effect that all tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.

Today, with western values and western civilisation caught in a pincer movement between radical Islam and hollowed-out secular liberalism, the ideals and courage of people such as Des Hanafin have never been more required. However, while Des may have gone to his heavenly reward, it is up to us to carry on his legacy and work and to ensure that we can live in a country and world where the foundation of our beliefs should not be diluted into some form of empty, secular, liberal narrative in a world where things disintegrate and where the centre cannot remain intact. The hollowing out of our institutions and our loss of identity are leading to a crisis of civilisation. All around us we hear the distress calls but too often, we remain silent to avoid jeopardising our economic or political interests. Des Hanafin did not take the silent path.

Des Hanafin's courage, determination, honesty and significant contribution to Irish public life can be summed up by a quote from the third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, when he said "In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principal, stand like a rock." Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam uasail.

Photo of Jennifer Murnane O'ConnorJennifer Murnane O'Connor (Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I would also like to pay my respects to the late Des Hanafin. I extend my sympathies to his wife, Mona, his daughter, Mary, his son, John, and his grandchildren. Listening to the previous speakers, it is obvious that there is so much respect for the late Des Hanafin. I met him briefly but there are things I remember as a child. He was a Tipperary man, as was my father. I always remember my father saying "He's a diehard Fianna Fáiler or "He's a Blueshirt through and through." He was a real Tipperary man. I always remember my father saying that. There are always things one remembers. We also have the Carlow connection. The Frenches in Carlow are first cousins of mine and the other side would be cousins of the Frenches, so they would have been down in Carlow on a regular basis.

I will always remember Des Hanafin as a very spiritual man. He always had a presence in a room and people listened to him. This speaks volumes about a really good person and a very good politician. Previous speakers mentioned the fact that he spoke so vocally about pro-life issues. That was not easy back in the day, but Des Hanafin always made his mark, which is another thing for which I will always remember him. For his family to have three members serve in the Oireachtas is such an achievement in itself. They are here today to honour a man who be will remembered. Des Hanafin will be remembered. In 30 years' time, his name will come up and people will say "Oh, I remember him. He did great things." We sit here and we pass legislation. Des was here for 30 years and his family can be very proud of the fact that he dad has made such a difference to the people of Ireland.

Photo of Robbie GallagherRobbie Gallagher (Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

Cuirim fáilte mór go dtí an Teach roimh Mona agus a clann uilig. Tá mé cinnte go bhfuil siad iontach bródúil as saol Des. I welcome Mona Hanafin, Mary and John Hanafin and the grandchildren of Des Hanafin to the House this afternoon. I also acknowledge the presence of Deputies Cahill and Mattie McGrath. I am sure the Hanafin family can be very proud of the legacy of Des. He made a huge contribution, not just to Irish life but also to Fianna Fáil. He served for almost 30 years in this House, during which time he contested nine elections. I can only imagine how difficult it was to drive around the country years ago, when there were no motorways or sat navs. Many in this room will know that it is difficult enough to find councillors at the best of times, but I cannot imagine what it would be like without motorways and sat navs. I am sure that Des is looking down here today and is very proud of the fact that his family continue to carry the baton of political life, through Mary and John, and indeed Seamus in Tipperary. The Hanafin family will forever be carved into Irish history, for all good reasons, and I am delighted to have the opportunity today to sympathise with Mona and the family. I am sure that this time of year is difficult, but they can rest assured that Des and the Hanafin family will always be held in very high esteem, not just in this Chamber but indeed throughout the country.

Photo of Paul DalyPaul Daly (Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I also welcome Mona, Mary, John and the grandchildren of Des Hanafin, and I acknowledge the presence of Deputies Cahill and Mattie McGrath. While I did not know Des personally, I am sure I have relayed a story about him to many people in this House on many occasions. My grandfather died in the late 1970s and I was farmed out to live with my grandmother. I have yet to meet a more passionate Fianna Fáil woman, the Lord be good to her. If one was a Fianna Fáil public representative, one was the blue-eyed boy or girl in her eyes. However, human nature being what it was with her, there were also some individuals whose eyes were a little more blue than others, and I remember Des Hanafin as being one of those. I have stated on record that it was probably through those formative years of living with her that I ultimately ended up here. My passion for and interest in politics was formed by my grandmother and her beliefs, as well as her love for Des Hanafin among many others.

Without rehashing all of the kind words that have been said, one way of explaining Des and his contribution to Irish society and politics is to say that he was an extraordinary ordinary man. I extend my sympathies to the Hanafin family. I told my story about how my love for politics and my party started and so I also sympathise with the larger family that is Fianna Fáil. We also have lost one of our rocks.

Photo of Ned O'SullivanNed O'Sullivan (Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I too am pleased to pay my small tribute to the great Des Hanafin. I extend my warmest welcome to Mona, Mary, John, MaryClaire, Darragh, John Junior and the two Tipperary Deputies who are with us here today. Des Hanafin is a legend in Irish politics, and in particular is a legend in Fianna Fáil history. He came from a good, strong, republican Tipperary background, and that informed him throughout his political career. I saw a photograph of him as a small boy sitting on a drum at a Fianna Fáil rally. There was a band playing and he is absolutely identifiable; he did not change one bit in the intervening half century. I associate him with the great names of the early days of Fianna Fáil. I know that he was not in the original front rank during the War of Independence because he was not alive then, but he was very much in the tradition of de Valera, Lemass, Frank Aiken and Jim Ryan. I am sure that even non-Fianna Fáil people would accept that they were great patriots. Des and his generation were the first generation that had to try to live up to the achievements of those freedom fighters and there is no doubt but that Des Hanafin fought a great fight for his country, his county, his party and his beliefs, both political and personal.

I knew Des and had the privilege of being able to vote for him as a young county councillor on two occasions. It is slightly ironic that I subsequently was elected to the Labour panel, for which - if my instinct is correct - a Hanafin will run on the next occasion. I hope that I can make some small contribution to John's election campaign by not running myself. I think that is the best thing I can do for him. I wish him well, and wish Mary well. People talk about political dynasties, and often use the term disparagingly, but anyone active in the political game has the highest of respect for people who were born into political households and feel the need and call of duty to continue in that. It takes great resilience for families to stick it out. There are ups and downs and over a long time, it is not possible to be winning all the time. At the moment there is no Hanafin in the Oireachtas, but I believe that could change very dramatically in the next 12 months and we may have a Hanafin in both Houses. I look forward to that prospect.

It was a great honour for Des, when he was father of the House, to have Mary, as a young Minister of State, come in to address this House. It must have been a great joy for them both. I had great regard for Des for many reasons but when most of our erstwhile colleagues retired from the Oireachtas and subsequently dumped on the Seanad when presented with the opportunity during the referendum, Des was one of the very few former Members who came out strongly and campaigned against the abolition of the Seanad. Many of his colleagues disappointed me at that time, but Des was four-square behind the Seanad because he realised the value of it to the body politic in Ireland.

It has to be said that Des had strong principles, which one would have to admire. He was also a man of great compassion and even though he held the strongest principles - especially on the big question of abortion - I never read anything by him that was hostile, confrontational or unpleasant to people who did not share his opinion. That is a wonderful thing, and as we are facing into the next round of that great battle, I hope the wisdom and passion that Des displayed will obtain throughout the debate and people will respect one another's divergent views. Everybody has an opinion and everybody tries to do what is right according to his or her own lights.

I often think that Des's compassion came from an addiction that I share with him, because I believe that when one goes through that type of thing, one thinks outside the box much more and becomes more passionate for their fellow men. When I was at Des's funeral mass and heard Mary saying that he had not had a drink for 50 years, something changed inside me. It inspired me greatly and I am clinging to it. I am sure that many other people in my fix would share that.

It is a privilege to be here today to remember Des Hanafin and to remember the great days of Fianna Fáil. Without wishing to be political, I hope those days will come back to us, as long as we are inspired by people like Des Hanafin.

Members rose.

Sitting suspended at 1.40 p.m. and resumed at 1.45 p.m.