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 Header Item Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions (Continued)
 Header Item Death of Former Members: Expressions of Sympathy

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 983 No. 5

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Seamus Healy: Information on Seamus Healy Zoom on Seamus Healy] I remind the Taoiseach that when he and his Government dealt with the nursing dispute under the public service pay agreement, the nursing recruitment crisis forced them to back down and make significant concessions to nurses in pay and allowances. We have a similar situation in our Defence Forces at present. The Taoiseach has acknowledged the significant difficulties that exist in the Defence Forces. The cases of the gardaí and the nurses offer the Government a clear precedent in dealing with the issues in the Defence Forces. All it takes is political will on the part of the Government to ensure the Defence Forces are properly paid and get their proper allowances. It is a matter of political will for the Government to ensure pay and allowances are restored in full immediately. The Government should do this now.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar It is not simply "a matter of political will". As a Government, we need to see the bigger picture.

Deputy Seamus Healy: Information on Seamus Healy Zoom on Seamus Healy The Government has done it twice already.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar There were disputes with the gardaí and two of the nurses' unions. Those disputes were resolved following negotiations and, in the end, in the Labour Court. In resolving those disputes, we needed to make sure we did not bring down the entire public sector pay agreement. We cannot afford to bring it down. We are trying to resolve the Defence Forces pay dispute. We asked the Public Sector Pay Commission to examine issues like allowances that are specific to the Defence Forces. The commission has reported. We have the report and we will bring it to the Cabinet in the next couple of weeks. I hope that will be adequate to resolve this issue. We cannot provide a fast track to pay restoration and additional allowances to one group of public servants without accepting that it will have a knock-on effect across the board.

Deputy Seamus Healy: Information on Seamus Healy Zoom on Seamus Healy It was done for two groups already.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar It will have a knock-on effect across the board. The public sector pay bill is €17 billion or €18 billion a year. An increase of 2% across the board would amount to €360 million. That is not something we can afford to do.

Deputy Seamus Healy: Information on Seamus Healy Zoom on Seamus Healy The Defence Forces are entitled to the same treatment.

Death of Former Members: Expressions of Sympathy

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Before calling on Members to offer their tributes to our distinguished former colleagues, Richie Ryan and John Browne, I would like to welcome their families and friends to the Distinguished Visitors Gallery this afternoon. We are joined by Richie Ryan's sons, Ultan, Cillian and Declan, his daughter, Aoife, his brother, Jim, and their partners; as well as by Richie's close friend, Carmel Feeney, and her daughter, Councillor Anne Feeney. John Browne's family and friends include Nancy, Carmel, Flan, Mark, Kate, Deirdre, Lisa, Niall, our former colleague, Fergal, Maeve and Maria. This is a poignant day for all of you. It is tinged with bittersweet memories as you join us in the Dáil Chamber, where both Richie and John spent many years at the service of their country and the people of their constituencies, which they served with honour and loyalty. As we gather to reflect on their lives, their contributions in life and their political legacies, I hope the memories shared here in the Chamber will serve to support you all at this sad time.

Although I did not know Richie Ryan personally, I knew of him as an erudite man who excelled in academia before enjoying a long career in local, national and European politics. He was a man of learning and culture. He lived a full political life, particularly in the difficult, challenging and often acrimonious days of the Dáil in the 1970s.

John Browne retired from this House in 2002, which was the year I was first elected to the Dáil. However, I served for two years in the Seanad prior to 2002. During my short time serving in the Houses with John Browne, I knew him to be a man of the utmost integrity. He represented his home county and his country assiduously and with fairness and honour. I had the pleasure of serving in the Oireachtas with his son, Fergal, who I am pleased to see here with other members of the Browne family today.

All of us are here to honour two deeply committed public representatives who served Fine Gael, their constituencies and their country with honour and dignity. As Ceann Comhairle, I pay tribute to them both for their long and distinguished service to this Chamber. I offer my sincere condolences to the family and friends of Richie and John at this difficult time.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I am grateful for this opportunity to pay tribute to two members of the Fine Gael family, Richie Ryan and John Browne, who served our country with distinction and who passed away recently. Ba pholaiteoir prionsapálta é Richie Ryan. Threoraigh sé cúrsaí airgeadais na tíre seo trí cheann de na tréimhsí is measa in Éirinn. Is cuimhin linn é mar dhuine neamheaglach a thug cúnamh do chách agus é ag fónamh d'ár dtír le gradam. Richie Ryan was very much a politician of principle. He guided our country's finances through some of the darkest times. Today we remember someone who was fearless in serving our country. During the 1970s oil crisis and the years that followed, Richie proved himself to be a capable and steady pair of hands at a very turbulent economic time. On television and radio, and even at the Christmas panto he attended with his grandchildren, Richie was satirised for his economic policies. He took it in good humour and he never wavered in his mission to save our economy and protect jobs and livelihoods. We should also remember that working alongside his colleagues in the Labour Party, he introduced legislation that ended the marriage bar in Ireland, extended the tax base and widened social welfare coverage considerably.

Having served as one of our first MEPs, Richie went on to top the poll at the first direct elections to the European Parliament in 1979 and again in 1984. His campaign slogan was simple - "Richie was Right" - and I believe time has vindicated the truth of that assertion. He served as chairman of the International Monetary Fund, IMF, and the World Bank and with distinction as a member of the European Court of Auditors. Following his retirement, he continued to serve the public in a number of voluntary roles. We all remember his work over many decades as a Commissioner of Irish Lights, a job he loved. Although I never had the privilege of serving alongside Richie, I met him on several occasions over the years. I believe his legacy of distinguished and selfless service remains a benchmark for those of us in public service today. His beloved wife, Mairéad, predeceased him. I offer my condolences to his children, Declan, Cillian, Ultan, Aoife and Bláthnaid, his brothers, his grandchildren, his great-grandchildren and his extended family and friends. Ar dheis lámh Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

Chaith John Browne a bheatha a tabhairt cúnaimh go díograiseach go dtí daoine eile. Seirbhíseach poiblí cróga agus lán d'ionracas ab ea é. Bhí grá mór aige don Ghaeilge, mar a chonaiceamar go minic san Oireachtas. Chuir sé go mór le cruthú beartas poiblí agus tá ár dtír níos fearr de bharr a éachtaí. John Browne was very much defined by his love of community. As a teacher, he encouraged and inspired his students to achieve great things and their respect for him was long-lasting. As a public servant, he made many contributions that shaped public policy and made our country a better place. I saw his political qualities at first hand. I have to say I admired his loyalty and hard work, his somewhat mischievous sense of humour and his insistence on always telling it as he saw it.

As a Deputy for the Carlow-Kilkenny constituency for almost 14 years, and for a time the only Member of this House from County Carlow, John Browne made valuable contributions on issues close to his heart such as European affairs, education, social welfare, the Irish language, criminal law and international development. As Fine Gael's spokesperson on justice and health in the early 1990s, he played a significant role in the development of our policies. John was a great lover of the Irish language and, as we often saw in this Oireachtas, he did much to encourage its use. Today we remember a man from Clare who became the heart of Carlow. He was much loved by everyone who came into contact with him. As we know, John's son Fergal has continued in his career of public service, serving in the Seanad and on Carlow County Council. Both men share the honour of being elected chair of Carlow County Council, 17 years apart.

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