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Death of Former Member: Expressions of Sympathy (Continued)

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 988 No. 7

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin] The loss of Peter is a loss to us all but that loss will of course be particularly felt by Maura, Emily, Peter and Joseph, his brother Vincent and his family and friends, whom he loved so dearly and spoke so often about. They will be consoled by the beautiful memories they have and the many happy times they shared together, as well as the rich legacy of public service that Peter has left behind. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien On my behalf and that of Sinn Féin, I extend sincere sympathy to the family and friends of former Teachta Peter Kelly, who passed away in January this year. Peter was an elected Member of this House until 2011 but unfortunately I never had the honour of meeting him as I only entered the House in that year. Having listened to the stories of the Ceann Comhairle, Deputy Micheál Martin and the Taoiseach, I am sure if I had met him, he would have passed on great wisdom to young Deputies like me at the time coming into the Chamber. Deputy Martin is correct as we see many stressed faces, and not just at times of election. I have probably aged approximately 20 years since coming here despite being a Member for less than half that time. An old school politician who was able to balance family and political life, as well as his personal time for interests and hobbies, is somebody from whom we could all probably learn. We could all probably learn to take ourselves a little less seriously, particularly in this Chamber, as life can be very short. I again express sympathy on my behalf and that of my party to Peter's family, his wife, Maura, his children and grandchildren. May he rest in peace.

Deputy Willie Penrose: Information on Willie Penrose Zoom on Willie Penrose On my behalf and that of the Labour Party I tender deepest sympathies to the Kelly family, particularly Maura and the children, Emily, Peter Jnr. and Joseph, as well as his brother, Vincent, and the wider Kelly family on their sad loss with the death of Peter in January 2019. I am the last constituency colleague left standing who served with him here.

Peter was a politician of the old school and all the better for it. He was dedicated to public service and the community he served. He was a man with sharp business acumen and a very good business brain, so one would underestimate him at one's peril. He was well known in the publican circles and he was an undertaker throughout his life. He developed the iconic Kelly's lounge bar, which was something of a local institution and it wrote a large chapter in Longford's social history until it was finally sold. His DNA was certainly Fianna Fáil and his loyalty to the party was second only to that to his family. He followed in his father's footsteps in politics and became chairman of Longford town council, as well as the county council. He served as party leader there, as Deputy Martin mentioned, from 1985 to 2003.

He was first elected to the Dáil in 2002 from the Longford-Roscommon constituency. He succeeded the late Taoiseach, Mr. Albert Reynolds, serving the people of Longford with great distinction for the next decade. As Deputy Martin said, Peter always had a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye and it would inform people that he had arrived at the pinnacle of his achievement, a seat in the Dáil. He was a great friend of the late Albert Reynolds and the later Mickey Doherty, whose stories are legendary. He had a great laugh at the time Mickey inadvertently sparked turmoil in the European money markets when discussing Albert. I was here at the time. I do not believe German Chancellor Kohl was too happy as there was trouble with the European Monetary System and there was a market frenzy that took several pfennigs off the Deutsche mark at the time. Mickey and Peter would have had a great laugh at that.

I asked him once how he managed to be voted political rookie of the year at the sprightly age of 58. He always had a self-deprecating sense of humour, which was great. We all know of his pride in Longford; the savage loves his native shore and nobody loved the shore of Longford more than Peter.

I remember a story from his first term and the Fianna Fáil Party leader might know of it. Several Fianna Fáil backbenchers were smarting at the lack of promotions and Peter told colleagues how he met the then party leader in the corridor and addressed the promotion matter head-on. I asked him what he said and he told me that he informed the leader he did not want a junior Ministry, and under no circumstances should he be part of the Cabinet. An impatient colleague, now probably gone, was irked by the mocking tone and quickly accused him of lacking ambition. Peter said he had a deep ambition and wanted to be a Deputy for Longford. He did that and continued to work for the people in Longford. That highlights his love for his native Longford and he remains the last Deputy from Longford to have represented that constituency here in Dublin.

He will be long remembered as a great character, a people person and somebody who both loved and was loved by the people of Longford. As a constituency colleague he had something we should all value, although perhaps it is not as prevalent today as it was in his time. His word was his bond and that is very important to me. There have been famous battles in Longford and Westmeath over borders. Peter knew his borders in Abbeyshrule, Lisryan and Edgeworthstown. He never went beyond Tang bridge, which separates Ballymahon from Tang, so he did not cause another battle of Tang bridge, which happened in olden times. He was a man of his word and a loyal person, even to colleagues of different parties. We all enjoyed his company and his tie was a great asset; it replaced a microphone when the Elvis impersonation was required.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan On my behalf and that of the Independents 4 Change technical group, I extend sympathy to Maura and the family of our former colleague, Peter Kelly. As everybody has said, Peter was a wonderful colleague. I served with him on the communications and energy committee and he certainly brightened every room he entered. As colleagues have said, he had a tremendous knowledge of politics and political lore as Albert Reynolds's chief lieutenant and in his career as a councillor and Deputy. One of his mantras was that, as politicians, we all need the odd mention in a newspaper, both locally and nationally, but it is really important not to become the story. He used to give chapter and verse of unfortunate colleagues who had become the story.

He used to do a famous canvass on Christmas Eve down the main street in Longford with carol singers to raise funds. He would always give us an interesting account of the people he met. It is interesting as this year we will all probably be canvassing to some extent over the Christmas holidays. We can appreciate Peter's achievements in that regard. He was a fantastic colleague and a highly valued Member of the Oireachtas. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath On behalf of the Rural Independents I will briefly say a few words on the life, times and sad passing of Peter Kelly. He was first elected to Dáil Éireann from Longford-Roscommon in the 2002 general election. When I came here in 2007 I gained no greater friend than Peter. I also gained his advice and counsel, as well as his laughter and fun. He regaled us with many stories about his trips to London and New York in dealing with Longford Irish associations. He loved his family but his native Longford was also a great love. I was present in the parliamentary party room on the evening he mentioned the story about promotion that Deputy Penrose described and people fell around with laughter. He could turn the most tense occasions into something funny or joyous. He was a true character.

He was a dedicated businessman as a publican and undertaker. He was an astute politician and I served with him on the communications committee as well. He was always in good form. I had the benefit of his hospitality in Dublin once or twice when we could not get accommodation. Peter looked after many of us. I express our deepest sympathies to his wife, Maura, and the family here today. I know how much they will miss him. We all miss his wit and enthusiasm. He demonstrated great political prowess, having been the late Albert Reynolds's right-hand man. He had many stories about that as well. He was a true Gael and Longford man, a true family man and a great politician. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

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