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Death of Former Member: Expressions of Sympathy (Continued)

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 984 No. 6

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin] He initially ran for the Dáil in 1973. In his own style, he said he was nicked of that seat when the Roscommon boxes came in. He lost by just 140 votes. In the great election victory of 1977, he won a seat. He was influential in the election of Charles J. Haughey as Taoiseach in 1979. He was then appointed as a Minister of State and worked brilliantly with his senior Minister, Albert Reynolds.

Many among our younger generations will find it difficult to comprehend how hard it was to get a phone into a house in the late 1970s. There were extraordinary delays of months. Between them, however, Mark Killilea and Albert Reynolds took the country by storm in terms of getting rid of the waiting times for telephones. That strategy transformed Ireland and prepared it for the subsequent economic development that took place. It was pivotal in attracting a great deal of inward investment. As Mark said, they went about it with energy and commitment. It came within budget as well. I will not mention broadband or anything like that but I suspect that if we had had Mark Killilea and Albert Reynolds around, we might not have been waiting so long.

The early 1980s, when I was a student in UCC, were a traumatic and difficult time for politicians. There were three elections in 1981 and 1982. It was a time of great instability and trauma for political families. Think about it - three general elections in 18 months. Mark was successful in two out of three of those, but alas not in the last one. He was subsequently re-elected to the Seanad. He was quite witty in his observations on the differences between a Seanad election and a Dáil election. He developed a great respect for councillors and their professionalism on the basis, he said, that they knew how to cod you. He said that, if one were to believe all those who said they would vote for one, one would end up with three quotas, but it never quite turned out that way.

In 1987, Ray MacSharry returned to Ireland from the European Parliament and Mark got his opportunity to become an MEP. He was returned to it in subsequent elections. It is fair to say that he saw his membership of the Europe Parliament as his favourite period of his political career. He was influential across the European Parliament, influencing much of the policy that emanated from it and elsewhere in the EU, particularly in the context of small and medium-sized farmers. He ensured that regional and technical colleges received EU social funding to commence research. At that time, universities were leading in that regard. He negotiated the western package, which allowed farmers from Donegal to Kerry to create vital farm infrastructure. He also helped to design the LEADER programme, which became a model for rural development.

I mentioned that he was a gregarious individual. He developed great friendships in politics across all parties. That is a trait of parliamentarians that we sometimes understate. It is important to be able to cross the floor and work alliances to get policies through. His friendship with former MEP Barry Desmond, for example, facilitated the socialist group supporting the Common Agricultural Policy reform deal when it was going through the European Parliament. He was particularly friendly with Ian Paisley. Interestingly, that was the experience of many of our MEPs. Mark would say that the image of Ian Paisley in the North, with all of his hardline rhetoric, did not quite materialise in the European Parliament context. He said that the late Ian Paisley often asked him for advice on the CAP reform package and was particularly praising of Ray MacSharry's lead in reforming CAP while a Commissioner. According to Mark, Ian Paisley would say that in Parliament only months after "he tried to run the Pope from [the same] Parliament". Mark was elected as a quaestor by his fellow MEPs. That was a significant election, as it showed the respect and esteem in which he was held across the Parliament. It illustrated the different perspectives from which Mark and Ian Paisley came. Mark organised a minor celebration in the bar with some colleagues. Notwithstanding the late Ian Paisley's puritanical attitude to alcohol-----

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin The devil's buttermilk.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin -----Mr. Paisley shouted in, "Will you give up drinking that devil's buttermilk?" Undaunted, Mark responded, "Come in and have one [yourself]." That was the nature of the banter and relationship between the two.

Mark always said that he could never have become a politician without his friendship and partnership with his beloved wife, Anne. They worked extremely hard as a team for their community. At times when elections did not work out for them, they worked even harder and kept going with the support of their large and extended family. Mark and Anne would canvass as two separate teams in some respects. We know the feeling. Anne would take her team to different parts of the constituency. They believed in knocking on doors and meeting people. Mark was unlucky with boundary changes, with his constituency changing three times, which posed significant electoral challenges for him. He and Anne were always best friends in that regard. He spoke on radio about this support during their 53 years of marriage. He said how he "would of course get the odd dressing down but overall our marriage was very satisfactory". They met and married at a young age and had eight children: Éidín, Niamh, Deirbrin, Niall, Donagh, Medbh and Eimhín. Of course, we remember that Mark and Anne lost their son, Mark, who was taken from them in a tragic car accident. I remember Medbh describing her father as a man who taught them all to love politics, farming and food, that last being particularly important. He also taught them how to "live life with great common sense, a positive attitude and a twist of humour." I am delighted to hear that the wife of Councillor Donagh Killilea, Mark and Anne's son, of whom Mark was particularly proud, gave birth to a baby yesterday. He has been named Mark. It is good to know that the dynasty continues.

All of the Killilea family will remember Mark as a great husband, a devoted father and grandfather, and someone who brought great love and fun to their lives. He was also a great public servant from our perspective, one who worked all his life for his community. He is sorely missed by all. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I never had the privilege of meeting Mark Killilea, but I am delighted to learn that we shared a love of Tina Turner. I am happy to advise the House that she and I are not currently in correspondence.

Deputy Dara Calleary: Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary Currently.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Or ever, by the way, just in case the Deputies wanted to ask.

I am grateful to have this opportunity to pay tribute to a member of the Fianna Fáil family who gave a lifetime of service to our country. These tributes, which we pay on occasion in the Dáil, are very important occasions. They serve a higher purpose than simply honouring those who have served in this House and paying our respects to their families. They also remind us, across all parties and none, of the higher purposes of politics - about loyalty, about love of community and about helping others. Around the world, we have seen a coarsening of political debate, and a cynicism and nastiness about politics has crept into popular discourse. Paying tribute to honourable servants of our country like Mark Killilea sweeps away some of that cynicism and reminds us of what unites us all in politics instead of focusing on differences.

Mark devoted his life to helping others and to helping the country, and by honouring him and others like him, we remember why we became involved in politics in the first place and are inspired to try to do better and try to do more.

Bhí an-ghnaoi agus an-mheas ag an bpobal ar Mark Killilea mar pholaiteoir a rinne fónamh dár dtír mar chomhairleoir Contae, mar Sheanadóir, Mar Theachta Dála, mar Aire Stáit, mar Fheisire de Pharlaimint na hEorpa agus mar chaestóir. Bhí sé an-éasca dó cairdeas a dhéanamh le daoine ar chruthaigh sé nasc san Eoraip leo agus lenar bhain Éire tairbhe go buan astu. Ba pholaiteoir é a chreid go n-itear an dinnéar i lár an lae. Mar Aire Stáit, chuir se feabhas ar chúrsaí cumarsáide in Éirinn agus d'fhág sé oidhreacht shuntasach ar sheirbhís poiblí dúinn.

In many ways, Mark Killilea epitomised the spirit of public service. His father, also Mark, was a founding member of Fianna Fáil and served as a Deputy for almost 34 years.


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