I welcome the wife and family and the close working and political colleagues of the late Senator Tony Kett to the House. I call the Leader.
Death of Former Member: Expressions of Sympathy.
I join the Cathaoirleach in welcoming the wife and family of the late Senator Tony Kett. I also welcome Deputy Cyprian Brady and former Senator Chris Wall. It is lovely to see the former Senator here along with the family. I welcome Noreen and all the family to the House and acknowledge the achievements of a great friend and colleague.
It is with great sadness I pay a tribute to a true, great friend and colleague, the late Senator Tony Kett. Tony was someone for whom I had great personal admiration. He was a truly wonderful person, a highly intelligent Member of Seanad Éireann and a truly excellent public representative. He was an astute, hard working and capable person who was determined to get things done. He will be remembered for his tremendous organisational skills, particularly those that saw the achievement of the former Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern, in being elected to Dáil Éireann from 1977 to date.
Tony was co-opted onto Dublin Corporation in 1988 and, in the following 15 years, he served the people of Dublin with tremendous dedication. Along with his perseverance and commitment, this saw him re-elected at every local election until 2004, when he stepped down under the dual mandate rule, which prevented Members of the Oireachtas from serving on local councils.
He was first elected to Seanad Éireann in 1997 on the Administrative Panel and was subsequently re-elected in 2002 and 2007. As a three-time Member of the Seanad, he was especially passionate about education and issues relating to people with disabilities. He will be remembered for his great work with the Central Remedial Clinic and his efforts to improve services for children and adults with physical disabilities.
Tony was well regarded by all for his hard work, enthusiasm and warm personality. He will be particularly remembered for his unwavering courtesy and the old-fashioned good manners he displayed to those he met. He treated everyone with equal respect and consideration. It was this courteous and respectful manner that endeared him to all who knew him.
His contributions in public and behind the scenes helped to raise awareness of the many different problems facing those with disabilities. His only aim was to make life better for all of those who were less fortunate than him or us. He spoke with passion and enthusiasm, commanding the respect of all in the House. Tony was an honourable man. He was loyal to the people he served. For more than two decades, he was an immensely popular figure. His loss will be widely felt by his constituents, friends and colleagues.
A native of Woodlawn, Ballinasloe in County Galway, Tony was a proud supporter of the Galway hurling team, as everyone in the House knows. As an adopted son of Dublin's north side, he was more than supportive of the Dubs except, as we all know, in the 1983 All-Ireland Football final when the blues won. He married Noreen and had three children, Jason, Jennifer and Joanne. Every Member on this side of the House knew Tony to be a loyal member of Fianna Fáil, a party of which he was proud. He was a staunch defender and upholder of the traditional values for which he stood. We on this side of the House will miss him dearly.
I am privileged to have served as Leader three times during Tony's tenure as a Senator. I owe him a great debt of gratitude for the loyalty of his service and for the sound advice and friendship he gave me personally. However, the greatest loss must surely be felt by his family. I would like to extend our heartfelt sympathy to his wife Noreen, his three children Jason, Jennifer and Joanne, his daughter-in-law Zoe, his adored granddaughter Isabelle, his brothers Eric and Shay, his sisters Ann, Rose and Pat, and his nieces and nephews. Go ndéanfaidh Dia trócaire ar a anam.
I rise to pay tribute to the late Senator Tony Kett on behalf of the Fine Gael Seanad group and the wider Fine Gael Party. Tony served in public life with distinction, first on Dublin City Council for 15 years and then, from 1997 until his premature death, in the Seanad where he worked among us as a colleague.
Tony always seemed to be a quiet, committed, unassuming, hard working and organised person. The Leader used the word "courteous". All of us would certainly say Tony was extremely courteous in all of his dealings with us in the House. For him, politics was always about people, which was evident for all to see in his commitment to his work at the Central Remedial Clinic and in the attention he paid to education issues. I have no doubt, knowing the work of the Central Remedial Clinic, that many people benefited significantly from his determination to improve services for people with physical disabilities. Over the years, he worked hard to improve those services and was committed to the issue for a lengthy period.
It would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the role that Tony played in the many campaigns of the former Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern, who has often acknowledged how Tony was a key part of his political organisation in Dublin Central and was among his closest advisers during his tenure as Taoiseach. While both Deputy Bertie Ahern and Tony had a deep and lasting friendship that was clear for all to see, I am told that Tony never fell for Bertie Ahern's love of Manchester United Football Club and remained a staunch Spurs supporter.
Tony achieved much in his life, but one cannot but feel extremely sad that he was taken from this Earth at the young age of 57 years. He bore his illness with great bravery and continued to get on with his job in the House. As we all know, he attended during times that were difficult for him. This must have been difficult for Tony and his family, but he showed considerable determination in continuing in his duties as a Senator and with his work. Senators from all sides of the House will attest to this.
I acknowledge the presence of Tony's family and friends and Deputy Cyprian Brady. I send my deepest sympathy and the sympathies of the Fine Gael Party to his wife, Noreen, his children, Jason, Jennifer and Joanne, the Fianna Fáil Party and all of his friends and supporters. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.
When the late Tony Kett entered the House in 1997, I got to know him early on. We had something in common, namely, that we were both north siders and felt a little outside the south side background. We ended up with a community feeling.
Tony's main achievement was that he was a doer. He wanted to get things done. He was not the sort of person who looked for publicity or wished to see his name in the newspaper everyday. He was much more determined to get things done. He and I discussed his work at the Central Remedial Clinic and his efforts to ensure that those who were disabled were not hindered. I talked with him about the Ability Awards that started in 2002 or so. He said he loved the concept of ability, not disability. About the disabled people he had met who were working in whatever area, he said they were abled in some other way. He said that, whatever way nature or God has made us and whenever we are lacking in something, we seem to benefit in something else. He seemed to be able to identify what we could do to help people who were suffering in another way.
Once, Tony came to me to discuss our supermarket in Northside, which had a spot outside it for disabled parking. It had been reported to him that the spot was being abused. I told him a story of how, when I was once in the supermarket, I met a woman in a wheelchair and asked her how things were going. She said that she got on well in the shop, but she came to me at the checkout and asked me whether I had heard the announcement. When I told her that I had and that someone was wrongly parked outside, she said that the car was hers. The announcement had been ongoing for 20 minutes. The reason I tell this story is because, when I told it to Tony, he enjoyed it. I asked the woman whether I could help her, but she said that she would be out in about 15 or 20 minutes. I asked her what was wrong. She said, "I was just going to pull into the disabled place and I saw an able-bodied man drive in and hop into the shop so I just parked behind him". She said he was probably going to the airport or something but he will not do it again. I admired her sense of humour. When I told Tony that story he said, "That is much better than fines or anything else". There was no way the driver who had created the problem could do anything when the lady in the wheelchair came out to move her car. Tony had a quiet sense of humour and a sense of fun which was apparent once one got chatting to him.
I was jolted to discover he was ill. I did not realise he was ill until almost the point of his death. I remember his funeral very well and the words used. I remember the former Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern, speaking at the time. I remember in particular the honour paid to Tony by the guard of honour made up of those Senators who were fortunate to be at the funeral. I am not sure if this is a regular occurrence as I have not seen it done before but it was a unique recognition of the work of the late Tony Kett.
I say to his family and to his friends who are here that we miss him greatly in the House. He was taken away from us at such an early age. None of us anticipates death but none of us anticipates death at that early age. We will certainly miss him. I know his family will miss him greatly but so will so many other friends and so many others who benefited from the great work he did over the years.
On behalf of the Labour Party I add my voice to the tributes paid to our colleague in Seanad Éireann, the late Senator Kett. Like Senator Quinn, although I tend to spend more time on the southside these days I too am a northsider and grew up in the area where the late Senator Kett lived. I welcome the members of his family and his friends and colleagues to the House for these tributes. The tribute paid by the former Taoiseach was perhaps one of the most impressive tributes to the administrative skill and political, strategic expertise of Tony Kett. He said at the funeral that he believed he would never have been elected to the Dáil had it not been for Tony Kett. This is praise indeed. As has been pointed out by other speakers, Tony Kett had a great commitment to education and to issues relating to disabilities — or abilities as Senator Quinn has very eloquently pointed out. Tony Kett would have preferred to have it described as such. He was a wonderful colleague in the Seanad. I did not know him particularly well because of my relatively short time in the House. We may all be inclined to be like this but some people have "Hello" days, so to speak, while other people have days when they are not sure whether to say hello. In Tony Kett's case it was always a "Hello" day. He always had a greeting for those he met, both here or in the anteroom of the Chamber. He was always extremely friendly. He was a decent man who was held in great affection by people in the House who admired the work he did, much of it carried out quietly and also his work in the 15 years he spent on Dublin City Council where he did great work on behalf of the people of his area and the city generally.
I add my voice to the tributes and to express my heartfelt condolences to Tony's family on their loss of Tony at such a relatively young age. It is such a sad loss for them as the greatest wrench is experienced by the members of his family. It is nice to see his family members present and to hear a child's voice, something we do not hear very often in this Chamber and which is a very nice reminder of our common humanity.
Like Senator Alex White, I regret that having become a Member of the 23rd Seanad I did not have as much opportunity to interact with the late Senator Kett due to the nature of his illness. On the irregular occasions when we did meet, I always found him to be friendly, amiable and cordial.
I was very struck by his funeral service where I got a better sense of the man. On that occasion his sense of family and his sense of community were evident to all present. As I had not been a Member of the previous Seanad the funeral ceremony also filled in the gaps in my knowledge of the late Senator Kett. He was a person of influence who used that influence in a positive way in the community in which he lived. As Senator Quinn said, he never sought to draw attention to such influence in a boastful or ostentatious manner and this says something for the character of the person. The sense of occasion on that day, the tributes heard to date and the attendance of Senators today speak volumes for the impression the late Senator Kett made on this House. Even as a more recent Member of this House and on behalf of my party I wish to be associated with the tributes and to express my condolences to his immediate family, friends and colleagues present.
A number of colleagues wish to speak. I call Senator Ann Ormonde who shared an office with the late Senator Kett for many years.
I welcome Ms Noreen Kett and her family and Tony's extended family. I also welcome the representatives from the CRC, Central Remedial Clinic, and his friends, particularly Deputy Cyprian Brady and former Senator Chris Wall. I welcome them to hear these lovely tributes to the late Tony.
I also wish to be associated with the expressions of sympathy to Noreen and the family of the late Senator Tony Kett. Tony was elected to the Seanad in 1997 where he served with true distinction on policy issues relating to education and disability. I shared an office with Tony for 12 years. He was not only a colleague but also a very good friend and a confidant whom I felt I could trust implicitly. Tony was a great one-to-one person. He was a man with whom to bounce ideas and problems due to his honesty and innate ability to listen combined with great political knowledge and understanding of how the political system worked. I can safely say he was never wrong in the sound advice he gave me and I miss that invaluable trust terribly.
He also had immense expertise in a number of policy areas. He was a regular contributor to Seanad debates on a variety of subjects. I remember him on many occasions sitting in the office preparing a speech. Very often he would read out paragraphs from his speech to ask me for my opinion.
As a knowledgeable man with a wide range of interests, he would speak at length on different topics but his great policy passions were education and issues concerning people with disabilities. Tony was extremely passionate about these subjects and any Seanad debate on these issues would include an intelligent and insightful contribution from him.
A large part of that insight came from his work in the Central Remedial Clinic. He never tired of relating incidents and stories of his time at the clinic and his many experiences there. The people he had encountered in the clinic left a lasting impression on Tony and clearly had a significant influence on his outlook on life and on his policy beliefs.
When he spoke on disability issues one could see the various personalities he had met at the clinic shining through in his words. This was one of Tony's great skills as a politician and as a public representative. He was always able to look at complex legislation and bring it back to its practical implications.
It is fair to say that Irish education and the fight for better rights for those with disabilities has lost a great champion following Tony's death. He was a marvellous character and he would often have great banter and teasing. He was always there for his colleagues. At the many conferences we attended as a group it was evident he enjoyed the camaraderie and good fun with his councillor colleagues and we relished being in his company. I will always remember towards the end of an evening at a conference how people would gravitate towards him because he was a fantastic singer. He would begin with a rendition of "The Town I Loved So Well" and then go on to perform many more. I always admired the way he managed to bring all parties together with this talent and likeability. This is something we will miss terribly but we will also take with us, especially at this time. Tony was remarkably popular in the Seanad and the Dáil. Everyone had time for him and was keen to help him in any way possible, especially during his very serious illness. I refer especially to Senator Wilson in this regard. Other party members were also willing to help Tony because he had built such a strong rapport with everyone he met, regardless of party allegiance.
Tony was nature's gentleman, so kind, easy-going and a great listener. He was a proud family man and spoke fondly of his wife, Noreen; his son, Jason, and his wife, Zoe; and his two daughters, Joanne and Jenifer. I felt I knew them very well because of the daily commentary I received on their successes and achievements, of which there were many. He was delighted when his granddaughter, Isabelle, arrived last year. It was very obvious to me at that stage what a fantastic father and grandfather he was.
Kathleen Redmond who works as my secretary was Tony's secretary and talks of him dearly. Tony was very fond of Kathleen and the feeling was mutual. The three of us enjoyed a wonderful working relationship and Kathleen and I cherish the great memories we have of Tony. I very much miss seeing him on the other side of the office table, where he would greet me every week with, "Well, Ms Southside, what is your whinge this week?" Often, I responded with the words, "Well, Mr. Northside...," but will not repeat the many comments that followed in reply, as they are not printable. We always had such banter across the table and he never spared me when he had something very particular to say; he made it his business to get his point across. I was always known as "Southside". I recall one occasion when he was getting under my skin. He was wearing a beautiful suit that day and was really getting at me, but I said, "You can talk, coming from the northside with your one and a half inch pinstripe suit." He roared laughing at that comment.
Tony was his own man and never a groupie or a yes-man — I used to say as much to him. That is why the former Taoiseach respected and treasured him and his advice so dearly. My thoughts and prayers are with Tony's family at this time. Noreen, her family and the wider circle of friends can take comfort in the knowledge that Tony fought a long and brave battle with a serious illness. He touched the lives of many and, undoubtedly, we are all the better for it. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.
I join my colleagues in paying tribute to our late, great colleague, Tony Kett. I also join in the welcome afforded to his wife, family and friends, especially Senator Brady and the former Senator, Mr. Chris Wall.
I had heard of the late Senator Tony Kett long before I met him, through his association with the former Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern. I remember very well the first time I met him. It was when he came to canvas me for the Seanad election in 2002. Little did I know at that stage that I would become a candidate on the same panel. Unusually, I was working in my house and dressed in old clothes and unshaven. When I was tipped off that Tony was on the way, I ran outside and began to plant a tree which had been lying outside for a long time. Tony came and we spoke. I planted the tree and I am pleased to report it is still there. Only for Tony it would never have been planted, or certainly would have happened a good deal later.
When I was fortunate enough to be elected to the House, I got to know Tony very well. He was a great man to give advice. He was decent and a fierce character. One never knew whether he was setting you up, but one learned soon enough. I valued very much the advice he provided. I sought an internal party nomination for the last Seanad election and Tony voted for me at the time. When I asked him why he was voting for me — I was the opposition — he replied that he did not want anyone with ability to stand against him. He has been proved right in that sense also.
I thank everyone who participated in the funeral. Senator Quinn referred to the guard of honour. I thank the Fine Gael and Labour Party Whips and all Senators who participated. It was a great honour for Tony and an opportunity for the Seanad to show its appreciation for what Tony had contributed to it and the Oireachtas during his time here. He was an honourable, decent and very humble man, to which Senator Ormonde alluded. I express my sincere condolences to his wife, Noreen, and her family, especially his little granddaughter, of whom he was very proud. May he rest in peace.
Ba mhaith liom comhbhrón a dhéanamh le baintreach agus clann Tony Kett. Fear díograsach, macánta a bhí ann. Bhí aithne agam ar Tony le fada. I had great respect for Tony. While Senator Wilson was on the inside Administrative Panel, Tony and I were on the outside. We first walked in through the doors of Seanad Éireann on the same day in 1997. Tony was a man who not only talked the talk, he also walked the walk. As someone who spent a good deal of time on the hustings, not only at election time, he would relay various stories of his encounters with different people and their problems. He would not go into the detail but he was a great storyteller. He was very funny and had a great turn of phrase.
Tony's friendship with the former Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern, is well known. If he received credit for being the champion of Deputy Ahern on his election to Dáil Éireann, I do not believe it was unjust; it was the right thing to do. However, Deputy Ahern returned that loyalty to Tony. I recall a discussion with a council colleague in Athlone after the Seanad election. I was speaking to him on the landline but Tony was ringing him on his mobile phone. Deputy Ahern put in the work for Tony and Tony put in the work for Deputy Ahern and that is something I respect. He was a man with a very strong sense of fair play. We held long discussions about his work and I was always interested because I came from a background which was not quite the same but which had some similarities.
It has been said Tony was a great man to give advice. He had an abundance of common sense, which is not as common a factor with many. Not only did he have a great deal of common sense, he was also able to disburse it in a realistic and meaningful way. I remember the first time he spoke to me openly about the problem he had and we discussed the matter for a long time. He spoke with great courage and conviction and said that with God's help he would be all right. He was a God-fearing, decent man. He will be missed by his wife Noreen, his son Jason and daughter-in-law Zoe, daughters Jennifer and Joanne, and his grandchild. In addition, he will be missed by the people whom he served so loyally in the Central Remedial Clinic, as well as those in the electoral area of Dublin Corporation and by councillors throughout the country. He will be greatly missed by those of us who had the privilege to serve with him.
Many things have been said about Tony, all of them true. He has left a legacy in this House and his interest in traditional music must not go unmentioned either. I have an interest in such music myself and have even been accused of playing a bit of it. At Christmas time when a number of us would get together, Tony would lead with his lovely singing voice. He had a great repertoire of songs and when we all ran out of tunes, Tony would always come up with an extra one.
There is no point in repeating what has already been said; everything that was said about him is true. The turnout at his removal and funeral was truly indicative of the esteem in which he was held, not alone by Members of the Oireachtas but also by his neighbours and the wider community. Ar dheis Dé go raibh sé.
I would like to be associated with the votes of sympathy to the late Tony Kett's wife Noreen, his family and friends who are present here today. I knew him since he became a Member of this House back in 1997. He served in public life for 21 years. I can honestly say that I never met a finer gentleman in this House or elsewhere. He was one of nature's gentlemen. The old saying goes that "There wasn't a bad bone in his body", which surely typified him. He was never one for a cheap shot but was always dependable and honourable. I got to know him well through the Oireachtas golf society to which he was a great contributor. He played in all the golf outings and loved that game in addition to hurling. I wish to be associated therefore with the votes of sympathy for a gentleman who has passed through this House.
I also want to be associated with the condolences expressed by my colleagues. I knew the late Senator Kett before I became a Member of this House. I first got to know him as a representative of the constituency of Dublin Central. The run-up to an election there, no less than in any other constituency, can be a fraught time. I came across him most during those pre-election periods. When I first got to know him and saw him in action, even though we were political opponents, it was immediately apparent to me that all the qualities of which other colleagues have spoken were radiant in him. They were apparent to everybody and I echo what has been said by my colleagues in that respect.
I also extend my condolences to Deputy Cyprian Brady and former Senator Chris Wall who are here today. They were brothers in arms with Tony for many years in the constituency. They were colleagues and friends and worked so hard together.
I first became aware of Tony's illness when I met him on Eccles Street one morning while dropping my children off to school. I was leaving the school when I saw him sitting in his car and I went over to say "Hello". I did not realise he was ill. To be honest, it was quite an uncomfortable moment because the public face, which was all I had really known of Tony over the years, immediately met the private reality of somebody who was suffering and in pain. I will never forget the way he conducted himself that morning when he spoke to me with such dignity and friendliness. He told me the suffering he was going through, his view on it and his attitude to life. He was at his finest that morning when I met him. That memory sticks with me as I speak here today.
Other colleagues have referred to the guard of honour we formed at his funeral. I was very proud to stand in that guard of honour as a Senator, a former colleague and somebody who worked in the constituency with him serving our constituents. I was proud to honour him that day.
All my colleagues have offered their sympathies to the Kett family and I wish to do the same. In particular, I want to offer my condolences to his granddaughter. It is beautiful to hear the sound of new life from a life that has passed on. I hope that in the years to come, when his family reflects on Tony's memory, the record of what we have said here will be of help to them in recognising the quality of the man with whom we were all honoured to serve.
I join colleagues in saluting and paying tribute to the late Tony Kett. He was a constituent of mine, as Noreen and their family have been for a number of years. Tony and I were elected together to Dublin City Council back in 1988. It is only when one starts totting up the years that one realises how fast they pass by. We both worked on Dublin City Council and enjoyed ourselves there. We shared a learning curve together at that time. I see some of his colleague scouts here today. We had great fun because there was a lot of banter between the constituencies of Dublin Central and Dublin North-Central. Tony was simply a good and lovely man who displayed great loyalty and compassion. He went about his business in a very gentle manner. He has left behind him the record of a distinguished political career as well as his work with the Central Remedial Clinic. I see Mr. Paul Kiely and other colleagues are present from the CRC.
I greatly appreciate all the good work that stands as a testimony to Tony's service on the north side of Dublin. I extend my sympathy to Noreen, Joanne, Jennifer and Jason, as well as Tony's brothers and sisters, Deputy Cyprian Brady, former Senator Chris Wall, Deputy Dooley and other friends and colleagues. We have walked the highways and by-ways. We have had good, bright days as well as bad, dark ones, but we stood together.
In the final months of his life, I admired the courage he displayed when facing illness. I join everyone on this sad day in reflecting on the great legacy Tony has left us. My thoughts are with you.
In acknowledging the presence of the late Tony Kett's family and friends here, I apologise for my rudeness in not being here for the beginning of these tributes to him. It is one of those things that happens in the life of a public representative, but it reflects what I want to say. No one more than the family understands the impact of public representation on family life and leisure time, which people in other jobs take for granted. Family events have to be slotted in. In a time of increasing public cynicism about the role of politics and public representation, whatever people outside these Houses may think, I want Tony's family and friends to know that we recognised him as a hard-working, honest and effective public representative. He discharged his role as a public representative with dignity and style and in a way that he considered it a privilege to be in a House of Parliament, a belief I hope many of us share. He never lost that and I often discussed this with him. I knew Tony for years before he was elected to the House through our common interest in education and special education, in particular. At an earlier time the north inner city and north Dublin were my special responsibility and I engaged with him and that area over many years. We had a coincidental interest in the area.
He was just one more of us in both Houses but, however much we argue and however much we are representative, we also recognise when people do a good job. This man made his mark and he was effective. I would like to be associated with all the positive comments made. His family can be proud of his contribution and should take away the message that we recognise that and we share their pride in his work. Ar dheis Dé go raibh sé.
Ba mhaith liom aontú leis an comhbhrón do chlainne Tony Kett. I feel proud but sad to be able to pay tribute to Tony. He was, as has been said by many Members, a friend and colleague over a long number of years. I first got to know him in 1997 when we were both elected to the House and I got to work closely with him. I was chairman of the Local Authority Members Association at the time and it did not have a representative of Dublin City Council. I recall shortly after we entered the House suggesting to Tony that he might consider securing the nomination from the council, which he did. I have happy memories of that time because when venues coincided with both our routes, we travelled together to meetings and I learned a great deal about politics and, in particular, Fianna Fáil politics in the inner city, the manner in which they operated, his close friendship with Deputy Bertie Ahern, the then Taoiseach, and his loyalty and other good attributes. We spoke about colleagues, councillors and all the subjects politicians cover when they get together.
However, one time that stands out is when we were promoting a strong relationship with councillors in Northern Ireland. We arranged conferences together and late at night when the more sensible councillors had gone to bed, a sing song would commence among those who remained. Those who knew him will be aware Tony was a beautiful ballad singer and he loved Jimmy McCarthy's songs. They will also know the entertainment value of his singing. A number of our northern counterparts were fine singers, particularly those from the Unionist tradition, and it was great to see Tony start up to represent us. We felt proud when he started with the lines: "I took the train to Belfast to see my friend McRory" or sang the Bright Blue Rose, which the former Taoiseach mentioned at his funeral. It resonated with the words he quoted that day.
I have many other memories. Some Members will recall our Christmas parties where, with the backing of Senator Glynn and Deputy Micheál Kitt on guitar, we would go until such time as the ushers ejected us from the House and there was none better to join in the entertainment and to extract real joy out of it than Tony. On another occasion, I travelled to Newcastle with my family and friends to see Manchester United play Newcastle United. I had forgotten Tony was a Spurs fan, which Senator Fitzgerald alluded to, because I was such a dyed in the wool United fan and because he travelled so much with Deputy Bertie Ahern to Old Trafford. I had overlooked this until the funeral when the Deputy reminded us of that fact. As the aeroplane was about to land, we were in conversation when we suddenly realised it was climbing again. That stopped our conversation. Tony and Deputy Ahern were towards the front of the aeroplane and we were at the back. I asked an air hostess what was the problem after the captain had said he was not lined up properly and he would make another attempt to land. To my consternation, she replied that they had a trainee pilot and she was not lined up properly for the landing. I passed a comment about women drivers. I thought I would never get back and I said to Tony that I thought travelling with the Taoiseach would have secured our safety. He was able to trump me by saying that on the trip to Newcastle he had not only met Brendan Foster, the great Olympian runner from Gateshead, but together with the former Taoiseach, he had also had a good conversation with Alex Ferguson, which made me envious of the fact that I had not been in their company.
Nothing defines us more than how we deal with adversity. When Tony fell ill, and before he was diagnosed with a serious illness, we often talked in his office with Senator Ormonde and others. Previous speakers mentioned the manner in which he coped and the great courage and dignity with which he bore and dealt with his illness. It was an example to us all. I offered words of encouragement to him on a number of occasions, as did many others, and I told him how important it was to keep positive but he sometimes turned to me and said, "I have my moments". That is the human side of all of us.
We will miss Tony for his contributions, integrity and the example he showed. Following the 2002 election, I went on holidays and when I returned the Taoiseach had met the Fianna Fáil Seanad group. I inquired of Tony what positions we might be getting and he replied that the Taoiseach seemed to have all the positions under control bar one. There was nobody in the group with justice or legal qualifications and he said I might be good at that. I said that would be too onerous and complex for me but, to my surprise, I got the call and I was given the portfolio. I went back to Tony thinking he probably had a part to play in it but he completely disarmed me when he said he was sharing the portfolio. He took responsibility for equality and the disability sector, in which he was keenly interested.
He was so proud of his family. I always felt I knew Noreen before I ever met her and I am aware of the pride he took in Jason, Jennifer and Joanne and their sporting achievements, and how delighted he was with the arrival of his grandchild. They can also be proud of him not just for the public figure and politician he was but for the man he was. He was exemplary in many ways and that is typified by the generous and genuine comments by other Members. As one generation passes, another arrives and it was great that Tony lived to see his granddaughter. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam uasal.
I join the tributes paid by colleagues. I was glad to call Tony Kett a friend during my time as a Member. Tony was always one of nature's gentlemen. He was always courteous and he had a quiet manner but I always recall his mischievous smile when we had a chat about somebody or something. I am Whip of the Fine Gael group and, through Senator Wilson, we provided a permanent pair for Tony throughout his illness. He was always grateful for that and we would always have a chat in the anteroom whenever he came to the House. He bore his illness with great dignity and bravery.
When Tony spoke in this House people listened to him because he always had something proper to say. His contributions in this House were excellent at all times. I convey my deepest sympathy to Tony's wife Noreen and family. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.
I extend my deepest sympathy to Noreen, Jason, Jennifer and Joanne and to all of Tony's family, friends and colleagues. I would like to be associated with the warm and wonderful tributes paid by colleagues this morning which are a testament to the exceptional man that was Tony. I pay particular tribute to Tony's role as Government Seanad spokesperson on disability and mental health. Tony was a gentleman and a man of compassion, with a deep sense of justice and fair play. These were traits he brought to his role as spokesperson, advocating strongly for a section of our society who can frequently be left behind but whose lives have undoubtedly benefited from the contribution made by the late Senator Tony Kett. He made a real difference. May he rest in peace.
I join previous speakers in tributes to the late Tony Kett. Tony Kett was a gentleman. He was very kind and courteous, and it is wonderful to hear all the tributes being paid to him. I came to know Tony Kett on his rounds for his first Seanad term when he was canvassing various councillors in the different counties. He was always good humoured and full of fun. I agree with the comments about his contribution in this House, his good humour at conferences, with parties going on late into the night, but no one mentioned his dancing skills. I saw him on the dance floor and he was a very good dancer. I express my deepest sympathy to Tony's wife, Noreen, his family, his grandchild and his friends who are here. May he rest in peace.
I welcome Noreen and the family and thank them for giving us an opportunity to pay tribute to the late Senator Tony Kett. I also welcome Deputy Cyprian Brady, former Senator Chris Wall and Tony's colleagues to the House.
I enjoyed the late Tony Kett's company very much. My office was on the third floor also. Senator Feeney and I were in the office next door. I used to call in to both Tony and Senator Ormonde on a regular basis and it was an education at times to hear Seanad elections, votes and so on being discussed. Tony was great craic when it came to elections.
I happened to be in the office one day and he told me that I seemed to have many connections in north Tipperary. I told him I had, and he asked me who they were. I told him my mother is from Gortnahoe. He said that was strange, and he asked her name. I told him it was Delia Fennelly, and he said that was twice as strange. He told me he had a brother in law, Paddy Ryan, from Gortnahoe and that Paddy's sister was married to my uncle, Martin Fennelly, my mother's brother. That was the first time I heard that. I had been a Member a number of years but I never knew that until that day. We remained great friends. I sat beside him here. I was bell 4 and he was bell 5 when it came to a vote. It was great when a vote was called because Tony would always have a good yarn to tell.
I did not know Tony until I arrived in this House in 2002. I express my sympathy to Noreen and Tony's family. I am delighted to join others in the lovely tributes paid to Tony. May he rest in peace. I have no doubt Tony is in Heaven.
This is my first term in the Seanad but I knew the late Tony Kett for many years. I had the pleasure of voting for him regularly on his panel when I was a county councillor. He enjoyed tremendous support from the councillors of Kerry, partly because of his association with Deputy Bertie Ahern but also because of his great personality. People used to say he was a sure bet for the Seanad because of his friendship with Deputy Bertie Ahern. That may have got him off the ground initially, so to speak, but I assure everyone that he was extremely popular with rural councillors throughout the country. As Senator Ormonde said, he had a way about him at conferences because all Senators, and I do it myself now, try to work the room when we meet a group of councillors. Tony never worked the room. He was just himself. He had his drink and his sing-song and everybody seemed to gravitate towards him. That is the type of man he was.
To Tony's wife and family and all his colleagues from Drumcondra including Deputy Cyprian Brady, former Senator Wall and all the other famous names that have become the stuff of legend, I offer my deepest sympathy. I know Tony was an integral part of a political organisation that has become the stuff of legend. Deputy Bertie Ahern went out of his way to pay tribute to his organisation, of which Tony was a key part, on the night he launched his book. I have read that book from cover to cover. Tony will be remembered for what he did but he will always be associated with Deputy Bertie Ahern and for the contribution he made, along with his colleagues who are present, to the formation and presentation of Deputy Bertie Ahern who was probably the most able and brilliant politician of my generation. Tony deserves special thanks for that.
Like Deputy Kieran Phelan I sat beside Tony for voting purposes and his strength and humour in his final illness was wondrous to behold. He always had a joke and a smile, but he promised me something on which he did not deliver. He always said he would take me on a pub crawl in Drumcondra some weekend and visit all those famous places. I was looking forward to that but, unfortunately, his illness overcame him. The week Tony died I went on a personal odyssey and visited all those pubs and everybody I met — publicans, customers and the fellow who had the menswear shop in Drumcondra — had nothing but the most wonderful things to say about him. I am glad to be here to be part of these tributes. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.
I want to be associated with the warm tributes to the late Tony Kett and I extend sympathies to his family. I did not know him very well having only been appointed to the Seanad in 2002 but when one goes to a funeral one really enjoys, if it is fair to say that, one comes away from it wishing I had known the man better. That is a measure of who he was, and that is what I felt at his funeral. The most touching aspect was the poem his daughter wrote because the love, tenderness and closeness within his family was obvious. At the end of the day, one's family is the most important thing. Despite all his achievements in public office through the Fianna Fáil Party, the Central Remedial Clinic and all other areas working for his community, to which every Member has paid tribute, the one aspect I got from the little I knew of him was that he was a terribly modest man but, as Senator Fitzgerald said, a hard-working man who got things done. That was very much in evidence among the community who attended his funeral.
I am glad Tony's family and friends, the people who were the cornerstone of his life, are present to hear the tributes being paid to him because he was a remarkable individual. I was glad to know him in the short time I did. As I said — if it is not insensitive to say such a thing — I enjoyed his funeral a great deal. He was a remarkable man who brought much warmth and happiness to many people's lives. I am glad to have had the opportunity to pay tribute to him.
I thank the Cathaoirleach for allowing me to contribute. It is a measure of the man to whom we pay tribute and in respect of whom we offer our respects that so many colleagues are offering words of sympathy. In my seven years in the House I have never heard so many paying tribute to someone who has died.
A previous speaker stated the late Tony Kett was a friend. I was honoured to call him a friend. On the day four of us travelled to the Kett home to visit Noreen and the family, she greeted each of us by name. This was despite the fact that she had never met us before. She informed us that he had never stopped talking about us. On the return car journey someone said, "Jesus, wasn't Kett a right one?" One would never think he was your pal but obviously he was because Noreen knew everything about the four of us who travelled out to see her.
Other speakers referred to Tony visiting their offices. As Senator Kieran Phelan stated, our office is located one away from that which Tony occupied. He never passed by without either knocking or kicking on the door and coming in. He would look around and say, "I have a right one to tell you today". It was always a very clean joke that one could repeat to others. I recall the laughter that used to emanate from the office when he came in and told a joke. What I remember most about his visits to our office is that he was always great for providing advice on how your pension would benefit you. I recall thinking when he died that it was so sad that while he knew so much about figures, pensions and voluntary contributions, he never had the opportunity to enjoy his own pension.
It is a lovely tribute to Tony that details relating to his funeral service are pinned on the noticeboards of every office on our floor. As a result, there is not a day that goes by when one does not have occasion to think about him. That is another indication of what Tony meant to every one of us.
I smile when I hear people refer to parties. We have had some great parties in Senator Walsh's office but we have not had one in some time. I must inform Senator O'Brien that there was never any room for dancing. However, we were often treated to a rendition of Mary Black's "Bright Blue Rose". Even then, Tony was modest about his ability to perform a song.
When I first ran for election in 2002, I met Tony and former Senator Chris Wall at the council offices in Longford. Like me, Tony was anxious to meet the councillors and then travel on to his next appointment. I arrived perhaps 30 seconds before him. Chris Wall told him to go in first but being the gentleman he was, Tony allowed me to go in ahead of him. He rang me that night to inform me that I had done well. I asked him how he knew that and he stated those present had spoken about me when I had left. As it happened, he was right because I happened to be elected on that occasion.
I always found Tony to be a very modest and caring man. He will be remembered fondly and for a long time in this Chamber. He will be sadly missed. May he rest in peace.
I express my sympathy to Tony's family, his many friends, Deputies Cyprian Brady and Dooley and former Senator Chris Wall. I knew Tony long before I ever became a Member of the Seanad. I knew him through his work at the city council and also that which he did in his constituency and at election time. He was a key man in all of Deputy Bertie Ahern's election campaigns on the northside of the city.
The good work which Tony, as a member of the city council, did for people will never be forgotten. He will be remembered for it and his family should be extremely proud of him. When we remember Tony Kett, we will remember a man who made a difference. It is important to recall that he became a Senator and a county councillor because he wanted to make a difference to society and the people for whom he worked.
Previous speakers referred to Tony in different ways. To me, he was a real politician and a man who had conviction with regard to what he did. I will always remember him as that type of person. He is an example of how people in public life should conduct themselves. I offer my sincere sympathies to his family and thank them for coming to the Chamber today. I am glad to have had this opportunity to express my feelings about Tony.
I wish to be associated with the tributes to the late Senator Tony Kett. I offer my condolences to his widow, Noreen, and the other members of his family.
During the 2002 election, as a result of Deputy Bertie Ahern's connections in west Cork — his mother was from Bantry and his father from the Kinsale area — I used the slogan "Let Bertie's boy be put to work for west Cork". However, that was just for electoral purposes because Tony was the real "Bertie's boy".
Members will be aware that I regard canvassing for election to the Seanad as being tougher than canvassing for election to the Dáil. It is like fishing, one has good days and one has bad days. It is similar to the parable in which the fishermen were out all night but caught nothing. During the most recent Seanad election campaign I recall enduring an extremely frustrating time while trying to canvass parts of Dublin on a Sunday. Canvassing in rural areas can be difficult but there are ways and means of doing so. Dublin is a different story. On the day in question I met two or three individuals early on — either after mass or before lunch. Unfortunately, in my eagerness to get out on the canvass I had completely forgotten that Dublin were playing in Croke Park in the Leinster championship on that day. I wasted approximately five hours trying to negotiate the match day traffic and eventually decided to throw in the towel because I was going nowhere. Tony sent me a message on my mobile phone — possibly as late as 10.30 p.m. when I was contemplating returning to the nest — to the effect that I should go to a certain pub on the northside. It was like landing a haul of fish. There were five or six people there, including the then Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern; his brother, Deputy Noel Ahern; Deputy Finian McGrath and a couple of others. This made what had been an extremely frustrating day worthwhile. I am not stating those present all gave me their No. 1 vote. However, I will always remember Tony's gesture of kindness, particularly, as stated, I had spent a frustrating few hours — it must be remembered that it was a fine day and people had either gone out or were attending the match to support Dublin — during which I could not meet anyone. I was so happy that I got to meet five or six potential voters at one venue in north Dublin. To put the icing on the cake, Tony called to Deputy Bertie Ahern who was at the bar and told him to be sure to buy me a pint. That night I got the first and only drink Deputy Bertie Ahern has ever bought for me thanks to Tony. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.
It is wonderful to be associated with the vote of sympathy to the family of the late Senator Tony Kett, to whom some excellent tributes have been paid. I extend my sympathies to his widow, Noreen; his family and lovely granddaughter, whom I had the honour to meet outside the Chamber.
In years to come when she gets older, she will look back on today, read these tributes and realise what a wonderful grandfather she had. I wish to extend my sympathy to the extended Kett family, as well as to friends and relations. I also wish to sympathise with his personal friend, Deputy Cyprian Brady, and former Senator Chris Wall. I note the presence in the Visitors Gallery of Deputy Dooley, who also was a colleague of Tony's in the Seanad. That great Drumcondra team are wonderful people. They may be down and have had their difficulties but they will rise again. They have missed Tony and his wonderful work in that constituency but matters will improve for them in the future. I also extend sympathy to the former Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern, who was a deep personal friend.
Tony carried out tremendous work in the Central Remedial Clinic and provided a great service there. I believe he was responsible for building up that organisation to its present strength and it constitutes a living tribute to his work. I served in this House from 2002 until his death and his funeral was marked by a wonderful guard of honour from all sides of the House. His death was premature and although he lived and achieved a great deal in a short time, he never complained about his illness. Even while very ill, he often appeared in the House to vote, which is a tribute to his style. I refer to the continuity represented by his granddaughter and to his lovely family and note the wonderful tribute to him today, which is sincere and genuine. We have missed a truly great man in the late Senator Tony Kett. He was a wonderful husband and family man, a great friend to this House and I am proud to have known him. I express my deep sympathy to all the family who are present.
I am glad to join my colleagues in honouring the late Senator Tony Kett. My first meeting with Tony took place in the Central Remedial Clinic when I was canvassing during my first campaign for election to the Seanad. He painstakingly explained all the election's intricacies to me because as a novice candidate, it was a complicated process, particularly as I had only made up my mind to stand about two weeks previously. However, he was patient and kind and I forever will appreciate the time he spent with me. He spent an hour with me explaining everything I should and should not do. For example, I remember he advised me not to talk about one candidate to another and not to mention anyone else's name. This advice has always stuck with me.
Every time Tony sat in this Chamber, he never failed to acknowledge me as a human being, which I appreciate. He had the ultimate west of Ireland charm and interest in other people. Every time he appeared in the Chamber, he smiled at me and I appreciated that very much. At Tony's funeral, I told Noreen that when the previous Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern, was under pressure, I discerned in Tony's face his anguish and empathy for his friend. I must make the point that the former Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern, was privileged to have such a loyal friend as the late Senator Tony Kett.
In common with all my colleagues, I express my sincere sympathy to Tony's wife and family, as well as to his friends and colleagues. Undoubtedly, having watched him in this House over the years and even before he became a Member, he always was part of the former Taoiseach's back-up team and inner cabinet outside the real Cabinet. One might state that as Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern's Cabinet was in St. Luke's rather than in Government Buildings and on many occasions, Tony Kett's counsel held well both for the people of Ireland and the then Taoiseach. Tony bore his illness by going about as though nothing was wrong and it is a tribute to the man that he never complained to any of his colleagues in this House about it. All Members were shocked, having seen him in the House the previous week, by his sudden and untimely death. In common with all my colleagues, I wish to be associated with the vote of sympathy to his wife, his family and especially to his granddaughter. I suppose it is appropriate that his granddaughter probably will remember this day more than anyone else because she has received greater mention than anyone apart from Tony himself. This is only right because she represents another generation. She spans the generations and when she reads these tributes in 20 years' time, she will realise what a loss it was to her not to have really known her grandfather.
I also join my Seanad colleagues in paying tribute to the late Tony Kett, who was on the Administrative Panel with me. In the words of Yeats, "Think where man's glory most begins and ends, ... my glory was I had such friends". I am sure the former Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern, would agree with Yeats that his glory was that he had Tony Kett as a confidant and close adviser. All Members have close advisers in the background without whom many would not have reached this House because they prevent one from doing the things one should not and advise and encourage one to do those things one is afraid to do. If behind the great Deputy Bertie Ahern was Tony Kett, then the statement also is true that behind every great man is a great woman. I extend my deepest sympathy on their great loss to Noreen, her family and Tony's granddaughter.
I wish to share in all the tributes that have been paid to Tony. It particularly springs to my mind that Tony was a gentleman and he was kind. While he was part of an organisation within the Fianna Fáil organisation that achieved a great deal in its time, he was a very humble man who showed how hard work, discipline and attention to detail without any fanfare can achieve so much. He was very much part of that group that achieved so much in Irish politics and in Irish life. I wish to pay tribute to Tony. Tony chose to be gentle and kind and that constitutes a tribute to him that has been remembered by all Members today. I wish to extend my sympathy to his family.
I wish to be associated with the expressions of sympathy to Tony, his wife and family. I got to know Tony many years ago when I worked with him on the city council. Tony had some great qualities and I will touch on a couple of them. I do not wish to go on for too long because many good things already have been said and there is no point in repeating them. As a person, Tony always had time for one and always would greet one with a smile wherever one met him. He never was one to state he was obliged to go to a meeting, was on the telephone or whatever but always stayed with one. He also was very helpful and if one had a personal problem, he would give his time to discuss it.
Another point about Tony is that he was a humble and modest person. Senator Ellis mentioned his friendship with the Taoiseach. While there are those who have friends in high places who make a big thing about it, Tony never did that. Were one to sum up Tony in a few words, one would state that above all his other qualities, he was a proper gentleman. I will sum him up by saying the best thing one can say about anyone, which is that he was a sound man. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.
I wish to be associated with the tributes paid to the late Tony Kett who, as has been stated, was a Member of this House from 1997, when he was a nominee of the Central Remedial Clinic. He worked for many years as an administrator at the Central Remedial Clinic and his expertise and knowledge in issues relating to disabilities and education were greatly valued by his colleagues in Seanad Éireann. He made a huge contribution to Irish political life and to the Houses of the Oireachtas in his role as a Senator. He was reliable, good-humoured and totally committed to the Fianna Fáil Party and to Seanad Éireann. I was the Government Whip for five years. If Tony had other commitments or meetings but told me he would be here for a certain time, I never had to check. He was always on time and as soon as he arrived in the building he would ring me to notify me he was back. He will be sadly missed by his many friends in the Oireachtas and especially by his wife, Noreen; son, Jason; daughters Jennifer and Joanne, and his grand-daughter. May he rest in peace.