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.