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Death of Former Member: Expressions of Sympathy (Continued)

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 809 No. 2

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  5 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin] When one looks back at the history of Irish education, one of the great democratisers of participation in third level education was our regional colleges of education. Many people without the means to get to third level education accessed it via the regional technical education model. That brought about an extraordinary binary system in our third level sector which has served the country very well in terms of the attraction of inward investment and industry through the years. That was one of the great legacies to which he contributed in the evolution of our education system.

  In many ways, he was left with the task of developing the free education initiative of Donogh O'Malley when he took up the portfolio. That meant the introduction of many more teachers and the development of our school transport system to accommodate the large extra number of students coming on stream to second level education.

  When he was appointed as Minister for Posts and Telegraphs in 1977, he met the challenge of bringing the telephone into rural Ireland. It is hard to picture the scene back then. Perhaps the Taoiseach can picture it. We look at the revolution that has occurred in communications today, such as social media, but the basic telephone was not something that everybody had back in the 1970s. He was very involved in that and also in establishing An Post and Telecom Éireann on a statutory basis via legislation. He also served as Minister for Defence.   

  He contributed hugely to the social and economic development of our country in the second half of the 20th century. He served all of his years in Dáil Éireann with distinction and, as a result, was a very popular Ceann Comhairle when he was appointed in 1980. He served in a very even-handed and distinguished manner. He was always honest, honourable and true to himself, his family and his values and it is fair to say he was liked by Members on all sides of the House. The former Taoiseach, Garrett FitzGerald, praised "the calmness, coolness and judgments which Deputy Faulkner has applied in office... always with dignity and courtesy". After his retirement from the House, Pádraig continued to work tirelessly for his community and did tremendous work of collating a history of Dunleer with his son, Tom. This work will last for generations to come. Not satisfied with that, he also wrote and launched his memoirs entitled As I Saw It in 2005. It is a must-read and enlightening for any person interested in history, current affairs and politics. Clearly, he did not waste any of his precious time. He was a very proud Louth man and a genuine gentleman of Irish politics. In his time, he made a huge contribution to his county and country. He was a man of decency and good humour who delighted in the achievements of his family.

All of his family can be tremendously proud of those achievements and his contribution to Irish life. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny Ba mhaith liom ar dtús mo chomhbhrón a chur in iúl leis an Teachta Ó Máirtín agus le páirtí Fhianna Fáil as ucht bás Pádraig Faulkner, a cailleadh beagnach bliain ó shin. Go speisialta, ba mhaith liom mo chomhbhrón a chur in iúl le bean chéile Pádraig Faulkner, Cáit, agus a chlann, Tomás, Bartle, Máire agus Pádraig.

Pádraig Faulkner was a politician who was bound by honour, duty and respect. It is a good thing for us to occasionally remind ourselves in this House of the intrinsic value of such qualities in public life. Indeed, in paying tribute to Pádraig Faulkner today in the House he served so well, we are paying equal tribute to deeply held personal qualities he brought to his public work. That was work he knew affected the reputation and well-being of our country and, therefore, our people and which he undertook as a consequence with probity, humility and sincerity.

During turbulent times for this State, Pádraig Faulkner served the people of Louth and his country with his characteristic courage and grace. He was always loyal to his people, party and colleagues in Fianna Fáil but, above all, he was loyal to those who gave him the most precious thing a democrat has - their vote. Even if they did not vote for him, they were his constituents and people and they knew he made them his own in all he did for them. There are many in this Dáil who never knew and did not have the occasion to engage with Pádraig Faulkner. Those of us who knew him well realised with sadness what his passing really is. Personally kind and politically very astute, he brought a precise sense of attention and detail to every aspect of his work, particularly when he sat in the Ceann Comhairle's chair when he carried the responsibilities the current Ceann Comhairle so ably carries. He was calm and steady, bringing to that role the necessary strength and order and dare I say it, in his Louth accent, with equanimity. He also brought compassion and common sense to his rulings as well as his sometimes unusual sense of humour.

As Deputy Martin pointed out, Pádraig Faulkner entered the Dáil just as the War of Independence and Civil War generation of Deputies, who had dominated this House since the 1920s, was moving on. His career bridged that period of time when the old made way for the new but he exemplified the value that marked that generation of leaders and that was of public service and putting people and country first. He served under four taoisigh - Éamon de Valera, Seán Lemass, Jack Lynch and Charles Haughey. He held the position of Minister in the Departments of Posts and Telegraphs, Tourism and Transport, Gaeltacht and Lands. I have occasion to remember his work as Minister for Posts and Telegraphs when the postal strike took place 34 years ago in a very different Ireland with a very different level of facilities. The crying need at that time in the middle of that strike was not related to the fodder crisis but the headage grants. Those Deputies and Senators of initiative and trust were able to sign in the Department of Agriculture for extensive numbers and volumes of headage cheques, which were more welcome than any postman ever seen in rural Ireland. In fact, the rush was always a case of who would get down first with which village or community's headage grants. Faulkner's cheques arrived one way or the other. As Deputy Martin pointed out, the DART system benefited from his early work.

Given the fact that his career generated many accolades, and rightly so, I suspect that his time as Minister for Education was the one that was most fulfilling for him. He took over from the late Donogh O'Malley and saw through the implementation of free second level education, which was a revolutionary fact in this country; the free school transport system through which the yellow buses became an indigenous part of our country; the establishment of community schools with parental involvement in the boards of management; the establishment of the National College of Art and Design on a sound legal footing; and the establishment of the National Council for Educational Rewards. These were all part of his portfolio of achievements in the Department of Education. His tenure also provided funds for the building of Oberstown and the long overdue closure of the reformatory in Daingean. Each of these was a considerable achievement but all of them together in that era when the country was coming through a very difficult period was quite remarkable.

I graduated as a primary school teacher from St. Patrick's Training College when one of the most far-reaching education initiatives of any era came into being. This was the introduction of the child-centred curriculum in primary education in 1971. I had the privilege of receiving an award of sorts from Pádraig Faulkner when he was Minister for Education in St. Patrick's Training College. Arguably, his piloting through of the child-centred curriculum was one of the most profound initiatives in education policy and the first major change in the primary curriculum since 1926.

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