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 Header Item Leaders' Questions (Continued)
 Header Item Death of Member: Expressions of Sympathy

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 791 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny] As I have said on many occasions, the Government continues to negotiate with the ECB and we hope for a decision and conclusion on that before the end of March, the date next payment is due.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath It is time for action, the time for talking is over. The Taoiseach should show some mettle.

Death of Member: Expressions of Sympathy

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett We will now hear expressions of sympathy on the death of Deputy Shane McEntee, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. Before taking these expressions of sympathy, I wish to formally welcome to the Distinguished Visitors Gallery Shane's wife, Kathleen, and children, Aoife, Vincent, Helen and Sally, and other members of the McEntee family. I would like to think we could welcome you in better circumstances but we are delighted you were able to come here this morning to listen to the expressions of sympathy.

If it is agreed by the House, the following order shall apply in calling speakers: the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, the leader of Fianna Fáil, the leader of Sinn Féin, a representative of the Technical Group and the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Simon Coveney. Present Members in the Meath East constituency, Deputy Regina Doherty and Deputy Dominic Hannigan, may offer, along with Members from Meath West, Deputy Damien English, Deputy Ray Butler and Deputy Peadar Tóibín. If people wish to express sympathy in that order, I will call upon them in that order. Is that agreed?

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Is this to happen now?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Yes.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin I received no notification that this was happening.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Sorry, I did not know that.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny If it seems all wrong to find ourselves here, in the first days of spring, paying tribute to an absent friend, colleague, Deputy and Minister, Shane McEntee, that is because it is all wrong. It is fair to say that Shane not only brought great joy in life to Fine Gael, he also brought it to this House. It is a measure of the affection in which he was held that he is mourned so deeply and so widely.

Shane McEntee did wonderful work for Ireland, for Government and indeed for the party that he loved. From the time he was elected to the Dáil in 2005, his belief was always in Ireland and its people first. I remember on being appointed to office, when I had the privilege of nominating him as a Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, his sense of how things would at last change now that he had the opportunity to get things done. He was impatient and anxious to get going and get doing. The personnel in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine are reeling not just from his absence but from his presence, his ideas, his energy and unstoppable enthusiasm for his work.

Before his death, I was constantly hearing from people all over the country about their grá for such a grámhar man, about his great work for forestry, dealing most recently with the ash dieback risk, and about his work with the greyhound industry, small farmers and householders and families affected by pyrite. Since his death the same people have spoken of their shock and sense of loss. He was their Minister of State for a relatively short time but they knew and trusted him and had come to respect and admire him greatly. In many ways, he epitomised the word "great" in his physical presence, his energy, his resolve, his capacity, his enthusiasm, his zeal for his work and, above all, his great sincerity, his compassion and his gentleness, qualities that are perhaps devalued in today's world.

Everyone who knew him would agree that Shane McEntee was a solid man, always ready with common sense, a kind word and sound advice. He was, as we always expected him to be, always himself and always there. In being himself, he spoke and acted from the most powerful place of all, his heart. To speak from there not only reveals us but it exposes us. Shane McEntee gave effortlessly and extravagantly in the love of his family, of his community and of his county. He gave his life to people. I remember sitting with him in houses in Ashbourne dealing with pyrite. He did not just listen to people's stories, he lived them as they were told because he knew and they knew that what was at stake were not houses but homes and their futures - the everyday dream of places where couples could settle, raise children and pass on traditions to another generation. His family, this House and this country are all the better for having known and understood the presence of Shane McEntee, the sheer force of the authenticity that we feel now acutely in his absence, which has created a void for so many.

As a Minister and a politician, he believed in his country, in Ireland, and that our best days are still ahead. We grieve his loss and know that it is nothing compared with the loss for Kathleen, Vincent, Sally, Helen and Aoife, to his mother Madge and his many brothers. I was deeply privileged to work with Shane for a long time and at such a crucial time for our country. I was always touched by his sincerity, his kindness to others and I speak for the House and the Oireachtas when I say we share many warm and happy memories of Shane McEntee, political and personal. Every time he went to work, every time he helped a constituent, a farmer, someone in the food industry or someone he met on the road, he gave politics a good name, and for that we thank him.

The Fine Gael family feels Shane's loss acutely and grievously and we honour and remember him. In life often the greatest battles are the ones we fight with ourselves. Shane fought and lost and won those battles through his 57 years. It speaks eloquently of his shining qualities as a politician, as a Minister, as a Meath man and as a friend that this House is united in its still new grief at his tragic passing. As a Minister, he had an ambitious and urgent agenda. We will see to it that it is fulfilled.

As Taoiseach and as leader of Fine Gael, I am proud to pay tribute to our friend and colleague, Shane McEntee. I am honoured to have called him my friend over many years and I believe I speak for us all when I say the privilege was entirely ours. Go ndéana Dia trócaire air.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore On my own behalf and on behalf of the Labour Party, I wish to express my sympathy to the family of Shane McEntee, to his many friends and to his colleagues in the Fine Gael Party.

Shane McEntee was a gentleman in every sense of the word. I first got to know Shane as a formidable candidate in the Meath by-election, which first saw him elected to the Dáil. Over the years he served in this House, and during his time in government, I came to know him better, to respect him, to admire his work and commitment, and to like him. He was a gentle man whose passion and commitment came through when he spoke in this Chamber and elsewhere about the causes that inspired him. He was a fervent advocate for his community, for his constituency and, more broadly, for farmers and rural people generally. Shane was a man deeply committed to serving those around him and to making a real difference to people's lives.

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