Tá áthas orm an deis seo a bheith agam labhairt ar Billy Kenneally, go ndéanfaidh Dia trócaire air. Ar dtús báire, ba mhaith liom comhbhrón a dhéanamh lena theaghlach. Fear dúshlánach dílis a bhí in Billy. Fuair sé bás i mí Lúnasa agus bhí an Teach ar athló ag an am. Tá an-áthas orm go bhfuil a chlann anseo in éineacht linn go gcloisfidh siad ón Teach agus chun deis a thabhairt dúinn ómós a leiriú d'fhear ar son na maitheasa a rinne sé san Oireachtas.
We were saddened to learn of the death in August of former Deputy and Senator William Kenneally. Billy had a long life packed full of achievement and public service. He was one of Waterford's favourite sons and as a businessman, a politician and in everyday community life, he made an important and lasting contribution to the development of the south east region. He was a life-long member of Fianna Fáil and on behalf of all of our parliamentary party, may I say that we are grateful for his sterling efforts in promoting and working for Fianna Fáil over many years. His dedication played a massive part in the success of Fianna Fáil and the progress of his local community.
Billy grew up in a political family. He had a profound respect for the membership of Fianna Fáil having grown up in the party tradition. His father, William Kenneally Snr, was a prominent figure in the party in Waterford and he served the people of Waterford from 1952 to 1961 in Dáil Éireann. This was the proud political legacy on which in the course of an exemplary career Billy would build, bringing further distinction to himself and a great Waterford political family.
Billy Kenneally took his first steps as a public representative in the Lemass era, and Billy was very much a politician of that time. Like Lemass, he had a strong sense of patriotism and he shared Lemass's impatience for progress. He had a deep-seated belief in business and enterprise as an engine to drive national development. Indeed, Billy's background was in business and he was a partner in the successful Kenneally City Bus Company which for many years was a great Waterford institution and provided an important transport service to the people of Waterford city and county.
Billy contested his first election in the general election of 1961. He was unlucky not to take a seat on that occasion and was only denied by the fact that the constituency had lost a seat from the previous election in a revision of constituencies. However, he persevered and subsequently, he was co-opted onto the council. He understood well Tip O'Neill's famous maxim that "all politics are local". For Billy Kenneally, the whole purpose of politics was serving his local community, taking on board their concerns, making them his own and doing everything in his power to improve the quality of life for his native community.
The respect that his neighbours, friends and fellow citizens in Waterford had for Billy is evident from the fact that he was given the great distinction of serving the community as mayor of Waterford. It is also manifest in the fact that on five consecutive occasions the people of Waterford elected him as their representative in Dáil Éireann. In the general election of 1965, Billy topped the poll and he repeated this feat in the 1969 and 1977 general elections.
Billy's time in Leinster House was one of service, hard work and achievement. He was an immensely popular politician and he was held in great affection by colleagues on all sides of the House. He did valuable work on the Council of Europe from 1971 to 1973 during a period when Ireland's relationship with Europe was a dominant theme of public debate. He served as the Fianna Fáil Front-Bench spokesperson on fisheries in Opposition between 1973 and 1975, and had a close and friendly relationship with George Colley and Jack Lynch.
When Fianna Fáil returned to power in 1977, Jack Lynch asked him to fill the difficult role of chairman of the parliamentary party. His tenure coincided with one of the most volatile periods in Fianna Fáil's history and it is testament to his character and his ability that he is still remembered as an excellent chairman of the party. He was utterly fair and someone who had no time for internal rifts. His focus was always on the betterment of his party and his community, never on personalities or in-fighting.
My time in Leinster House missed overlapping with Billy's by a number of years, but I know he was a great voice of experience in the party as he had lived through some of the most remarkable times in 20th century Irish politics. The Taoiseach has asked me say that he regrets not being able to be here this morning due to the talks in Northern Ireland and to pass on his good wishes to the Kenneally family. The Taoiseach wishes to be associated with the words this morning paying tribute to Billy as he remembers him as an inspiration to all those who value public service.
To the end, Billy maintained a keen interest in politics and public life. He was, of course, rightly proud of the political achievements of his son Brendan, our friend and colleague here in Dáil Éireann. I am sure that Brendan will draw on Billy's fine legacy and his high example in public service as he continues to serve the people of Waterford in the same dedicated and distinguished fashion as his father.
May I extend my sympathies and those of the Fianna Fáil Party and the Government to Billy's family, to his wife Maureen, to his sons, our colleague, Brendan, and Donal, Kevin, Patrick and Martin, and to all his other family members and many, many friends.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.