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Death of Former Member: Expressions of Sympathy (Continued)

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 967 No. 5

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin] Peter was a principled and determined Member of this House. His views were fully and very carefully formed on every significant issue that we encountered in a most turbulent period during his membership of the House. He certainly was not shy in promulgating those formed views with Ministers, colleagues, his own electorate and the general public through the media. A chartered accountant by profession, he had plenty of advice to give, particularly during the period of the economic crisis.

Many times - I cannot recall the number because there were so many - during my period as Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform I had the privilege of engaging with Peter on fiscal policy, the implications of our monetary strategy and what we should do differently and better. Not only did he engage me in that fashion but he also engaged with officials of the Department in which I worked, as well as the Minister for Finance and his officials. He brought those views to the Bundestag where he argued them trenchantly. On more than one occasion, with quite strong vigour, he sought access to the bilateral discussions between the Government and the troika because he felt he had a unique view to bring to bear in his analysis of what needed to be done, not only from an Irish but also from a European perspective. One had to be respectful of his views on all of these matters. I recall being here for the graveyard shift when we had sittings on a Friday and there were very few Members about. I was having a sandwich in the canteen and Peter felt he had a captive audience. It was a long luncheon and took some time to eat the sandwich, but I certainly left that encounter much better briefed on a range of issues than when it began.

At all times in all of those interactions he was a man of extreme courtesy. He was what used to be described as a gentleman. There are probably fewer people in these Houses about which such phrases can now be used, but they could be used with absolute certainty about Peter. He had innate respect and courtesy with which he promulgated very strong views and that always struck people. His views were made known with strength but never with rancour.

As others said, his illness ended his career and life prematurely. On behalf of my party and all those who were privileged to interact with Peter in his five years in this House, I extend my profound condolences to Susan, whom he loved passionately and deeply, as well as his family and friends. Ar dheis lámh Dé go raibh a anam uasal.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett I too am very glad to offer my condolences to Susan and all of Peter's family on his passing. I pay tribute to him as a public representative, a Deputy and somebody I got to know quite well in my time here. I had heard about Peter Mathews before I met him. I remember receiving a telephone call before either of us was elected when I was told there was a fellow called Peter Mathews who had some really good ideas that I would like about what was going on with the banks and the bailout. I was told that many of those ideas would chime with my own. I saw him once or twice on the Vincent Browne television show. I was surprised in a way when I saw him pop up as a candidate for Fine Gael, as he was certainly not somebody who was toeing the Fine Gael line. I say this without making a partisan or political point. He was absolutely committed to putting across things as he saw them and with a particular passion about the banking crisis, the bailout and the costs he saw being inflicted on the people of the country. That fed into a particular passion about the housing crisis and the impact he saw as directly connected to the policies on the bank bailout.

Despite the fact that he came from a very different part of the political spectrum, we had many discussions and conversations. We were on the finance committee together and, as Deputy Brendan Howlin mentioned, we travelled to the Bundestag. If I remember correctly, he certainly offered to pay to travel to the Bundestag because only a limited number could travel.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin That is right.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett I do not know if he had to do so in the end, but he was absolutely determined to go. He was particularly incensed in his very pleasant way that the German budget committee got to see our budget before we did. He wanted to take up the issue and did so very passionately with the budget scrutiny and finance committee of the Bundestag.

As others mentioned, he was constantly referring to Susan. On one occasion I had a chat with him when Susan was in the car. He was travelling to the west and referred constantly to Susan beside him. His love and passion for her and the family were self-evident.

Peter was completely non-partisan in his desire to debate issues, regardless of where one was on the political spectrum. It was a regular occurrence for him to send a text message after a Member had made a speech stating "well done". He wanted to discuss it and analyse the ideas in it afterwards. That is an unusual type of politics and politician; he was somebody who did not feel constrained by party allegiance and was willing to debate and disagree with people on all sides, including in his own party. I radically disagreed with him on some matters, most notably on the issue that led him to leave Fine Gael - abortion. I have no doubt that we would now be debating very robustly our different views if he was here. As said by others, his views were always genuinely held. He was driven by conviction and a decent and honourable human being. He is a loss to this House but much more to his family. I again offer my deepest sympathy to Susan and his family. I am sure he will be long remembered in this House.

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace The Ceann Comhairle started by saying Peter was not a conventional politician.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl He was in the same mould as the Deputy.

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace I would like to think it was to his credit that he was not deemed to be conventional.

Deputy Bobby Aylward: Information on Bobby Aylward Zoom on Bobby Aylward He had a different dress code.

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace He was a bit fancy with the dress all right. We all agree that he was incredibly idealistic, but it came as a bit of a shock that he was so idealistic that he would go to Fianna Fáil and think he could change the way it looked at things. That was a new one on me. I am amused that the Taoiseach was receiving the long text messages along with the rest of us. I do not know how he found time to do so many things as the text messages were so long. It was mad, but they were always very interesting. We had many discussions about NAMA and both agreed that it was a horror scene. His experience in the banking world meant that much of the time he knew where the bodies were buried. It gave him great insight and he understood the gentlemen about whom we were talking better than most of us here.

There is a lot we could say about Peter. We miss him and were very close to him here in a strange way. In the 17th century a fellow by the name of Francis Bacon defined a gentleman as one who treated all others as he would like them to treat him. It goes without saying they are pretty rare, but for me Peter was a gentleman.


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