I pay tribute to Kit Ahern, a former member of this House and Dáil Éireann, who died recently at the age of 92. Although a native of Limerick, she spent her adult life in Ballybunion, County Kerry, following her marriage to Dan Ahern and went on to become an active member of Kerry County Council.
I had the pleasure of knowing Kit personally. She was a truly wonderful person, a formidable woman who worked tirelessly promoting the welfare of rural Ireland and, in particular, the quality of life for Irish women. Kit was passionate about the Irish language, our culture and the arts and used every opportunity to promote all things Irish. She first came to prominence as president of the Irish Countrywomen's Association, ICA, between 1961 and 1964. Kit and her ICA colleagues travelled the length and breadth of Ireland recruiting new members and instilling a sense of optimism for the future of rural Ireland. The ICA was involved in many battles to bring running water and electricity to rural Ireland, the basic essentials of day-to-day living.
Kit was appointed to Seanad Éireann by the then Taoiseach, Seán Lemass, in 1964 and subsequently retained her seat on the cultural and educational panel in 1965. She contested the general elections in north Kerry in 1965, 1969 and 1973 and secured a seat in the Dáil in 1977 under the then Taoiseach, Jack Lynch. It was the first time two Fianna Fáil Deputies were elected to the north Kerry constituency, the other being the late Tom McEllistrim, also a Member of this House and whose family continues to be represented in Dáil Éireann. She served one term in the Dáil as a Deputy and, on losing her seat in 1981, subsequently retired from national politics. However, despite all her achievements, Kit never lost sight of her humble roots and once described herself as "the first pleb to be elected president of the Irish Countrywomen's Association".
She was a wonderful woman and a great person to know. She worked tirelessly on behalf of the people of north Kerry and rural Ireland. She will be sadly missed by all who knew her. We on this side of the House will remember her as a great friend who served in both Houses of the Oireachtas. The people of Kerry have lost a loyal and true person. Go ndéana Dia trócaire ar a anam.