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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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Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív Is cúis bróin é seo, ach ar bhealach eile is deis é chun ómós a thaispeáint do Mark Killilea. Déanaim comhbhrón lena bhean, Anne, agus lena chlann Eidín, Niamh, Deirbrin, Niall, Donagh, Medbh and Eimhín. The biggest tragedy in Mark and Anne's lives was the death of their son Mark, which happened very suddenly, just ten years before Mark's own death. Ar dheis Dé go raibh sé.

The Killilea family history in politics goes back a long time, to the foundation of Fianna Fáil in 1927. I am delighted that my colleague, Deputy Haughey, is beside me because he is a grandson of Seán Lemass and our three families go back to those founding times. I knew Mark well because we shared a constituency, though Mark had been in politics a long time before I started and was in what was then the Galway East area. Galway West was initially a three-seat constituency, which incorporated Galway city and Connemara. Mark represented east Galway well in this House, having been elected to the Dáil in 1977 and having served in the Seanad before that. When the constituency review took place, Galway West became a large five-seat constituency stretching from Clare right up to Mayo, and the east of the city was added in as well. To say that constituency was competitive, especially within Fianna Fáil, would be the understatement of the year. Three elections were held between 1981 and 1982 and while Mark was elected in 1981, he lost out in 1982. Those were tough times for politicians, as they had to fund three elections only to find out at the end that they had lost their positions as Teachtaí Dála. Mark was then elected to the Seanad. Those were difficult times for politicians and their families, particularly for those who won some elections only to lose in the later ones. We should never forget the challenges they faced.

While our political careers overlapped, the only election I contested with Mark was in 1987. There were four Fianna Fáil candidates on that ticket, namely, Frank Fahey, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, Mark Killilea and I. I came up the rear in fourth place and unfortunately for Mark, while he came in third, Fianna Fáil only won two seats. That was after Bobby Molloy had joined the Progressive Democrats. Shortly after that election, a rumour went around that Mark Killilea was about to return to Irish politics. The Leas-Cheann Comhairle can correct me but I recall that there was two people ahead of Mark on the list, namely, the Leas-Cheann Comhairle and Noel Treacy, and Mark was the third substitute. When Mark was asked about Europe he said he had not heard anything and did not know whether he would fall into that position but if he was called to go to Europe, he would drive off so fast people would hear the pebbles hitting the windows of his house. He had a fantastic turn of phrase for every situation and other phrases of his have been quoted here today. He had a fantastic way of relating to everyday things.

Mark went to Europe and although he had been a successful politician on the national stage, what he achieved in Europe may have surprised those who did not know him. The impact he made in the European scene was extraordinary. He sat in the European Parliament from 1987 to 1999 and could have gone on longer if he had so chosen. One of his greatest abilities was his ability to relate to ordinary people and their day-to-day problems. He spoke plain English and could translate complicated concepts in such a way that the listener of a radio or television programme could understand them. He did not engage in hyperbole or beat about the bush. I remember how well he explained the changes that were taking place during the MacSharry reforms, when agricultural payments were first introduced. Those reforms changed the face of agriculture in Ireland, the west in particular. Mark Killilea was a legend, both in Fianna Fáil and in politics in the west of Ireland.

I was not on the council at the same time as Mark Killilea and John Donnellan so I do not know the full story, but they often had public rows. However, it was always like cath na mbó maol, or the battles of deer horn cows that never harmed anybody. It certainly did not harm the two protagonists, as both of them were fairly well met when it came to debate.

Fear mór, gráúil agus cáirdiúil a bhí i Mark. Fear na ndaoine a bhí ann, agus fear é a sheas go dílis dhá mhuintir féin, do phobal an iarthair agus do phobal na Gaillimhe faoi chéile. Airíonn muid uainn é, ón uair a tháinig scéal a bháis ar Oíche Chinn Bliana na bliana seo caite. Mar a dúirt mé ag an tús, comhbhrón lena bhean chéile, lena chlann, agus lena gharrchlann. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher As Deputy Ó Cuív noted, Mark Killilea represented the constituency of Galway East. I call one of its current representatives, Deputy Anne Rabbitte.

Deputy Anne Rabbitte: Information on Anne Rabbitte Zoom on Anne Rabbitte I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for the opportunity to welcome to the House this afternoon the Killilea family, including his wife Anne, members of the extended Killilea family and Mark's close friend and colleague, Tom Craven. Mark Killilea was affectionately known to us in Galway East, and probably to many more across the country, as "Markeen", or if one was bold about it, one would ask, "Where's Killilea?". Mark was a legend. His name and deeds went before him and the tales we have heard today are all true. I was only a child when there was talk of the telephones Deputy Grealish referred to, but people were lucky if they got a telephone because then they knew they were in with Mark. That telephone gave them great hope.

Mark Killilea was friendly, popular and well-respected across all parties. He was a giant, not only in Galway politics but nationally and internationally. He held positions across the political spectrum, from councillor on Galway County Council, to Deputy, Minister and MEP. He always brought the same level of enthusiasm and dedication to all his work. As a public representative, he always worked hard for the people he represented or, to borrow the famous phrase, the people who ate their dinner in the middle of the day.

He did not have a Facebook or Twitter account during the many elections he contested. It was the family members, connections and respect he built up over the years that elected him. It is not easy to go out and get elected, particularly as he and Anne had eight young children at one time. The length of time he served at various levels has to be respected. Many of us would love to mirror that in our political careers. Now that we have Facebook and Twitter, we have a short pass to getting elected in some regards but Mark had to do it the hard way, as did many of his colleagues.

Mark was integral in reshaping the Irish telecoms network following his appointment as Minister of State at the Department of Posts and Telegraphs under Charles Haughey. I am sure he would have some interesting words to say on the broadband fiasco today. As a farmer, beef producer and silage contractor, Mark knew the many challenges facing farmers around the country, and he brought his experience to bear on the European stage when elected MEP for the Connacht-Ulster constituency. Mark played a key role in reforming the Common Agricultural Policy, ensuring small farmers received greater and fairer payments.

With regard to Mark's private life, we heard earlier about his love of golf but he also had a great love for Ballyconneely. He loved the Ballinrobe races and, above all, he loved Corofin GAA.


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