Death of Member: Expressions of Sympathy.

It is a sad morning because of the passing of our great friend, colleague and former Minister, Deputy Séamus Brennan. I personally had great admiration for Séamus Brennan as he was a wonderful statesman, a highly intelligent Member of both Dáil and Seanad and a master politician. He was an astute and capable Minister, Deputy and Member of Seanad Éireann who was interested in getting things done on behalf of his constituents and country.

He was born in County Galway in 1948 and moved to Dublin in the early 1970s. He was appointed as Fianna Fáil's general secretary by the then Taoiseach, Jack Lynch, in 1973, a position he retained until 1980. It was in this capacity as secretary of the M. J. Kennedy cumann in Castlepollard that I first got to know Séamus Brennan.

He was a Member of Seanad Éireann from 1977 to 1981 and played a pivotal role in the success of Fianna Fáil in the 1977 election. He was first elected to the Dáil in 1981 and represented Dublin South from the time the constituency was created. He was re-elected at every subsequent election and topped the poll in the 2007 general election, with 13,373 votes.

Since his 1981 election, Séamus served in many Cabinet roles, including Minister for Arts, Sports and Tourism from June 2007 to May 2008; Minister for Social and Family Affairs from 2004 to 2007; Minister for Transport from June 2002 to 2004; Government Chief Whip from 1997 to 2002; Minister for Education from February 1992 to January 1993; Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications from February 1991 to February 1992; and Minister for Tourism and Transport from July 1989 to February 1991. He also served as a Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise and Employment with special responsibility for commerce and technology and was Minister of State at the Department of Industry and Commerce with special responsibility for trade and marketing.

In one way or another, Séamus had been a Fianna Fáil front bench member for many continuous years since 1987. He was responsible for bringing about many great changes in our country, particularly for the underprivileged and pensioners. As someone who has been a Member of this House, along with some colleagues, for some considerable time, I believe he will be particularly remembered for the unwavering courtesy and good manners which he displayed to all members of political parties in each House.

Nobody was unimportant to Séamus Brennan and he treated everybody with equal respect and consideration. On a personal basis, I was very privileged to have served as Leader of Seanad Éireann from 1997 to 2002, during his tenure as Government Chief Whip. He certainly played a pivotal role in keeping that Government together, with the support of four Independents, for a full five-year term.

I owe a great debt of gratitude for the advice and guidance that Séamus always gave me. As a friend once said to me, people who are near and dear will never die. On behalf of the Fianna Fáil Party in the House and as Leader, I extend my deepest sympathy to Séamus Brennan's wife, Ann, who came from Athlone, and to his sons, four daughters, family and friends. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

It was with great sadness that I learned this morning of the death of Deputy Séamus Brennan, a former Minister who represented Dublin South. Our thoughts today are primarily with his wife, Ann, and six children, who face such a terrible loss.

Séamus battled his illness with great bravery and courage, doing his utmost to continue his public duties right up to the end. It is sad that this courteous man, a true gent of Irish politics, has passed away at such a young age. Séamus served in many ministries under three Taoisigh, including as Chief Whip and in the Departments dealing with education, commerce, transport, trade, social and family affairs and, most recently, arts, sport and tourism. It is a wonderful record of public service.

In all his ministries he went about his business in a diligent, determined and effective manner. He was a renowned constituency Deputy, as well as a national politician. He represented his constituency of Dublin South since its creation and never lost an election.

I remember how difficult it was to appear on a radio or television programme with Séamus — I will not forget the experience — as one simply could not argue with him. He explained his and the Fianna Fáil Party position and policy in a very gentle, reasonable manner and always with a smile. He had a famous smile and a wonderful way of engaging people. We all saw the effectiveness of Séamus's people and communications skills when he kept together a Government supported by a variety of Independent Deputies from 1997 until 2002. That achievement required a certain temperament, character and understanding and an ability to reach out to people, traits which Séamus had in abundance.

Personally and on behalf of the Fine Gael Party, I extend sincere sympathies and condolences to Séamus's wife, Ann, his six children, his political colleagues in the Fianna Fáil Party and his Dublin South constituents. Ireland has lost a decent, honourable man who served the nation very well. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

It is with great sadness that I speak on behalf of the Members of the Independent group. I heard of Séamus Brennan's organisational ability when he was general secretary of the Fianna Fáil Party a long time ago. I first came across him when he was Minister of State with responsibility for trade and marketing and immediately thereafter when he became Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications. As I had a background in tourism, I often talked, debated and negotiated with Séamus in those days. Like Senator Fitzgerald, I found it easy to talk to him and he was a very good listener who was intent on achieving successful outcomes.

At that time, I did not realise he was an accountant or that he had studied economics and commerce. When I teased him about this later — I do not particularly care for accountants — he relished it. I was impressed by Séamus's ability to confront issues in his role as Minister for Education. He did not hide from issues but faced up to them and on that occasion he faced up to vested interests. He was a very influential and convincing person which is the reason he achieved so much.

In more recent years, Séamus showed determination as Minister for Transport and expressed deep sadness at every road death. He was committed to doing something about road deaths and believed he could help.

More recently, as Minister for Social and Family Affairs, Séamus wanted to help the underprivileged and was anxious to ensure no one should be without help. This was the reason he grabbed hold of that role.

Séamus had a wonderful sense of humour. I have quoted previously a lovely comment he once made when I introduced him at a function. When I had finished he said the reason he loved to speak after me was that it was not necessary to lower the microphone because we were both the same height. As the Leader will be aware, Séamus was also an active golfer. I am sure he will reduce his handicap even further in heaven.

The first comment I heard on the radio this morning, from President McAleese, is one we should leave in our minds. The President referred to the major role Séamus had in building modern Ireland. That is the role for which we will all remember him. Our thoughts go to his wife, Ann, and their six children. The world and this House are poorer places without Séamus. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

On behalf of the Labour Party, I express sympathy to the family of Séamus Brennan and the Fianna Fáil Party on the sad and untimely death of Séamus this morning. As others have pointed out — although it is an understatement — Séamus was an exceptionally successfully politician over 30 years. To die at such an early age of 60 years having achieved so much in life is extraordinary. I have no doubt his family and colleagues will hold this thought dear in the years ahead.

I first came across Séamus Brennan when I was a current affairs producer on RTE many years ago. I always found Séamus to be a most amiable, personable and likeable man. Although politicians are not performing a charity in appearing on radio and television programmes because they benefit from such appearances, I always found Séamus, of all his colleagues across all parties, to be immensely approachable and very careful and considerate in terms of acquaintance with and knowledge of individual journalists and people around him. Many people from across the political spectrum ascribed this attribute to him. He was a most decent and personable man.

More recently, when I became a constituency colleague of Séamus, I found the same level of kindness and I appreciated very much the genuine interest he showed in persons of an opposing political point of view. The Leader noted the extraordinary number of votes Séamus Brennan won in Dublin South. Even in this period of success and endurance for the Fianna Fáil Party, it is an extraordinary achievement to have obtained more than 13,000 votes in a constituency in which other party colleagues were also successful. One must get up very early in the morning to take on the formidable operation in the Dublin South constituency. It was a testament to Séamus that he was such a success and so well liked in the constituency.

Recalling again my experience of Séamus when I worked in RTE, I heard the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, say on radio this morning that at one stage, when he was late for an interview in Montrose because he could not get a lift or his car let him down, he took a lift on the back of a motorbike. This anecdote is fully consistent with the type of person Séamus was.

I join the heartfelt sympathies which have been extended to the family of Séamus Brennan. As Senator Fitzgerald said, Séamus's family are uppermost in all of our minds. We have lost someone who made a major contribution to public service. We should not forget the noble opportunity we all have to give public service and Séamus Brennan did that to a very considerable extent.

Séamus Brennan began his public political life as a Member of the Seanad in 1997. It is somewhat ironic that one of his last functions as Minister was to attend a debate in this House. While he had yet to announce his intentions, there were murmurings about what he might decide to do with his political future. I used the opportunity to thank him personally for his involvement, little knowing that his contribution on that day would be as valedictory as it transpired.

I remember Séamus at a number of levels. He had a disarming charm about him. I am struck by a comment made in the other House by former Deputy Joe Higgins when compared the difficulty of dealing with another politician to playing handball against a haystack. To steal that analogy, if one was playing handball with Séamus, the ball would be returned as wool because it was his nature to accept a political argument, never to react to belligerence and never to seek to deny the right of others to make an argument. These were among his greatest political strengths.

Having died at such an early age having served such a long time in public life, Séamus Brennan's political achievements will be marked in a number of ways. While he served with distinction in all the ministries he held, he will be remembered for specific achievements. As general secretary of the Fianna Fáil Party, he singularly changed the nature of political campaigning in the 1977 general election.

My recent experience with Séamus was as Opposition spokesperson in the Dáil when he was Minister for Social and Family Affairs. I found him to be co-operative and willing to listen to other arguments. More recently, when the Government was being formed and negotiations were under way on a programme for Government Séamus was always on hand to try to bring people together when voices were raised and tempers became more heated than they should have been.

My most overriding memory of that process relates not so much to the sessions that took place in Government Buildings but to our appearance on "The Week in Politics" when, after five days, negotiations had broken down. I was in a television studio in Cork and Séamus was with the main panel in the studio in Dublin. The nature of the conversation we had over the nation's airwaves clearly indicated that negotiations were resuming. Above all else, this sums up my memories of Séamus and his ability to work towards bringing matters to a conclusion and reaching a satisfactory agreement.

Séamus Brennan will be remembered in the ways I have described by those in his party, by his constituents and by me. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

It is particularly sad to be acknowledging the contribution of a serving Member of the Oireachtas on the occasion of his death. It is incredible to think that Séamus Brennan, who was so full of life, has passed away. As the Taoiseach stated this morning, Séamus was out canvassing in favour of the Lisbon treaty recently even though he was so ill.

I have known Séamus all my life. I got to know him particularly well on family holidays in Connemara. He was a great man to give one a job, whether it was caddying for him during a round of golf or babysitting the children. He was always keen to involve one in things. My siblings and I have great memories of family holidays from that time.

When I was first elected to the Dáil, Séamus made a point of coming over to congratulate me and say how pleased he was because he had watched my progress since I was young. He was delighted that I had been bitten by the political bug and had managed to gain election to the Dáil.

Séamus was the consummate politician. He put the razzmatazz in politics and completely transformed the way in which it is conducted in this country. He was a politician upon whom one could model oneself. As the Taoiseach stated this morning, Séamus was not interested in just holding office, he also wanted to serve. He introduced innovations in each Department in which he served and this will be remembered. Everyone should follow the example of his dedication to public service.

There is one other person, other than the members of the Brennan family, who comes to mind today and that is Séamus's right-hand man, Frank Lahiffe. One always knew that if Frank was around, Séamus would not be far away.

I was given a lift to the DART station this morning by one of the local council workers who informed me that he could not believe that Séamus had died. The man in question stated that he had seen Séamus on Dún Laoghaire pier on many occasions and that he was always prepared to stop and talk to people. Individuals from all walks of life have been touched by Séamus's passing.

Séamus had great skills. Senator Boyle got to know him particularly well and would have witnessed his great calmness and his abilities as a deal-maker, which helped put together so many Governments.

I wish to make one political point. Those of us in the Progressive Democrats will often wonder what could have been had Séamus made the leap and joined our party. In any event, I wish to remember the wonderful service he gave to the country and offer my condolences to his family. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

It was with great sadness that I heard this morning's news. Even though I knew Séamus Brennan's death was imminent, it nevertheless came as a great shock. I am extremely sad and find it difficult to speak.

I offer my sympathies to Séamus's wife, Ann, and their six children on their terrible loss. The Fianna Fáil family has lost one of its most popular members. A man who had no enemies but who had many friends, Séamus was widely respected for his ability to get on with everyone. He had a knack of creating consensus. This was no more evident than when he served as Government Chief Whip.

It has been heartening to hear so many kind words being spoken about Séamus around Leinster House, on the airwaves and by people in the street. When the news broke at7.30 a.m., my phone began to ring. I was contacted by large numbers of people from the constituency of Dublin South who asked me to convey their sympathies to his family when I made my contribution in the Seanad. There is real sadness in the constituency. The people there loved him and he will surely be missed by everyone who knew him. The esteem in which he was held was evident in the size of the vote he managed to attract at successive general elections.

We have an opportunity today to look back and appreciate the life of Séamus Brennan. Born in Galway, he moved to Dublin where he established his political base. I was on the ticket with him in a number of elections and I learned a great deal from him because he was a great source of knowledge. As our political careers developed, we became close friends.

Séamus first came to prominence when he was appointed as Fianna Fáil's youngest ever general secretary in 1973, a post he held until 1980. He was clearly a man of great potential. During his political career, that potential was fully realised. Séamus was first elected to the Dáil in 1981, having previously served as a Senator. He was a decent and honest man, who was liked by everyone who met him. His entire life was dedicated to politics and to the service of others. He always had time to listen to and take one's views on board and he conveyed intelligent advice when called upon to do so.

Séamus held many ministerial portfolios during his political career. He served as Minister for Social and Family Affairs, Minister for Transport, Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach and Government Chief Whip, Minister of State at the Department of Defence, Minister for Trade and Marketing, Minister for Education and Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications. This list of the positions he held clearly indicates the depth of experience he gained in politics. His service to public live was greatly appreciated and will never be forgotten.

I knew Séamus as a consummate politician. I canvassed on his behalf during election campaigns and it was a pleasure to do so. He had the most professional organisation in the country. When an election came around, one would be given an area on which to focus one's canvassing and one would remain in that area and not move outside it. Séamus commanded great loyalty from the people who worked closely with him. In this regard, I particularly refer to Frank Lahiffe, whom I know very well and who is extremely sad today. Frank managed Séamus's campaigns and the person who obtains access to his database will not be a loser when it comes to contesting a general election.

We have lost a brilliant politician and a man who had such a great understanding of all the aspects of politics. Séamus was much loved and will be sadly missed. May he rest in peace.

When one hears of any death, one is always struck by the preciousness and fragility of life. That was certainly the case when I heard about the untimely death of my constituency colleague, Séamus Brennan. I wish to extend my deepest sympathies to his wife, Ann, his children, his brother, Eamon, his sister, Carmel, his other sisters and brothers, his extended family, his friends, his staff — Frank, Mary and Bobby — and his team.

I knew Séamus for many years and was always struck by, and deeply admired, his professionalism, courtesy and amazing insight into the moment and what drives that moment. Séamus devoted his entire professional life to politics and was ahead of his time in changing how we approached and undertook political campaigns.

Many tributes have been paid to Séamus's national achievements. He was honoured to have been consistently re-elected by the people of Dublin South and to haven been repeatedly appointed a Minister. He will be hugely missed by the people of Dublin South. The constituency has a very warm, deep and genuine regard for him and there are many people in it whose lives are that bit better as a result of the assistance, representation and intervention made by Séamus on their behalf. For that alone, he will not be forgotten and his loss will be felt.

I met Séamus approximately four weeks ago and he said that if he could just get one or two months rest, he would not know himself and that he would be back in the thick of things. For those of us who were aware of his determination to fight his illness and, to use his own words, to be back in the thick of things, it is a reminder to us all to appreciate and make the most of every moment we are blessed to have. May Séamus rest in peace.

I concur with all the remembrances of Séamus Brennan. My dealings with Séamus began moe than 25 years ago in the Fianna Fáil women's group. Many people in the House will not know that Séamus was an ardent supporter of women participating more fully in politics and in Fianna Fáil. In the early 1980s, the women's group in Dublin South met in a pub in the constituency and Seamus would arrive beautifully dressed in a dapper suit and with beautiful white shirt cuffs. My first memory of him is being beautifully dressed and so respectful to this small group of women who were trying to push things forward.

In the past 25 years I had the pleasure of working on every campaign to get Séamus re-elected to the Dáil Éireann. To participate in the campaigns managed by his wife Ann was something to see.

In 1993 I went forward to represent the Fianna Fáil Dublin women on the national executive and Séamus fully supported me. Senator Geraldine Feeney was elected to represent the women of Connacht-Ulster. Many people, including some in Fianna Fáil, do not realise that 20 years ago, Fianna Fáil was all for women and it had a positive programme for women. Senator Geraldine Feeney and I would not be here but for Séamus's ardent support of the women's group.

When I ran for the Seanad Séamus was fully supportive of me. When I went to the first comhairle meeting in Dublin South I was entitled, as an elected person, to sit at the top table. I was a bit embarrassed moving up to the top table but Seamus told me I deserved to be there. It was such a beautiful thing to say. I would like to share with all the politicians here the lesson he taught me when canvassing. He said one should always ask people for their vote before one leaves them. In any campaign in which I have participated, I have always asked people for their vote. Ireland and Fianna Fáil will never be the same again without Séamus.

Mary Browne, Séamus's personal secretary, was a stellar and loyal supporter to Séamus over the years. Every time I speak to Mary I tell her she is the best secretary anybody could have. Frank Lahiffe and Bobby Holland, who I would call friends of mine, were so loyal to Séamus and a great example of loyalty to the bitter end.

I would also like to be associated with the tributes to the late Séamus Brennan who, as has been said, was a Member of this House from 1977 to 1981, having been nominated by the then Taoiseach, Jack Lynch. I had the honour of serving with him in Fianna Fáil over a number of years. He made a huge contribution to Irish political life and to the Houses of the Oireachtas in his role as a Senator, a Deputy and a Minister in many portfolios.

His organisational skills were exceptional. He was a safe pair of hands and he had a warm smile. His last contribution in Seanad Éireann was to statements on tourism on 24 April of this year. He was in failing health but he made a professional and detailed contribution. It would be worth people's while reading the record of that debate.

Séamus will be sadly missed by his wife Ann, his family, his colleagues in the Oireachtas and especially by the people of Dublin South who he represented so loyally for so many years. He was one of life's gentlemen. I extend my sincere sympathy to his wife, sons, daughters and family on their sad loss.

Members rose.

Sitting suspended at 12.17 p.m. and resumed at 12.30 p.m.