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Death of Former Taoiseach: Expressions of Sympathy (Continued)

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 959 No. 8

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Seán Barrett: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett] No problem was ever too big or too small for him and he always had time to revert back. Even when he was in Brussels, when he came home, he went to constituency meetings because he wanted to keep in touch. He went to local branch, or cumann, meetings to learn from and listen to people, a lot of which is missing today. We are all tied up with modern technology, but dealing with and meeting people to find out what their problems are and listen to their concerns are still what we are all about. At the end of the day, when we are gone, others will be elected as public representatives.

Although Liam Cosgrave tended to be a simple man, he was also very shrewd. I was elected to Dublin County Council in 1974 and my area was part of his constituency. Through his private secretary, I would receive messages asking me to call to see him. The meetings would be about local issues. As a young politician who had entered politics innocently and without any tradition in it, I learned so much from him about being a public representative. He was a true public representative who wanted to represent people in this place and express their views. Sometimes my views and those of others did not coincide, but that is what this assembly is about. It is also what he was about. He stood firm in what he believed. At times it cost him, but that was his great quality. He did not deviate. If he believed something was wrong, he would say so and if he thought something was right, he would go with it. I learned so much from him about how to deal with a local organisation, local constituents and so on, things we all have to do on a daily basis.

Liam Cosgrave was unique in that when he realised his time was up, he left. He did not create any great fuss and I was fortunate enough to follow him when he retired in 1981. It was not an easy task to keep up the pace he had set in dealing with various problems in the area, about all of which he knew. After he retired he stood back and never interfered or made statements. His attitude was, "I have done it and now I am retired." He had other interests outside politics which were somewhat similar to mine, above all, horses. He was a regular attender at Leopardstown racecourse, even up to a couple of months before he became very ill. For me, he summed up everything that life was about. Many times we make life so complicated and get so tied up in our own beliefs that we cannot see others' viewpoints.

I will always remember Liam Cosgrave's qualities. He was able to deal with an issue and then move onto the next one. In his latter years he displayed his great love for his wife who had fallen into bad health. He showed the great love between a husband and a wife and was a great example to others. His life was about setting an example for people and giving leadership and his leadership was unique. He did not shout at people but led by example. He would turn up at a constituency or branch meeting or at a funeral and say hello.


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