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Death of Former Member: Expressions of Sympathy (Continued)

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 840 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin] Ba mhaith liom ar son pháirtí Fhianna Fáil agus ar son mo chomhghleacaithe, go háirithe na Teachtaí Willie O'Dea agus Niall Collins, ár gcomhbhrón a dhéanamh le clann Peadar Clohessy. Is pribhléid an-mhór é dom mar uachtarán Fhianna Fáil an ráiteas seo a thabhairt agus a rá gur Teachta Dála den chéad scoth ab ea Peadar Clohessy. Fear ciallmhar ceanúil ab ea é. Bhí suim faoi leith aige i gcúrsaí cultúrtha, go háirithe cultúr a dhúiche féin, i gcúrsaí spóirt, i gcúrsaí ceoil agus - gan amhras - i gcúrsaí reatha agus polaitíochta. D'oibrigh sé ar son a mhuintire go dian dícheallach, Domhnach is dálach. Is léir go raibh tionchar faoi leith aige sa Teach seo agus i gcúrsaí polaitíochta go ginearálta.

I join the Taoiseach and all other Members in expressing sympathy to the Clohessy family on the death of their beloved father, Peadar. I particularly wish to express my sympathies to his sons, Andrew, Patrick and Michael, and his daughters, Alice, Margaret and Sinead. May the many happy and loving memories they share sustain them in the time ahead.

By remembering the late Peadar Clohessy, the House is again acknowledging the central importance of public service in our society and our lives. Behind all the daily hustle and bustle of political adversarial engagement, the fundamental point with regard to participation in politics is that it involves public service. Peadar Clohessy personified this more than most. Public services and love of parish - Fedamore - county and country defined the man and informed his politics and how he behaved in the political arena. He was one of Irish politic's true gentlemen.

Peadar was a great GAA lover and a passionate believer in the prospects of Limerick hurling. He was very much rooted in his local community and his county. We shared a memorable year. For me, as a Cork football supporter, 1973 was a magical year and it was also magical for Peadar in the context of Limerick's All-Ireland win. He had eternal belief in the capacity of Limerick to come back and win future All-Ireland championships. He is probably doing is very best above in heaven to try to influence the outcome of this year's championship. Peadar was clearly a great family man who enjoyed a long and happy marriage with his beloved wife, Jean. Sinead spoke very movingly at his funeral about their wonderful relationship and about what it meant to their children.

Peadar was a farmer and he loved to be out and about meeting people. He was a very accessible individual, which was an important facet of his political life. He was elected to Limerick County Council in 1974 and went on to serve as a member for a quarter of a century. During that period, he also spent over 11 years as a Deputy. He contested many general elections from 1973 onwards, with the exception of one of those held in 1982. He contested four elections for Fianna Fáil and the final three for the Progressive Democrats. He was successful in gaining election on quite a number of occasions. We all recall the general hurly-burly and very difficult times of the 1980s, particularly the three general elections which occurred during an 18-month period. In political terms, it was a extremely volatile period but Peadar gained respect from colleagues and those on the opposite side of the divide alike.

He was first elected for Fianna Fáil in June 1981. He was not elected at the snap election held the following February but five years later he returned to the Dáil as one of 14 Progressive Democrat Deputies. He served in the House on behalf of that party for just over ten years before standing down in 1997. His best election was that which was held in 1987 when he easily took a second seat for the new party with over 6,000 first preference votes. That was my first election and an extremely difficult one it was indeed from my party's perspective. Peadar had huge personal support in his constituency. As Des O'Malley said at his funeral, Peadar was not a soundbite merchant and nor was he to be found in regular attendance on the plinth. Nonetheless, he knew how to differentiate between what really mattered to the people he represented as opposed to passing fancies.

I understand from my colleagues, Deputies O'Dea and Niall Collins, that the constituency of Limerick East was highly competitive during the period to which I refer. However, Peadar showed remarkable tenacity and great astuteness in harnessing transferred votes left, right and centre and in remaining engaged with people. He won a seat in 1989 and 1992 in very difficult electoral circumstances for himself. He was greatly admired for both the tenacity to which I refer and for the success he achieved. He had personal appeal for those in all parties and those of us who remember him recall his gentlemanly demeanour, quiet disposition and engaging manner. He was intelligent and, above all, he knew the importance of the fourth and fifth preferences on the ballot paper. All those who are candidates in the forthcoming elections would do well to check his electoral record in that regard.

The one constant in Peadar's political life was having Des O'Malley as his running mate. At three consecutive elections, they took two seats in Limerick East for the Progressive Democrats. It was only in 1997 when Peadar stood down that the second seat was lost. He and Des had in common the fact that they both had uncles who had served as Deputies before them. Paddy Clohessy was a very celebrated hurler and was elected to the Dáil alongside Des's uncle, Donogh O'Malley, in the elections of 1957, 1961 and 1965. His bond with Des was strongest when they left Fianna Fáil to establish the Progressive Democrats in 1985. I understand the decision to leave the party was an extremely difficult one for Peadar to make. At his funeral mass, his daughter, Sinead, stated that his decision to leave Fianna Fáil in the 1980s was "the hardest thing he had to do in his lifetime". Obviously, it was not a decision we welcomed at the time but we accepted fully that Peadar acted out of conviction and on principle. Less than four years after he left, Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats went into government together and, as the Taoiseach indicated, he was the Progressive Democrats' Whip in that Administration. He worked very conscientiously and effectively in that capacity.

It is fair to say that Peadar did a great deal for many people and that he worked hard for his constituency and for the country. He was calm and dignified in everything he did. He was also quintessential gentleman who had time to listen to everyone by whom he was approached. He had deeply held and cherished political principles and beliefs. He was closest to the people he represented and was always available and accessible. He loved his parish of Fedamore and his home county and was a great advocate for both. Following his time in politics and into his retirement, he did a great deal to restore the local cemetery and to protect his area's heritage, culture and folklore. His empathy and concern for people remained ever present. We would all do well to try to emulate Peadar in terms of the attributes he displayed during his time in politics. Perhaps he displayed them despite his involvement in politics.

I again wish to extend our deepest sympathies to Peadar's sons, Andrew, Patrick and Michael, his daughters, Alice, Margaret and Sinead, and his nine grandchildren who loved him so dearly. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Jan O'Sullivan): Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan I join the Taoiseach and Deputy Martin in extending my sympathy, and that of the Labour Party, to the Clohessy family on the death of Peadar. The first thing to say about the late Peadar Clohessy is that he exemplified what is best in public representatives across the political divide in the context of his genuine commitment to serving his community and to doing his best for the people he represented. It was well known that people could come to the home of the late Peadar and Jean Clohessy at any time and that, regardless of their backgrounds or their problems, the door was open to them and they received a warm reception. That was the kind of service Peadar provided for a quarter of a century as a member of Limerick County Council and for over 11 years as a Member of this House.

I came to know Peadar during the course of several elections. I stood for my first general election in 1992 but I had met him previously as a result of our both being local representatives in Limerick. I witnessed at first hand the fact that he was a gentleman and that he was somebody for whom public service was a service to the people rather than about being for personal gain. He was rooted in his local community in Fedamore but also in the wider county of Limerick. His commitment to the GAA, traditional music, culture and the people around him was very evident and strong.

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