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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)

[The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar] Markeen, as he was known to many of his friends, inherited a belief in helping others as well as a love of community. He served the people of Galway and our country with distinction.

  As Deputy Micheál Martin mentioned, when Mark became a Deputy in 1977, the waiting list to have a phone line connected to one's house was legendary. Indeed, it was one of the queries most frequently received by Deputies. As Minister of State at the Department of Posts and Telegraphs from 1979 to 1981, he oversaw a revolution in our communications network which ensured that the problem was eventually fixed.

  Mark made many telling contributions in the House, but perhaps most effective were the heckles he deployed against members of my party. He famously described Professor John Kelly as a pitch and toss merchant. The Irish Times reports that Mark had the ability to halt an entire debate in its tracks with his interruptions. Indeed, we are told he bashed the Opposition's record on everything from security to potato plants. As an MEP from 1987 to 1999, he had many achievements, most notably working on reforming the Common Agricultural Policy such that small farmers would be able to prosper. Everyone liked and trusted Mark and he was able to make alliances and friendships, including with Ian Paisley. He often attempted to bring together countries that were arguing with each other and sometimes did so with success.

  He loved sport, especially his beloved Corofin GAA club, fishing and horse racing, and won many prizes playing golf. Whether as a farmer, businessman, auctioneer or politician, he lived a life of hard work and integrity.

  I offer my condolences and those of Fine Gael to his wife Anne, their children Éidín, Niamh, Deirbrin, Niall, Donagh, Medbh and Eimhín, and all of their family and friends. We also remember their son, Mark, who died tragically in 2009. Donagh has continued the family tradition of public service as a councillor representing the people of Tuam and I know Mark's daughter, Medbh, as a result of her excellent work for the Government Information Service, following on a proud family tradition of service to the State through politics and the Civil Service. Mark did the State much service. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald Ar mo shon féin agus ar son Shinn Féin, ba mhaith liom comhbhrón a dhéanamh le clann agus le cairde an iarTheachta Mark Killilea, a fuair bás i Mí na Nollag. On my behalf and that of Sinn Féin, I wish to express sincere sympathies and condolences to the family and friends of former Teachta Mark Killilea who passed away last December.

Bhí gairm fada ag an iarTheachta Killilea in oifig phoiblí agus táim cinnte de go bhfuil a mhuintir an-bhródúil as seo. As has been stated, Mark had a very long and, indeed, distinguished career in public office. I am sure his clan are extremely proud of that. He served as a member of Galway County Council, as a Member of the Dáil on behalf of the people of Galway, in the Seanad and, of course, at the European Parliament with great distinction. He also served as Minister of State at the Department of Posts and Telegraphs. It seems his record there is a matter of legend in the context of telephone connections in the early 1980s under the then Taoiseach, Charles Haughey, whom he, as a member of the so-called gang of five, backed during the Fianna Fáil leadership context in 1979, something which, I am sure, the Leas-Cheann Comhairle recalls. I will not elaborate on that, but I wish to recall, as others have, that he coined the famous phrase that the ordinary people of Ireland are those who eat their dinner in the middle of the day. If ever there was a political concept or phrase that will resonate down the generations, that for sure is it.

I did not know Mark, but he was evidently extremely in tune with the people of his constituency and this country. His work ethic, ability and achievements have been attested to and I wish to join with others in extending condolences to his wife, Anne, his children Éidín, Niamh, Deirbrin, Niall, Donagh, Medbh and Eimhín, and the rest of his family and friends. We recall also his son, Mark, agus cuirimid fáilte freisin roimh baby Mark as the family lineage continues. I am sure that, for all of them, he was and always will be simply the best. We extend our sympathies to our colleagues on the Fianna Fáil benches and the Leas-Cheann Comhairle on the loss of a colleague and a friend. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin It is my privilege on my behalf and that of the Labour Party to join colleagues in expressing appreciation for a life extraordinarily well lived and remembering, on his passing, a Member of this House, the Seanad and the European Parliament who served our nation with such distinction. I send the condolences of my party to Fianna Fáil as well as the Killilea family. The Taoiseach is correct that it is important to take time out of the normal business of the House to reflect on colleagues who have passed on.

One of the words used in respect of Members of this House is "patriot". Various Deputies would define that word in different ways. I regard Mark Killilea as a patriot. He genuinely loved his country and was passionate about it and his personal beliefs. I did not agree with much of what he espoused. Mark and I came into the Seanad at the same time in the 1980s. I was delighted to be there, but I am not sure he was quite as happy to become a Senator, having previously served in this House and as a distinguished Minister of State. He was a very careful thinker with a clear vision of politics. Many people underestimated him, but he understood what he wanted to achieve and worked very hard on his objectives.

I had occasion to meet him outside the Houses once or twice in the Thomas Moore Tavern, a place of imbibement in my home town of Wexford, where he told me he was related to a person with whom I worked very closely for a very long time, namely, my special adviser, Anne Byrne. I did not quite work out the relationship between them, although I may figure it out over the course of the day. Anne certainly believed they were close relatives and was always in very close discussion with Mark when he visited.

Reference has been made to his passion for agriculture and rural life, of which he was a great defender, as well as his service in terms of telecommunications. In many ways, his time as a Minister of State, in combination with the senior Minister for telecommunications, allowed us to move on from the farcical situation whereby people were waiting for two years for a telephone connection. Everybody in need of a connection went to their local Deputy to make strong representations to get it, which was very bizarre. I am not sure whether it is true, but I was told that Mark always had a number of telephone devices in his car which he would give to constituents. They would still have to wait two years for a connection, but it gave them hope that they were closer to getting a connection.

Deputy Marc MacSharry: Information on Marc MacSharry Zoom on Marc MacSharry They were halfway there.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin His service as Minister of State facilitated the leap from analogue to digital technology. In many ways, we moved very quickly from a very Third World telecommunications infrastructure to what was a First World infrastructure.

  There are many stories about his passionate support for Charles Haughey. Many people think this Dáil is bizarre, but it is calm in comparison with some of the Dáileanna of that era. The Irish Independent referred to his role in the election of the Taoiseach in 1982:

Killilea would again come to Haughey's rescue, although he had lost his seat in Galway in 1982, having switched to a new constituency because of boundary changes. When it came to a crucial vote for Taoiseach in the new government, Killilea was among those who thronged Leinster House to see whether the hung Dáil would vote Haughey or his nemesis Garret FitzGerald into the Taoiseach's office.

The vote was so tight nobody really knew the outcome - and it seemed to be swinging away from Haughey when a farcical situation developed as three Workers' Party TDs, who had pledged to vote for Haughey, were hampered by the crowds on the main staircase from getting into the chamber before the division bells rang and the doors were locked from the inside, leaving them stranded.

Killilea's experience of the layout of Leinster House was invaluable. "This way, lads," he shouted and led them through a doorway to the press gallery, from which the three TDs were able to jump into the Distinguished Visitors Gallery - to the surprise of Maureen Haughey and various ambassadors seated there - and then into the chamber.

They were then able to vote for Haughey, who was elected Taoiseach...

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