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Death of Former Members: Expressions of Sympathy (Continued)

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 983 No. 5

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Michael Harty: Information on Michael Harty Zoom on Michael Harty] His first step into politics was when he was elected to Carlow County Council in 1979. He was nominated to the Senate by Garrett FitzGerald in 1983. He became party spokesperson on communications following his election to the Dáil in 1989 and remained here for 13 years until 2002.

He had a wide range of interests, including European affairs, education, health, rural affairs, social welfare, the Irish language, of course, criminal law and overseas aid. He was also a fluent Irish speaker and made many contributions to the Dáil in Irish and English. I offer my sympathies to the family.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I am privileged to say a few words on behalf of the Rural Independents on the passing of the late Richie Ryan. Mr. Ryan, who lived in Terenure, was predeceased by his wife, Mairéad, and his three brothers and one sister. He is survived by five children, whom I welcome here today, three brothers, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He was also predeceased by his great granddaughter, Angela.

A solicitor by training, in 1973 the Taoiseach appointed him to the portfolio of Finance. He introduced a wealth tax as well as increases in VAT. Deputy Howlin took to Dáil privilege in reminding us of "Hall's Pictorial Weekly" and Red Richie. I also remember Richie Ruin; I say that in total jest. I have fond memories of him in "Hall's Pictorial Weekly" at the time. Those were difficult challenging times and he was an exemplary Minister.

Mr. Ryan later became an MEP as well as Ireland's representative on the European Court of Auditors in Luxembourg. He had longevity and got re-elected many times to this House and then as an MEP. He had a distinguished career and gave sterling service to his community, his country and Europe. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

Deputy Bobby Aylward: Information on Bobby Aylward Zoom on Bobby Aylward I add my voice of welcome to the Ryan and Browne families. I offer sincere sympathy to both families on the deaths of loved ones. This is a sad day for them to be here, but they can take a lot of solace from it in that we are paying tribute to two men from Carlow-Kilkenny and Dublin who distinguished themselves for many years in this House.

I am from the Carlow-Kilkenny constituency of the late John Browne. I knew him for many years. I did not serve with him here; he left in 2002 and I came in in 2007. However, I knew him through Carlow County Council as I had been on Kilkenny County Council for many years. His son, Fergal, is continuing that tradition in carrying the baton for the people of Carlow-Kilkenny and I welcome him here today. I offer my sincere sympathy to his wife, Nancy, and their four children.

He was a very likeable man and well loved by the people of Kilkenny and Carlow - in particular Carlow. He served his constituency with pride for many years. May both of them rest in peace.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl It is appropriate that we hear a native Carlow man. I call Deputy Deering.

Deputy Pat Deering: Information on Patrick Deering Zoom on Patrick Deering I am pleased to have the opportunity to pay my respects to the late John Browne. I welcome, in particular, his family to the Distinguished Visitors Gallery.

John was my immediate predecessor as a Fine Gael Member representing the Carlow-Kilkenny constituency and specifically County Carlow. He was first elected to the Dáil in 1989, almost 30 years ago on 15 June. As has been mentioned, he was a spokesperson on health and justice during that time. Prior to that he served a term in the Senate when appointed by the then Taoiseach, Garrett FitzGerald. He first entered politics when he was elected to Carlow County Council 40 years ago in 1979.

John arrived in Carlow in the 1950s from County Clare as a very enthusiastic teacher, who wanted to use his educational skills to ensure that every child had the opportunity to prosper in life. He spent 27 years as principal of Bennekerry national school. It was in this area that his roots in community activism started to come through. His involvement with the GAA and his love of the Irish language were an important part of this, and he made many contributions as Gaeilge in this Chamber.

At local level, John was considered a Palatine GAA man, but it was with his rival club, O'Hanrahan's, that he won a senior football championship medal in 1961. Once his playing career was over, he cemented himself in the Bennekerry area, in particular the GAA club's many community activities. In 2009, he wrote a history of the Palatine GAA club to honour its centenary. When John retired from politics in 2002, he re-immersed himself in GAA activities. At that time, I was the chairman of the county board in Carlow. He agreed to become the juvenile board chairman for a period of time.

John was an educator and a politician but a community activist by nature. He worked tirelessly all his life for the advancement of others. He was ever generous with his time, support and commitment to the community, country and county. He will be greatly missed by all.

To his wife Nancy, daughters Carmel, Deirdre and Geraldine and son Fergal, and his extended family, I express my sincere sympathies. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy John Paul Phelan): Information on John Paul Phelan Zoom on John Paul Phelan 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.

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