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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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  1 o’clock

Deputy Robert Troy: Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy I do not know what more I can add to what has been said about Peter Kelly and Longford. Politics is a noble profession when practised morally and ethically. Those of us who practise the profession can make a positive contribution to society. Peter Kelly loved being a politician, not for the honour and glory but because he loved working for his community. He loved working for his beloved Longford and for her people. Throughout his career, whether at local or national level, he made a major and positive contribution to the town of Longford and the county of Longford and to so many people who live in the constituency.

Politics can be an emotive and competitive profession. I got to know Peter as part of a three-candidate strategy in the 2011 general election. Let us just say we were not at our best. There was a real fear that we might not get a seat at all in Longford-Westmeath. I have to say that throughout that election he ran such a fair and honest campaign. On not being re-elected he held no ill feeling towards me. On the day I came to sign in to Leinster House, Peter Kelly was in the Clerk of the Dáil's office thanking the staff for the courtesy they had shown him for the previous nine years. He offered to stand in for a photograph with me. On the wall was an outbox and an inbox for the post. Peter suggested that he should point to the outbox and that I should point to the inbox.

His loyalty to the party was evident in that general election and subsequently because he offered me his constituency office to hold my clinics. Even on days when I could not hold my clinics in Longford, he would offer to sit in and meet constituents on my behalf. He would frequently ring me about what was going on in Longford. As previous speakers said, he loved Longford, in particular, Longford GAA, Longford Town Football Club, Longford Rugby Club, and the Longford associations. He would be immensely proud of the large turnout of people from Longford who are in the Gallery today. In particular, I see Pauline, his secretary, who was so loyal to him throughout the years. I have no doubt that if Peter was around today, he would be out canvassing for Joe Flaherty, who is in the Gallery, because he saw in Joe some of himself, someone who, like him, had a real passion for Longford.

He was a very popular man. He was highly respected and loved by many. He had an enviable way with people because he would always stop and listen. He always had an interest in what the person he was with was saying. Regardless of whether he was dealing with the Taoiseach or some constituent who was down on his luck, Peter Kelly was the same. He was great company. Wherever I go, whether to the Council of Europe or any part of Ireland, and say that I represent Longford-Westmeath, I am asked whether I knew Peter Kelly. People always say he was great company, warm and engaging. They say he always made people feel good about themselves.

While Longford, public service and Fianna Fáil were all dear to Peter Kelly's heart, he was immensely proud of his family. When he dropped me a note with a constituent representation he would always finish off by saying that Maura sent her regards. When I was in the office with him meeting constituents, he was always immensely proud of how well his three children were doing in their respective fields. Today, we are joined by Maura, Emily, Peter - I know Joseph cannot be with us - and some of his siblings. To them I offer a heartfelt sympathy. He was a man of great faith and a man who believed in the next world. I have no doubt he is in the next world entertaining and engaging. When we meet him again, he will have many a good story to tell us. May he rest in peace.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl I thank Deputy Troy. I have been asked by his constituency colleague, Deputy Peter Burke, who is chairing the Select Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach to pass on a message. If people hear the bells ringing, it is because that committee is having votes. Deputy Burke wishes to pay tribute to Maura and her family and friends here today. He commented that Peter was always very friendly and had a kind word for everyone he met. That was displayed by the extraordinary crowd that turned out for Peter's funeral in St. Mel's.

Finally, I call Deputy Kate O'Connell to say a few words. It is not because she is contemplating a move of constituency but because she is a close family friend.

Deputy Kate O'Connell: Information on Kate O'Connell Zoom on Kate O'Connell I thank the Ceann Comhairle. I welcome the Kelly family here today. I wish to pay tribute to Peter Kelly, Longford, Ireland, as he introduced himself to me back in the day. I got to know him through Emily and Peter, as they studied pharmacy with me in the early noughties. The issue that emerged was how we would get home to vote so that I could cancel out a Fianna Fáil vote. The UK examinations did not fall in with the electoral cycle here.

Peter Kelly, as everyone has said, loved Longford and his family. He was so proud of his children and always so respectful of Maura Kelly. In the Kelly home, I always felt that I was welcome and that I was being listened to. As Deputy Troy said, he had the skill of being equally engaged with whomever he met, whether young or old, rich or poor, man or woman. To Peter it was all research and development.

Over the years we sat and talked politics at gatherings. He told me stories that were essentially framed to teach me a few lessons. Peter knew there was no converting me to Fianna Fáil but he did hold a deep respect for anyone who wanted to serve the public.

Peter Kelly was perhaps one of the funniest people I have ever met. The stories are infamous. He handed out undertaker business cards during a period of turbulence on a flight. He managed to dampen people's fears while getting his name out there. Each story was the stuff of urban myth but was actually carried out by Peter Kelly. He made us laugh more than his quota and when we thought we could not laugh anymore, he landed a supplementary punchline. His children learned early to be resilient on account of some of the stuff he did. On one occasion a body needed to be removed from the airport mortuary. Emily needed to get to the airport to get back to Brighton. Peter saw this as killing two birds with the one stone, so Emily was placed in the passenger seat with her rucksack behind in the empty hearse. They went up to Dublin Airport and he deposited Emily with great grace at the front door. He opened the boot with drama, took out the rucksack and openly wondered what all the drama was about and why she would be embarrassed since she was lucky to get a lift to Dublin rather than have to get the bus.

Peter was a real politician, a man who spent time with the people and who relayed their messages. He loved people and engaging with people. He loved life and lived it to the hilt. He got to meet all of his beautiful grandchildren and share in family events that he treasured so much in his final years. He had beside him, or, if not beside him, then not too far away, the woman who is Maura Kelly or "The Oracle", as we all referred to her back in the day. Maura kept the show on the road. She knew when enough was enough after a late night. She held everything together at home while Peter did what Peter was best at. No one will ever forget Peter Kelly and he forgot no one he met. We will never see the like of him again in Ireland.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Can we all stand for a minute's prayer or reflection, please?

  Members rose.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

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