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Phelan, John Paul

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Death of Former Members: Expressions of Sympathy

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189

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Death of Former Members: Expressions of Sympathy

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Death of Former Members: Expressions of Sympathy

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Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy John Paul Phelan)

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Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy John Paul Phelan)

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John Paul Phelan

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Snippet Contents:

I join those who have expressed sympathy to the Browne and Ryan families. I welcome them to the House today. As Deputy Aylward said, it is a sad day, but is also a fitting tribute to two men who in different ways represented their communities with distinctions as Members of the Oireachtas and members of other bodies further afield.
I particularly welcome Nancy Browne and her children, Carmel, Deirdre, Geraldine and Fergal. I congratulate Fergal on his re-election to Carlow County Council a couple of weeks ago, where he is continuing a tradition started by his father 40 years ago in 1979.
I got to know John Browne when I became actively involved in politics in 1994. I was a transition-year student and John was one of the Deputies for Carlow-Kilkenny. I got to know a man who, as others have said, was very witty and very capable. He had a bit of steel in the glove, which is a requirement for anybody who wants to be elected.
I voted for the first time in the 1997 general election on Friday, 6 June, which was the third day of my leaving certificate exams. I went to the polling station with my late father. There was an unusual arrangement in Carlow-Kilkenny between the two outgoing Fine Gael Deputies in that a significant chunk of Fine Gael voters in Kilkenny were asked to support John Browne from Carlow. He got one of his biggest votes in that election and was re-elected. I was delighted that the first vote I ever cast was for him.
John was someone who commanded genuine affection. We often hear horror stories about social media and the comments people make there in other senses. However, the comments made particularly by his former students on social media about a person whom I knew to be a likeable man showed he was obviously a much-respected teacher. He arrived in Carlow at the end of the 1950s and had made such an impact that by the end of the 1970s, he as a member of the county council.
He gave much of his life, interestingly his life after retiring from politics in 2002, to go back head, neck and heels into the GAA again, including chairing the juvenile board in Carlow. Not many people who have stepped back from public life would do that, but it was the mark of the man.
He was also well known for his poetry appearing in the pages of the Sunday Independent at one stage. Many of his witty contributions were published.
In his time here Oireachtas Members shared offices, with up to five or six people in an office. John Browne was a kind of father figure for many younger men who might have been new to Dublin and away from home. His advice was sought on many occasions. Even in the graveyard at his burial, some of his former colleagues recounted some stories, which are probably for another place.
I got to know Richie Ryan at the end of his life. There is an old phrase that one should never meet one's heroes. The flipside is also true. If one meets one's heroes and they turn out to be decent, lovely people, it is great. Richie Ryan was that in every sense of the word.
I extend sincere sympathy to both the Browne and Ryan families. They should be very proud of the contributions John Browne and Richie Ryan made to public life in Ireland.