We will now have expressions of sympathy on the death of the late Deputy Séamus Brennan. Tributes will be confined to party leaders and all other Members will have an opportunity to pay tribute on another day when the late Deputy Brennan's family will be present.
Death of Member: Expressions of Sympathy.
Ba mhaith liom mo chomhbhrón pearsanta agus comhbhrón Pháirtí Fhianna Fáil a chur in iúl don Teach ar bhás Shéamuis Ó Braonáin. Ba mhaith liom cású freisin lena bhean céile Ann agus lena seisear clainne. Is cinnte gur ócáid an-bhrónach scéal a bháis dúinn ar fad. Bhí an pholaitíocht go smior i Séamus Ó Braonáin. Óna chéad laethanta mar mhac léinn san ollscoil ina chathair dúchais, Gaillimh, bhí a lámh ariamh sa bpolaitíocht. Le linn dó a bheith mar Ard Rúnaí ar Fhianna Fáil, d'éirigh leis go leor leasuithe agus athruithe a chur i bhfeidhm. Ceannródaí ab ea é mar Aire. Ba bheag leis stádas na hoifige ach ba mhór leis spriocanna a bhaint amach. Leas an phobail, feabhas an tsaoil agus dul chun cinn na tíre na clocha ba mhó ar a pháidrín. Ní raibh aon éirí in airde ag baint le Séamus. Seirbhís phoiblí agus cúram dá chlann, Shay, Daire, Aoife, Sine, Breffni agus Éanna agus a chéile Ann, a chuid príomh cuspóirí.
I was saddened to learn of the passing of Deputy Séamus Brennan overnight. On my own behalf as Taoiseach and as uachtarán of Fianna Fáil, I convey my sincere sympathies to Ms Ann Brennan and her family on the death of Séamus. He will be deeply mourned by all sections of our organisation, our parliamentary party, our national executive and in every cumann throughout the State. In the coming days we will reflect on Séamus's immense contribution to Fianna Fáil's welfare and on his proud career of public service. His untimely death at the age of 60 will be deeply felt in this House and throughout Ireland.
Séamus Brennan has made a massive contribution to our country. He was at the front line of Irish politics for more than 35 years and for that entire period, he served our nation and the Fianna Fáil Party with great distinction. He will be remembered as a brilliant political strategist, a dedicated constituency Deputy, a reforming Minister and a very popular colleague. He will be hugely missed.
Deputy Brennan had deep roots in our party organisation. His father was a prominent Fianna Fáil activist and director of elections in Galway. Séamus became active in Fianna Fáil as a student. He first came to national prominence when Jack Lynch appointed him general secretary of Fianna Fáil in the mid-1970s. He was our party's youngest ever general secretary and he brought great enthusiasm to the role as well as unrivalled organisational skills. His efforts in revitalising the Fianna Fáil organisation, alongside his genius for electoral politics, played a significant part in ensuring a landslide victory for the party in the general election of 1977.
He was appointed to Seanad Éireann by Jack Lynch in that year. In 1981, he successfully contested his first general election. He was elected to Dáil Éireann in nine successive general elections by the people of Dublin South, frequently topping the poll. His great commitment to his constituents and to public service made him a formidable vote gatherer and a great asset to our party. He had a keen political acumen and understood better than most the importance of communicating a political message. As a Minister, he was a committed public servant in the cause of our country. He was a practical Cabinet colleague who thrived on bringing forward proposed solutions to the challenges the nation faced. He was an able and capable administrator in each of the offices of State he held.
He first served as Minister of State at the Department of Industry and Commerce, with special responsibility for trade and marketing, in 1987, before being appointed Minister for Tourism and Transport by the former Taoiseach, Charles Haughey, in 1989. In a long and distinguished ministerial career, he also served as Minister for Education, Minister for Communications, Minister for Transport and Minister for Social and Family Affairs. He served with distinction as Government Chief Whip from 1997 to 2002 and played a significant role in ensuring that Administration completed its full term.
At the core of his political philosophy was his belief that a strong economy geared towards maximising employment was the best means by which wider social objectives could be achieved. As a Minister his achievements were numerous. His establishment of the Small Business Forum brought great change and improvement for small businesses. In his highly successful tenure at the Department of Social and Family Affairs, he negotiated significant welfare increases for the most vulnerable in society. In education, he published a Green Paper which placed special emphasis on giving priority to disadvantaged students and was the genesis for much subsequent policy development. As Minister for Transport, he brought forward many new initiatives in air transport services.
I served with Séamus in the Governments of Albert Reynolds and Deputy Bertie Ahern. I knew him to be a reforming Minister with a strategic mind and a huge grasp of public policy. He played a significant role in shaping the Ireland in which we live. I acknowledge his key role in the negotiations which led to the formation of the current Fianna Fáil-Green Party-Progressive Democrats Party Government with Independent support.
Séamus Brennan was a man of great courtesy. He faced his illness with great dignity and fortitude. He never complained and despite his declining health, he continued to work for his constituents and for the Government. I recall my last meeting with him during the campaign on the Lisbon treaty referendum. Even though he was battling a serious illness, his enthusiasm, commitment and innate courtesy were such that he joined me and other colleagues on the hustings in south Dublin. I remember a brave and courageous man, exchanging words of encouragement upon my arrival and, subsequently, the parting words, firm handshake and the inevitable smile that sought to reassure that all would be well.
I extend my deepest sympathy to Séamus's family, especially his wife, Ann, and his children, Shay, Daire, Aoife, Sine, Breffni and Éanna, as well as his wider family and wide circle of friends. Braon de dhrúcht na bhflaitheas agus deoch de thobar na ngrásta, go mbeannaí Dia d'anam a Shéamuis.
On my own behalf and that of the Fine Gael Party, I wish to tender our deepest sympathy and condolences to Séamus Brennan's wife, Ann, and their six children, as well as to the Fianna Fáil Party on its loss of an active, elected Member who held many ministerial portfolios over the years. I spoke to Séamus Brennan outside this House just after Christmas and he knew that this was not going to be easy. He spoke of his illness and his understanding of mortality in a way that few would.
I first met Séamus Brennan shortly after 1973 when he was appointed general secretary of Fianna Fáil. I was elected to the House in 1975. In the early 1980s, Séamus Brennan was already talking about the power of the computer and its capacity to allow politicians to maintain contact with constituents and interest groups in various sectors of society. His understanding of human nature and the mechanics of politics made him an outstanding elected representative. On more than one occasion when times were difficult and a political crisis erupted, Séamus Brennan could always be relied upon to be wheeled out by Fianna Fáil to defend whatever the issue might be. He did so with a simplicity and nature that was hard to dislike. Of the many people I have seen pass through this House, Séamus Brennan epitomised through his western roots a deep understanding of people's concerns and of humanity in general.
For him, politics was an all consuming passion. It was his life and I do not think he worked at anything else, other than having qualified as an accountant in UCG before joining Fianna Fáil. He brought about a marked change in the way political parties did their business. He was the first in the country to bring a sense of analysis to political polls and electoral trends that came from the United States and changed forever the way political parties operated here. He knew the organisation of his own party inside out and from top to bottom. There was not a village, parish or townland that he could not pinpoint from Donegal to Wexford, or from Louth to west Cork, as well as knowing individual party members there. He had been around such places, building up Fianna Fáil in the early 1970s. I recall his many television appearances when he explained in his own quiet way what it was like to be general secretary of a party that was striving for Government at that time. From that perspective, he served his country well in a range of junior and senior ministerial portfolios.
His family and friends can be proud of the part that Séamus Brennan played in Irish political life and in public life generally. At public meetings, he always went out of his way to pay respect to his elected colleagues from all parties and none. He made a point of crossing crowded rooms to seek out other elected representatives and show them a respect that the ballot box brings. For that, I pay him tribute. Young, aspiring politicians would do well to study the way in which Séamus Brennan conducted himself in terms of the responsibilities given to him both by the people and by the Taoisigh with whom he served in various Departments.
In his own unassuming way, he was never shy about garnering the odd bit of publicity. One of those who worked with him told me: "You could find a major statement in the national newspapers on a Monday morning from Séamus Brennan, but when you looked for the press release that went with it, there was no press release". That was because on quiet days Séamus Brennan would take up the phone and give journalists some news story that would carry the day for them and for him. I shall miss him as a friend and a political colleague. After Christmas, just outside these doors, he said to me: "I've had a tough battle. I'm not sure whether I can weather this storm or not." He has gone and politics is the poorer for his passing. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.
Ba mhaith liom cur leis na focail atá ráite ag an Taoiseach agus an Teachta Kenny ar an lá brónach seo, lá bháis Séamus Brennan. Ba mhaith liom comhbhrón thar mo cheann féin agus thar cheann Pháirtí an Lucht Oibre a ghabháil le Ann Brennan, lena clann agus le comghleacaithe Shéamuis i Fianna Fáil agus sa Rialtas.
Today is a sad day for all of us, but particularly for the Brennan family as well as Séamus's Government colleagues and others in Fianna Fáil. Séamus Brennan has given his entire adult life to the service of his party, constituency and country. He was appointed general secretary of Fianna Fáil at the remarkably young age of 25 by the former Taoiseach, Jack Lynch. Since then, he served in the Seanad and Dáil, holding several ministerial offices with great distinction. Séamus Brennan was a rare political phenomenon: a politician of strong convictions, effective for his party and quietly partisan, yet an extremely likeable person. He managed to conduct his political business effectively but without rancour or animus, which is the way all of us will remember him.
My constituency and his adjoin each other, so it was inevitable that our care of constituents and dealings on various issues would sometimes overlap. I always had great admiration for the way in which Séamus served his constituents individually and dealt with issues that arose in his constituency. Sometimes, the constituency boundaries would change and on one such occasion I inherited two of his election workers. They needed no induction to the business of how to run an election, including campaigning and canvassing. They were the best I had seen in a long time.
We also shared our Galway origins and I always enjoyed discussing such matters with him, including football, hurling, politics or Galway people. He had a particular affiliation with the university in Galway, which he attended. The last time I met Séamus socially was at an event in NUIG a couple of months ago, where he was presented with an award by the university for his service to public life. He was enormously proud of the recognition that he got from the university on that occasion. While I had known he was ill and we all shared the struggle that he battled so bravely, I do not think any of us was to know on that occasion that his time would be short afterwards.
On behalf of the Labour Party I extend my sympathy to his wife Ann, to their children and to all his colleagues in Fianna Fáil.
I was very saddened to hear about the death of Séamus Brennan, a very good colleague in the Government. I convey my deepest sympathy on behalf of the Green Party to his wife Ann and his children, and to his colleagues in the Fianna Fáil Party.
Séamus Brennan had a very distinguished political career and made a great contribution to Irish public life. I got to know him very well when I was a Whip in the Opposition. That period formed my impression of the man. He could not have been more generous with his time, and he facilitated me with any requests that were made. That built up a relationship and it has been rightly said that he played an important role in the formation of this Government. In fact, he played the pivotal role in the formation of this Government. Throughout my time in the Opposition, he always made a point of saying to me "whatever you do, do not close any doors". He repeated that over and over again. Eventually the message got through and we did not close any doors.
After the last election, he got my mobile phone number and constantly sent me texts. Eventually we spoke on the phone and I began to realise that the offers of negotiation were serious. We ended up in Government buildings and Séamus Brennan greeted the Green Party team with the immortal words, "you are playing senior hurling now lads". He added ominously, "but you are playing with lads with All Ireland medals".
He was a model of wisdom, courtesy, calmness, total reliability and modesty. When he was Government Chief Whip and getting great press, I remember saying to him "Séamus, it seems that you are now a political star". He said "John, there are no stars in politics". It is a lesson we could usefully learn today. We are here to do a job and he did that job. He knew he was here to serve the public and he did that with total reliability, which was borne out by the fact that he topped the poll time and again.
People are genuinely saddened today. Sitting beside him in Cabinet and watching him fight that illness was a difficult experience for all of us. He did so with great dignity. He never complained. He was a campaigning TD to the very last and served his constituents with total dedication. It is with a genuine feeling of sadness that I come to the House today on behalf of my party to say ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam uasal.
On behalf of the Sinn Féin Party, I join in the expression of sympathy to the family of the late Deputy Séamus Brennan. To his wife Ann, his two sons and four daughters, we offer our sincere sympathy. We also offer condolences to the Fianna Fáil Party, in which Séamus Brennan was a long serving and leading member.
Séamus Brennan was courteous and friendly, and was willing to listen and engage with all sides in the Dáil. I had the privilege of being with him in Boston in 2004, when we addressed a number of meetings on the Northern peace process. Throughout that day, he was courteous and generous, and understood the desire of the Irish American community for a successful conclusion to the peace process. It was a long day and later on that night, I thought he was about to look for an application form to join Sinn Féin. He left a striking presence in my mind from that day on.
While it was known that he was ill, he bore this illness without any fuss or attention, but he has now passed away at the relatively young age of 60. No doubt he would have much more to contribute to public life had he survived his illness, and he deserves the respect for the contribution he made over his long career. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.
We were all sad to hear of the premature passing overnight of our colleague, Séamus Brennan. As many others have said, Séamus was the consummate politician. He devoted almost all of his adult life to politics. He was appointed general secretary of the Fianna Fáil Party when he was 24 years of age. He served in six different Departments, and he used his great intelligence and his spirit of innovation in each of them. I remember being very impressed with how he moved from issues relating to competition in transport to the cause of society's most vulnerable in social welfare. He applied the same energy, vigour and determination to that task and his colleagues in the Government were deeply impressed with his commitment. He was like a dog with a bone. When he took up a cause, he did not easily give it up.
I have known him for all my political career. He was very encouraging to me in my early years when I joined a political party. I remember him calling me once to tell me I had been added to the ticket in Dublin South-East. I asked him where that was, as I was living in west Dublin and that is where I had sought to be a candidate. He said to me "it is those posh places like Ballsbridge, but it is also where I live in Goatstown, and you will be fine". We have had a very good personal relationship ever since.
His political judgment was incredible. He was not just a good organiser and a great campaigner. He brought a new style to Irish political campaigns in the 1970s. He had somebody like me wearing tee shirts and singing songs, even though I cannot hold a note. He had a great vision of the kind of country he wanted. He passionately believed in a united Ireland, but he also passionately believed that could only be achieved by agreement, by persuasion and not by force. He was totally loyal to the Fianna Fáil Party. I should know as I tried to get him to leave. He was completely committed to his party in every sense.
When the Government came into office in 1997, most people said it would not last six months. It was a coalition Government between two parties that had not got on in a previous arrangement, and it was a minority Government dependent on four Independent Deputies. The skills of the then Taoiseach were very important in keeping that Government together, but Séamus Brennan's political skills as Chief Whip were immense. He built up fantastic relationships with everyone. Séamus always wanted to be accommodating to individuals and to see the other point of view. Members referred to his zest for publicity. My memory is that he got his publicity on a Sunday morning when every matter was a large story. He made small decisions sound radical and important up to the end.
The manner in which he dealt with his illness is an example to us all. He showed great courage and great dignity. He did not give up but was determined to get better. Unfortunately, it was not to be. Having recovered from one bout of illness before the general election, he was unlucky to get a different bout of illness last autumn. He never spoke about it to his colleagues even though it was evident to all of us that he was suffering. He was determined to get on with the job and not to talk about himself or focus on his illness.
He was deeply proud of his six children and often spoke about them and their achievements. They meant very much to him. To his wife, Ann, who has been by his side all his life — if memory serves me right they met in University College Galway — he is a huge loss. He is a huge loss to his family, extended family and his colleagues in Fianna Fáil. He will be hard to replace because he encompassed so much. May he rest in peace.