Skip to main content
Normal View

Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 26 Oct 2016

Vol. 926 No. 2

Death of Former Member: Expressions of Sympathy

In accordance with the Order of the Dáil yesterday, we will now hear expressions of sympathy on the death of our former colleague, the late Paddy Lalor. I welcome members of the Lalor family, who are in attendance with us today, namely, his daughters, Frances Fleming, Helen Lalor and Veronica Daly, and his son, Joe Lalor. They are joined in the Gallery by their spouses, Leo Fleming, Paul Gleeson, Philip Daly and Marise Lalor, and a number of Paddy's grandchildren, Shane Fleming, Kevin Lalor, Isabella Lalor, Kate Daly and Hannah Daly.

Ar mo shon féin agus ar son mo pháirtí, déanaim comhbhrón le muintir Lalor as ucht bhás Paddy. Polaiteoir den scoth ab ea é a d'oibrigh go dian dícheallach, Domhnach is dálach, ar son mhuintir na tíre seo agus ar son mhuintir a dhúiche féin. Fear mór pobail ab ea é a bhí fréamhaithe ina áit dhúchais. Iar-Theachta Dála, iar-Aire agus iar-bhall de Pharlaimint na hEorpa ab ea é. Duine lách, cneasta ab ea é agus, gan amhras, iománaí den scoth ab ea é chomh maith. Is dócha gurbh é an t-iománaí ab fhearr a bhí riamh ann i gContae Laoise. Tuigeann cách é sin.

On my behalf and that of my party, Fianna Fáil, I welcome the Lalor family to Dáil Éireann and express our deepest sympathy to them on the death of their father, Paddy, who passed away at the end of last July at the age of 90. He was born the year the Fianna Fáil party was founded, so his destiny was sealed in many ways. He spent most of his life as an active and dedicated public figure and a member of our party. He was a dynamic public representative who not only strived to serve his constituents of Laois-Offaly but also sought to put forward the best interests of the country when he served as Minister and as a Member of the European Parliament. It is important that Dáil Éireann recognises the significant contribution he has made to Irish politics.

Again, I welcome the Lalor family to Leinster House, in particular, Frances, Helen, Veronica and Joe, their spouses, and, of course, Paddy's grandchildren and wider family. Paddy first and foremost was a family man. He loved his family greatly and his community in Laois. He lived a long and fruitful life and was at all times concerned with helping and looking after others. He was a member of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, the local credit union and the Tidy Towns committee.

He was deeply connected to his cultural roots and, as I stated earlier, he was an outstanding hurler. He was very involved in both Gaelic football and hurling and was probably one of Laois's greatest hurlers. He played in the All-Ireland hurling final for Laois in 1949, when it was unfortunately beaten by Tipperary. He was a dual player with his native Abbeyleix and widely regarded as one of the O'Moore county's more skilful players. He had a national hurling league top 20 goal scoring record which has still not been beaten. He scored hundreds of points in the league even though he was not a designated free taker. So good was he that he gained recognition when he was selected on the Laois hurling team of the millennium in 1999. He was a competitive, fun loving and engaged man who brought the competitiveness in his sporting career to his long and dedicated political career.

He was a Deputy from 1961 to 1981, Minister for Posts and Telegraphs from 1969 to 1970 and Minister for Industry and Commerce from 1970 to 1973. He was of the generation of visionaries who led this country into the European Union and opened up new horizons and vistas for the Irish people. He served as Chief Whip to the then Taoiseach, Jack Lynch, in the 1977 to 1979 Government, when, in a turbulent time, both internally and within the Dáil, he brought his generosity of spirit. He was known as a uniter of people and as one who could reach out to all the various sides and bring people together. He worked extremely diligently in the role and was a loyal and dedicated believer in Jack Lynch and the work he did as Taoiseach. Paddy later went on to represent Leinster in the European Parliament from 1979 to 1994. He was a committed European who, I think, would be appalled at how events have taken shape with Brexit and so on.

We acknowledge his strong work ethic and his sense of his very basic civic and patriotic duty to his local community and his country. His late wife, Myra, who was a great support to him, passed away in 2014. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam dílis. Together, with their family, they made a distinctive contribution to public life in their native county and their country. His family can be proud of the enormous legacy he has left in the many families and homes throughout his constituency and in terms of public policy in this country, something from which many generations to follow will benefit.

I also welcome Joe, Frances, Helen and Veronica to the House. It has all been said by Deputy Martin. I sympathise with them on behalf of my party on the loss of Paddy Lalor. I remember him very well. Not many of the current Dáil will remember him during his time as a Deputy. It will come to them all in due course and someone will stand up somewhere sometime and pay whatever tribute he or she may wish. I remember Paddy sitting in the seat the Chief Whip currently occupies at a time of great challenge within the party. He always had a quizzical look on his face, as if to say, "What is going to come next?"

I agree with Deputy Martin that he was a person who loved life. He was a popular Deputy and Minister and someone who was genuinely interested in the affairs of his constituency and people and he relayed that through to Government, which I suppose is what democracy is about.

Deputy Martin mentioned Paddy's hurling exploits. Paddy brought that sort of capacity to his general political work. A person would not want to take him on without being clear as to what to do next. Paddy was a talented athlete and represented the O'Moore county well. When he finished his playing days, he took up public service and he was genuinely interested in the well-being of his constituents. While things were not as strong economically as they might be, he still represented the people of Laois strongly. He was a Vice-President of the European Parliament. It was new for Ireland to send its members to the European Parliament after 1979 and the tales of exploits and engagements in and outside that Parliament were always a source of both amusement and intrigue when they were brought back to the Dáil. While he was many miles away in Brussels, his focus was always on Laois. Paddy's family are able to say with pride that their dad represented his people exceptionally well in the constituency, throughout the country and beyond. Whatever differences people might have in political parties, we can always say that Paddy Lalor, for one, as the male head of their family, did a first class job in speaking out for his people and in carrying out representation in this Chamber.

One of Paddy's opening remarks in Irish was to extend a fáilte Uí Cheallaigh to the visitor and he would ask me occasionally, "Did I say that properly?" I used to say to him, "Paddy, it is no bother to you." Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

Ar mo shon féin agus ar son Shinn Féin, déanaim comhbhrón le mac, iníonacha agus garpháistí Paddy Lalor, a fuair bás i mí Iúil. Tá sé deas go bhfuil na garpháistí anseo inniu ag éisteacht leis na focail fhlaithiúla ón Teachta Micheál Martin agus ón Taoiseach faoina ndaideo. Deputy Martin has paid elegant tribute to Paddy Lalor as has the Taoiseach. On my own behalf and that of Sinn Féin, I extend sincere and heartfelt sympathy to the family and loved ones of the former Teachta, Paddy Lalor, following his passing in late July. I also extend condolences to Fianna Fáil.

I did not know Paddy personally but I have heard of his exploits both as a politician and as a GAA man and it is clear he excelled at both.

As has been noted, Paddy Lalor was a member of the Laois team that reached the all-Ireland hurling final in 1949, the year after I was born. His was the last Laois team to have reached an all-Ireland final so Laois and Antrim have much in common in that regard. Laois was beaten soundly by Tipperary on the day that was in it. Although Paddy Lalor did not get his hands on the Liam McCarthy Cup, he enjoyed county championship success with the Abbeyleix GAA Club. His talent on the pitch was recognised when he was named on the Laois hurling team of the millennium in 1999. My good friend, Snitchy Ferguson, another stalwart of the GAA, always tells me that hurlers are sound and I am sure that applied to Paddy Lalor.

Paddy Lalor served as a Teachta Dála for two decades representing Laoighis-Offaly. He also served as a Cabinet Minister in the Departments of Posts and Telegraphs and Industry and Commerce and as a Minister of State. He was a Member of the European Parliament for 15 years and served as its vice-president from 1982 until 1987. He had a long and distinguished career in public office.

Given the day that is in it, I am sure Paddy's children are also thinking of their mother, Myra, who passed in 2014. I extend my sympathies to Paddy's children, Joe, Frances, Helen and Veronica, his grandchildren, friends and relatives and his colleagues in the Fianna Fáil Party and Cumann Lúthchleas Gael. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

On behalf of the Labour Party, I express sincere sympathy to the family of Paddy Lalor on his recent passing and to members of the Fianna Fáil Party on their sad loss. Being a fellow midlander from a neighbouring constituency, I knew Paddy well. He had a relative living near Mullingar who belonged to a different party - he soldiered with me - and Paddy and I used to a joke about it. Paddy was a wily and dedicated public representative for people in Laoighis-Offaly whom he represented with great distinction for more than 33 years, which is a fantastic feat in such a competitive constituency.

Paddy Lalor was always grounded and maintained close contact with his roots. As Deputy Micheál Martin stated, he was involved in many voluntary and community organisations. He was steeped in the GAA and, as Deputy Martin also pointed out, he was no mean hurler. As I often said, Paddy was well able to take care of himself and when he gave a hit, his opponent felt it. He also had tremendous skill and technique and represented his native county for a long number of years. He later became deeply involved in the administrative side of the GAA.

Paddy held a number of important ministerial positions, namely, Minister for Posts and Telegraphs and Minister for Industry and Commerce, and served as Chief Whip in the 1977-79 Government under the late Taoiseach, Jack Lynch. His election to that important position demonstrated his affability and steeliness, two qualities that are required for such an important Government position. Paddy subsequently became an MEP for the constituency of Leinster and it was in that role that I interacted most with him. I recall, for example, having discussions with him on Bord na Móna and agricultural matters, which were always to the fore. Paddy also held the prestigious position of Vice-President of the European Parliament for a period.

Paddy Lalor was a man of the people who served people very well. To his family, who are present, including his son, Joe, and daughters, Frances, Helen and Veronica, as well as the wider family circle, I convey again, on behalf of the Labour Party, our sincerest sympathies. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

I join in the expressions of sympathy for the late Paddy Lalor. I am in a unique position as I succeeded Paddy as the Fianna Fáil Deputy in the Laois constituency. When Paddy served the constituency, it was known as Laoighis-Offaly but in recent times the name has changed to Laois.

I want to speak about the man I knew. I looked up to, admired and respected Paddy Lalor, who always showed great interest in people and asked how they were getting along. He was a people's man. He was also straight and upfront and one always knew where one stood with him, as Deputies no doubt agree, judging from the comments of previous speakers.

Paddy Lalor had a positive outlook. This is very important for people in public life and it stood him well throughout his political career, from his election to Laois County Council and subsequently to Dáil Éireann and the European Parliament, to his appointment as a Government Minister and Member and Vice-President of the European Parliament. He was one of the few people who never lost an election, an achievement that is testimony to how well he was respected at local level. While a Member of the European Parliament, Paddy always had a very good working relationship with MEPs from Northern Ireland and often travelled back and forth to Brussels with them.

One of the proudest moments in Paddy Lalor's political career was when Irish people voted in a referendum to join what we now describe as the European Union. As a Government Minister at the time, he had campaigned strongly in favour of membership of the European Economic Community. Paddy will always be remembered in Laois as the Minister for Industry and Commerce who helped bring many IDA jobs to the county.

Paddy was a great sportsman, having played senior hurling and football for his county, and his keen interest in sport remained with him until the end. He attended his last inter-county championship football game in O'Moore Park, Portlaoise, earlier this year.

Paddy Lalor worked tirelessly for the Fianna Fáil Party and built up a strong cumann structure in County Laois, which survives and remains as strong as ever. I am very grateful to him for that. We are all very pleased that Paddy attended the launch of our general election campaign in Laois earlier this year. It may not be well known that he was the Fianna Fáil national director of elections for the 1987 general election, in which Fianna Fáil won 81 seats, the highest number ever achieved by the party in its 90-year history or by any political party since the foundation of the State.

I convey to Paddy Lalor's family a personal apology from the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Charlie Flanagan, who would have liked to have been present but is attending to official business.

Paddy Lalor was a great family man. I should place on record a family connection with Paddy as my brother, Leo, is married to his eldest daughter. Our families have a strong connection and I am happy to see everybody here today. His son, Joe, and daughters, Frances, Helen and Veronica, loved, admired and looked up to their father and were very proud of the man who was known in family circles as "Pops". I have no doubt Paddy and Myra are smiling down on us from heaven as we express our sympathies. Thank you Paddy for a great life. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

I too pay tribute to the late Paddy Lalor and join previous speakers in welcoming his family to the House. I acknowledge and pay tribute to them too because family members who give up their space and time are the unsung heroes of many of us who serve in public life. Paddy's late wife, Myra, and other family members allowed him to be the representative he became. We are now in the position of paying tribute to his long and distinguished career, not only in Laois and the constituency of Laoighis-Offaly, but also as a member of Government and one of the first representatives sent by the Dáil to the European Parliament and subsequently elected to the Parliament by the public.

During my formative years, Paddy Lalor was a senior figure in the Fianna Fáil organisation in Laoighis-Offaly and he remained in a senior position for a long time. After his retirement, he remained very involved in and committed to his community and constituency and, primarily, the party we have the privilege to represent when we go before the people.

Paddy Lalor served with my late father and I record my family's appreciation for his commitment and dedication to the Fianna Fáil Party and Laoighis-Offaly constituency. He set a standard that has been followed by others and it has been a great privilege to follow in his footsteps as a public representative. It is with great pride and fondness that we remember his commitment as a public representative.

We also acknowledge other aspects of Paddy's character which helped him represent people in the way he did.

There was the teak toughness that was learned on the fields of County Laois. As near neighbours and competitors, to which Deputy Willie Penrose alluded, when you were hit by a Laois man, you felt it. He had a great appreciation of the GAA and the GAA fraternity and was most praiseworthy of his neighbour's success when the county won all-Ireland titles in the 1980s, at the expense of Laois, it might be said. It was a fine team and, were it not for Offaly's advancement, I have no doubt that it would have been the one to take the accolades at the time. He acknowledged this and supported it as if it was his own.

I again thank Paddy's family for their commitment to him and, as has been said by previous speakers more eminent than me, they can be hugely proud of his achievements and efforts. Long may he be remembered. I have no doubt that we will see to it that that is the case because the constituency is all the better for him having represented it.

I add my voice to those of all previous speakers. I had the great privilege of knowing Paddy Lalor for 30 years or more. Deputy Sean Fleming has alluded to the 1987 general election when he was director of elections and responsible, for better or worse, for adding me to the ticket in Kildare South.

I thank the Lalor family because, by being here, they give us the opportunity to reflect on the contribution their father made at constituency, national and European level. As other speakers said, they can be hugely proud of the fact that he made a real difference to the lives of people in the constituency, the country and Europe. That is something very few people have the opportunity to do. I very much regret the fact that I was out of the country at the time his death. I will remember him, first and foremost, as a family man. Nobody knows better than they that he and Myra were at the centre of that great family. I remember him as a warm, likeable and admirable gentleman. For my part, it was a privilege to know him and a privilege to call him a friend.

Members rose.