We will wait for Senator David Norris to get to the correct chair as we would not want him to press the incorrect button.
Death of Former Member: Expressions of Sympathy
You certainly would not.
It would not happen during statements anyway.
We will now hear tributes to the late former Senator, Mr. Feargal Quinn. Before inviting Senators to contribute, I extend a very warm welcome to Feargal’s wife, Denise, to his children, Gilliane, Eamonn and Zoe, his sister Eilagh and his extended family. I also welcome his former staff members, Anne and Bairbre. Also in attendance today are his former Seanad colleagues, Dr. Seán Barrett and Dr. Maurice Manning. On behalf of the Members of the Seanad, I express again our sincere sympathy to all our guests, and I hope that since his death in April, they have been able in their own ways to come to terms with their sad loss.
Feargal Quinn was a unique individual. He was a deeply committed and respected public servant, as well as a highly successful businessman. He was born into a business family so his work ethic was therefore instilled in him at an early age. In Skerries he shone shoes, waited tables and cleaned dishes in the kitchens. No job was beneath him. His down-to-earth approach never left him and he built a brand based on the personal touch, known for its quality and service. He showed his business acumen from an early age and after graduating from University College Dublin, he opened his first supermarket in Dundalk at the age of 23. This was the start of a very successful career in retail.
His contribution to the Irish retail market was matched by his outstanding public service. He was chairman of An Post throughout the 1980s and he brought his hands-on approach to that role as well. I understand that during his first week he worked a full shift delivering post to homes in full postman uniform. He had a deep commitment to charity. Even in the busiest period for retail at Christmas, he was aware of the needs of others and found time to give away hampers in inner-city Dublin. He became the driving force behind the annual Mansion House Christmas day dinner.
His appointment to the Seanad in 1993 began a 23-year career in this House, where he was highly respected as an Independent Senator.
His commitment to the Seanad was total, not least in the many Bills he tabled in the House, including the Construction Contracts Bill 2010 to protect building subcontractors, which became law after being supported by the Government of the day.
He did not need the Seanad. He did not take the salary, which I understand he donated to charity. He took his place here because of his deep commitment to Ireland and democracy. He will, of course, be remembered for his central role in the referendum campaign to prevent the abolition of the Seanad in 2013. As a businessman, writer, television personality, public servant and Senator, Feargal Quinn was a hugely popular figure in Irish life.
Personally, he was hugely likeable, pleasant, friendly and good-humoured. He had a sense of integrity, decency and honesty that guided him throughout his life. I might add I was impressed with his sense of style. I always admired his very colourful ties and socks, although I was never brave enough to go down that road myself. He was great fun. Feargal was a Member of this House for 23 years from 1993 to 2016. I had the privilege of serving here with him as a Member of the House. He was an honourable gentleman and a true family man. His family were at the centre of it all. He could have opted for a quieter life but, instead, he took up the challenge and commitment of being a Member of Seanad Éireann. This House was the poorer for his departure on his retirement and Ireland is the poorer for his loss. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.
A Leas-Chathaoirligh, I want to identify immediately with the heartfelt and emotional words you have spoken about our late colleague, Feargal Quinn. His loss to his family is immense. His loss to Irish democracy is also immense. His loss to Irish society, the economy and the wider Republic in which he lived is immense.
I first came into touch with Feargal Quinn when he was simply a successful businessman and I was a lawyer. Later, when I became a Minister and came to appreciate the virtues of this House, I dealt with him on a number of matters. I found him to be courteous, patriotic and unfailingly decent in all his dealings with his colleagues and the wider general public. He was a member of the Independent group and it is a great honour today to speak on behalf of that group in tribute to Feargal Quinn.
He believed in Irish democracy. Many people who had achieved as much as he did in business would have rested on their laurels and done nothing further in their lives, but he, as the Leas-Cathaoirleach said, determined that he would devote a very considerable portion of his life from 1993 onwards to the service of Irish democracy. As the Leas-Cathaoirleach pointed out, he did so while eschewing his salary simply because he believed in the contribution he could make, as a successful businessman, to this Chamber.
He was a man of very strong views, even though he was a man of immense gentility. He was more conservative than, say, I would be, but he never allowed his conservative views on moral matters to obtrude in his dealings with others with whom he might have disagreed. As the Leas-Cathaoirleach pointed out, he was a man who spent many hours engaged in charitable work in this city and elsewhere.
Most importantly, he really devoted himself to making sure that this Chamber worked effectively to do the work which the Constitution envisaged for it. When the proposal to abolish this Chamber came into the public domain, he contacted me because he knew I was opposed to the measure and, with the late Noel Whelan, the current Minister, Deputy Zappone, and Dr. Brian Hunt, who is here today, we, in our small way, contributed to the campaign to preserve the Seanad. Other people, including Senator Norris, did Trojan work as well. The crucial thing was that when Senator Quinn, as he then was, went out into the streets of Irish towns and cities, he swung that campaign by simply being the man he was and reminding people of the value of this House. Although his health was not good at that time, and he was not capable of sustained campaigning, he pretended that he was in perfect health, and he posed for photographs and the like as if he was a youngster. He made it very clear to all those who met him - and crowds flocked to him - that he was there to sell them the message that Irish democracy was about to be damaged in a very serious way by the abolition of this House, and he appealed to them to vote to retain this House.
I know that the last article he wrote for The Sunday Business Post just a week before he died, which was published the day after his funeral, pleaded with the Government of the day to deliver on reforming this House and making sure it plays its full part. Although those reforms may be a matter of controversy from time to time, it is undoubtedly the case that, having saved this House, as he did, we owe him the duty at least to take his posthumously published article seriously and to do something to make this House more effective as a Chamber of the Irish Parliament.
Former Senators Maurice Manning and Seán Barrett are here, and I want to pay tribute to them as Members of this House who have always had its interests at heart. Most of all, I want to finish on a point to the extended Quinn family here today, and I put on my most colourful tie for the occasion, though I draw the line at the socks. I want to say to the Quinn family that we are deeply grateful to them for what their father, grandfather, husband and brother has done for Irish society. Although it is hardly necessary to say it, on the occasion that I launched his recent biography at his request, it struck me that his family meant the most to him. Of all his relations and all his achievements, his family represented his greatest love and his greatest priority. On behalf of the Independent group, and I think I speak on behalf of everybody in this House, I thank the Quinn family most sincerely for what Feargal Quinn did for Irish democracy. His gentle smile, his gentle nature, are always living in our hearts.
I welcome Feargal Quinn's family, friends and former colleagues to the House. I wish to pay tribute to him. I got to know him not as long ago as Senator McDowell perhaps, but in 2011. Obviously, I knew of him but I got to know him personally when I was first elected here. He was extremely kind to me as a new member of the Seanad, very encouraging and always courteous. He was a lesson to me on how we should interact with one another, as politicians in this country. Sometimes the level of discourse does descend, but it is something that never happened with Feargal Quinn.
I learned a lot from speaking to him, but also from observing him in the Chamber. As I mentioned to some of his family outside, he had a way of drawing people into what he had to say by using examples concerning his grandchildren and direct family. I always found that very endearing but it was also a clever way to make sure people were listening to what he was saying.
Feargal Quinn was warm, witty and decent. He also had all the other qualities Senator McDowell described. He was a very proud resident of Howth. I am lucky enough to live in Howth and I know how well regarded Feargal was all over the country, but especially in that part of Dublin. Most people are extremely proud to have known and worked with him. As Senator McDowell said, having built the Superquinn brand to what it was, he still maintained his service to the country. That is highly admirable.
As has been said, Feargal served in Seanad Éireann for 23 years. I observed his involvement in many extremely constructive Bills. That went on over the course of those years. His tenacity and passion were always clearly evident. As one can see from television programmes, he always wanted to help others in small business to achieve and to improve their businesses. The reason he was so well regarded around the country was that people could relate to him as having worked so hard and having been so good to people.
As I said, Feargal Quinn's style of communication impressed me. He was a really lovely colleague, and I would not say that about everyone in politics, although everyone in the Chamber today is lovely.
Senator Noone should leave the Fine Gael crowd alone.
It is sometimes said that, unfortunately, we often wait until people pass away to say nice things about them, but I always felt this way about Feargal Quinn. His absence and our tributes to him today remind us that we should all strive to lift each other up in our communities, support one another and work together for the greater good. There are not many people who have the greater good at heart in reality, but Feargal Quinn was a man who did. He is a profound loss to this family, who no doubt miss him every day. I am sorry that I am speaking with my back to them. I am conscious of that but I am in my allocated seat.
I will conclude by thanking the Quinn family for sharing Feargal with us. We really enjoyed having him here. I thank them for the service he paid to Ireland.
On behalf of the Fianna Fáil Party, I will say a few words in respect of our late great friend, the former Senator, Feargal Quinn. Today is a sad occasion for the family of Feargal Quinn and his former colleagues here in the Upper House, where he distinguished himself. I hope, however, that it is also a moment of pride. It is an opportunity for those of us who shared this space in our Parliament with him to pay tribute and due respect to one of our best. The former Senator leaves behind a legacy that stretches across both business and politics and into the lives of those who knew him. He made an immense contribution, characterised by charity, civic duty and innovation. In Superquinn, he built up a remarkable business. His relentless emphasis on customer service created a unique shopping experience that transformed commerce in Ireland. For his many employees, he created a business that enabled them to live a good life with a decent job. All through this, his personal characteristics of kindness and decency shone through in the rough and tumble of the business world. His energy and the example he set for all of his staff became a model that other business owners admired. He was a firm advocate of Irish enterprise at home and abroad. We could not have hoped for a more energetic or enthusiastic supporter of our national interests.
From the world of business, Feargal Quinn threw himself headlong into the equally tough area of politics and, once more, distinguished himself. He introduced 17 Bills, marking himself out as a prolific legislator who pinpointed issues. He deftly worked with others to achieve his aims and passed a series of laws that helped to better the lot of the Irish people. On the deeply competitive university panel, his appeal continuously shone through. He set the standard that others on that panel strive to achieve to this day. As Senator McDowell alluded to, when this House stood on the precipice of political oblivion in 2013, Feargal Quinn stood up to defend it. Rather than joining in with a populist slash-and-burn approach to pillars of our shared democracy, he held firm. He outlined, with sharp clarity of thought and his own remarkable lived model of political life, the crucial role the Upper House plays in our democracy. Our presence here today is a result of his boundless energy and ceaseless efforts. All those who take their seats today are challenged to live up to his tremendous example.
I will pick out a few points Feargal Quinn made in his final contribution to this House on 3 February 2016. This contribution is worth reading for anyone who has not read it in its entirety. He said: "I have been involved in a number of careers but in this one every single day from the first time I came into this House I have been fortunate enough to get a sense of achievement and satisfaction." Later in his contribution, he said:
Years ago, I remember being asked to explain the word “management” in five words or fewer. We spoke about it a lot and came up with, “Management is getting results through other people”. That is what I have learned here in this House. It is about the ability of the Government, this and the other House to get results through other people. I found listening and getting results on that basis has been a huge success. It could not have taken place, however, without the enthusiasm, commitment and the dedication of so many people, both who work here and who have been elected to this House.
In the final sentence of his contribution he said: "I certainly intend to maintain my interest in what is going on here in the years ahead." I was thinking of a few of the stand-out moments I remember of Feargal, apart from the fact that he was the man to patent the effectiveness of socks, long before the Taoiseach, Deputy Varadkar, was even born. Both the Leas-Chathaoirleach and Senator McDowell have alluded to this, and to Feargal's beautiful ties. I remember he once said that during his business career he had been working between 18 and 20 hours a day and eventually decided he needed to take up a hobby that would take him out of the office. He did not want the other staff or management to know that he was taking a break, so he purchased a horse and named it "Business" so that when anybody inquired as to where he was, his secretary could say he was out on Business.
Feargal Quinn had a major difficulty with promotions from various bodies, such as television companies, Sky News, sporting channels or whatever, offering great discounts to new customers while paying no attention to existing customers. He could not cope with this. It bothered him to such an extent that he used to unsubscribe from some of these services and then subscribe in the name of his wife, Denise, to avail of the incentives.
He stressed to us all the difference between best-by dates and use-by dates. It is something on which he encouraged us all to educate ourselves and the public. He said it would lead to far less food wastage. He questioned the logic of changing the clock in summer and winter, something which we discussed recently. He was partly responsible for the change to how we receive the Order Paper, which was put in a brown envelope and put in our pigeonholes every sitting day. We can get it now on the Internet.
Feargal was a very decent and honourable man, dapper, as he has been described by many, and who always carried his briefcase. When he walked in through the door, one would know by the speed he was walking at whether he was in good or bad humour, or whether the Government was going to get it. I learned that as a former Government Chief Whip. One is able to read the body language of people that one might be depending on for a vote.
It was an honour for me to serve with him from 2002 to 2016. On behalf of the Fianna Fáil Party I wish his wife, Denise, and his family and extended family our deepest sympathies.
I now call the father of the House, Senator Norris.
The strength of affection in which Feargal Quinn was held by every Member of this House was exemplified by the tremor in the Leas-Chathaoirleach's voice when he spoke about him. Everyone feels Feargal's loss very deeply. However, I wish to correct the Leas-Chathaoirleach on one thing. He was not nominated to the Seanad. He was triumphantly elected by the National University of Ireland, our sister university panel.
I happily stand corrected.
It is just a small correction but it is worthwhile saying because he was a democrat and he was democratically elected by one of only two democratic constituencies in this House.
It is all democratic.
What I really meant was he was appointed by the electorate.
I accept the Leas-Chathaoirleach's amendment. I first knew Feargal as a businessman out in Sutton. I used to see him there and meet him regularly. The thing about him was he would roll up his sleeves and get stuck in. He was a real democrat. He never asked anyone to do anything that he would not do himself. That was a testament to the man. I remember his great war cry, which I think was also the title of one of his books: the customer is king. That was Feargal Quinn all over.
I sat beside him in the House for many years. He was always gentlemanly. Even if one was disagreeing with him, he never lost his cool. He was always an immensely courteous man.
He was deeply religious. That is something people have not referred to yet. He was deeply religious in a very genuine sort of way. He was, I believe, Supreme Knight of the Knights of St. Columbanus, and he was very proud of the papal knighthood that was conferred upon him. He used to wear the rosette in the House with great pride and distinction. I was a guest in the Cosmos Club in Washington some years ago and I was presented with the rosette of the club. It was a very distinguished place. Practically all its members were Nobel prize winners in science of some kind, so I was something of a lame duck there. Just for fun, I wore the rosette. Feargal's eyes nearly unscrewed themselves from his face when he saw it, and he could not resist asking me what this was? I told him it was a papal knighthood but His Holiness told me I had to be very discreet about it. The look on Feargal's face was absolutely priceless.
He was meticulous in his contributions. I will always remember, because I sat beside him for many years, that he always had his notes typed out and double-spaced. They presented him with the groundwork for his argument. He introduced an enormous number of Bills as a private Member, I think more than any other Member of this House. That was a very significant contribution. He was a vigorous defender of the Seanad when it was threatened with extinction, and we should be grateful to him for this. I remember him with great affection. May he rest in peace.
This is one of the more enjoyable sessions in the Seanad. One can almost feel Feargal Quinn is here. I thank everyone for sharing their stories. I did not serve with Feargal Quinn, but what Senators McDowell, Norris, Wilson and Noone have shared is very important and it is enjoyable to listen to.
On behalf of the Sinn Féin team in the Seanad, I welcome Feargal's family and will say some words of tribute. He was an ebullient businessman, entrepreneur and innovator, but most importantly to his family he was a loving father, brother, and grandfather.
Feargal Quinn was an innovator in the Irish retail sector. No one needs me to tell them that. He brought about new levels of customer service. Even for people like me who never met Feargal Quinn, I felt that I knew him. We watched him and followed him and listened to what he had to say. He will be remembered for the likes of the loyalty cards, the self-scanning, coupled with the famous high-level customer service and the stand out products. We all know about the Superquinn pork sausages. I think SuperValu still retains them. He was a leader and he treated his staff like a family and valued them as much as the customer. When Senator Wilson was talking about the customer and how Feargal Quinn appreciated existing customers, it reminded me of the insurance companies. They could certainly learn a thing or two from Feargal Quinn in terms of customer service. He encouraged staff to progress and to find a passion in retail as much as he did. He really showed what can be done when one aligns passion with purpose.
Feargal Quinn seems to have gone out of his way to brighten everybody's day. It was really evident. His levels of emotional and social intelligence were there for all to see. He clearly invested in the happiness and well-being of his staff. I was speaking to a former staff member of Superquinn yesterday and I mentioned Feargal Quinn. A smile came to her face and she said he was such a lovely man. He was great to work for and always had a smile on his face. She said she loved when he visited the store, that he was inspirational to them all, and that he valued them as employees. She said that still to this day in any work she does, she always remembers the values he taught them in customer care. It is more than 20 years since that person worked in the company but it shows the impact that can have on someone years later. Is that not what we would wish or aspire to for all of us? This is what Feargal Quinn was to many people. He put the needs of the customer first and foremost, and he transformed the retail landscape.
As a Senator for 23 years he was a strong voice for the national business community and a force for change. He was, as was mentioned earlier, passionate about Seanad reform. I cannot recall an Irish businessman who is more fondly remembered by those who met him. Senator McDowell referred earlier to his article in The Sunday Business Post. Senator Boyhan shared it with me earlier. Something really stood out for me in terms of leadership, some of the global leadership we see now, and some of the people who are in positions of leadership who could learn a thing or two from Feargal Quinn.
What he said was that leadership is not about marching in step with the status quo. It is about asking where one's followers would like to go and then taking them there. Real leadership, he said, is about having the vision and the wisdom to know where your people ought to go, charting a course and taking them there. He was a unifier of people.
We remember Feargal Quinn fondly today. I extend my deepest sympathy to his family. I cannot imagine how much they miss him but I hope they take some solace from the legacy of care, compassion and leadership that he has left us all. May he rest in peace.
I welcome the family of the late former Senator, Feargal Quinn, to the House, and many of his friends who are in the other Gallery and right across Ireland.
I met and worked with Feargal Quinn on only one or two occasions. We worked together, along with Senator McDowell and others, in the campaign to save the Seanad in 2013, long before I thought I might ever become a Senator. As previous speakers stated, he spoke with such warm and passion about the Seanad, not only what it was but also what it could become. He was an incredibly powerful advocate for the Seanad at that time and a wonderfully gracious person.
I did not have the opportunity of serving with Feargal Quinn in the Seanad. We have heard Senators speak of him warmly, and they also speak with great warmth in between times about working and serving with him. I was, however, placed in his office for my first few weeks in the Oireachtas. I saw in the labelled shelves in his office a level of meticulous organisation I will never match. One could see in how well organised his office was the attention and thought that went in to every aspect of his work, from personal communications through to his legislative work.
What I know best is some of the legislation he brought forward. It is an incredible achievement to have introduced 17 Bills, some of which, for example, his legislation on subcontractors and their rights and on health, are now well known. It was clear that health was an area of passion for Feargal Quinn. He did work on access to defibrillators, which were not common or understood at the time, organ donation and other issues. We are still debating some of these issues in the House and seeking to implement adequate legislation areas that support people's health. There was a level of care and concern in his legislation.
When I was working on the area of privacy, I was struck by how current Feargal Quinn was. Only days before he retired from the Seanad, he introduced legislation on drones and was looking at legislation on privacy. He was always up to the minute and concerned with new and emerging issues. I say that because that work matters. It leaves traces and affects the debates and decisions that happen here today.
I knew that part of him but when I went to his funeral I learned about many other parts of him that I did not know about. The colour and warmth he brought to the lives of his family were clear from his colourful ties and that came across beautifully. It was also clear how loved he was in the world of business. I was struck by a few points that seemed to echo what I saw in him as a Senator. His strong and gracious voice in debate, which has been recognised and spoken about by previous speakers, was clear to those who spoke to him. I was struck that the Mandate trade union spoke about him as somebody with whom they could work with respect and that he embraced unions in his company. That was an important tribute from those who would have been adversaries at times but who also recognised the respect he showed.
People spoke about having been managed by him. They spoke of the faith he placed in them and the potential he saw in them. That was the potential he saw in this House. It is why he was passionate about Seanad reform as well. He was excited about the idea. Even in his last speech, he said that the House could not happen without enthusiasm. He said: "If we are going to succeed, we have to continue with the commitment, the dedication and the enthusiasm which I have seen here during the years." He wanted everyone to be enthusiastic about the Seanad and he trusted everybody to be interested in debating issues in a different way and in the Seanad bringing a different perspective. That is echoed as well.
All of those strands, all of that enthusiasm for life, business, his family and what Ireland could and should be, have carried through. While the work of Seanad reform, which he pushed for, has not yet delivered, we will continue to campaign for that as well.
It is an honour to serve on the panel which Feargal Quinn served so graciously for such a long time. On behalf of the Civil Engagement group, I pay tribute to him.
I extend my deepest sympathies to the Quinn family and all of the friends of the former Senator, Feargal Quinn. When he gave his last address to the House, he used one of his seanfhocail, éist le fuaim na habhann agus gheobhfaidh tú breac or listen to the sound of the river and you will get the trout. This reflected his philosophy in life, which was to listen and then to achieve. He spoke of the 17 Bills he had proposed. He succeeded in having one of the last Bills he introduced passed in his name. We should bear in mind that he is one of only six Senators who have passed a Bill while in opposition in the history of the Seanad. That tells us the level of his achievement. Although we all introduce Bills, very few Opposition Members manage to get them passed. He also pointed out that some of the Bills that he introduced were reintroduced or taken on by the Government and implemented in other forms. He did not go on about what those were but he knew that he instigated the debate on them. That, in itself, is a legacy.
Senator Higgins referred to Feargal Quinn's Bill on organ donation, which is an issue he brought to my attention and on which he was a strong advocate. He and I managed to conspire one summer to ruin everyone's holidays, including his own, such was his enthusiasm for the Bill because we found a mechanism to debate the first legislation ever introduced here on organ donation through an obscure rule of the House which required 20 signatures, of which, of course, Feargal's was the first. We got 19 other signatures before encountering a slight problem. On the day we were supposed to submit the technical letter recalling the Seanad, the Clerk of the Seanad rang me to say we had not lodged the motion and we needed two signatures. I live in County Kerry. I would not have got up to Dublin to lodge the letter by 5 p.m. so I rang around. No one answers the phone in August but Feargal Quinn answered and asked me where he should meet my staff. The staff had to go out to his house with the document, which he then signed and it was submitted on time, thus ruining, unfortunately, everybody's holidays and resulting in the recall of the Seanad. We lost the vote, by the way, on the casting vote of the Chair. We had a major debate on organ donation that August. The night before that debate, the Government, which was in a panic because of Feargal Quinn's signature and his knowledge of the process, appointed two organ donor co-ordinators because it wanted to say it had done something.
That is not correct.
Subsequent to the debate, 20 more staff were appointed. While we lost the battle, we won the war. As a result of the appointment of those staff, lives are being saved. I am sure Feargal's family is not aware of that victory because it is not in legislation. It is, however, a huge achievement. The value of this House and of Feargal Quinn lives on. It is appropriate to quote from the Bible in this instance given what Feargal Quinn achieved on organ donation. It states that if a man saves one life, he saves the world entire.
I will not repeat too much of what many other Members have said about Feargal's political career. I will talk about some of the personal encounters I had with him. Before I do so, I welcome Denise and her family and all the Members in the Distinguished Visitors Gallery. I also welcome the visitors and former Senators in the other Visitors Gallery.
I met Feargal more than 42 years ago. At the age of 11 I worked in a little bakery called Molloys on Mount Merrion Avenue. Superquinn was getting going. It had a fantastic big new store opening in Blackrock. Inevitably, Molloys off-licence started to close and, as another year went on, Molloys bakery closed. I cleaned and scrubbed the floor in Molloys bakery after school. Someone suggested that the bakery was to close and that I would need to get myself an after-school job quickly. I arrived at the new Superquinn store - as I said, more than 40 years ago - and met a lady manager there who told me I would need to speak to somebody else, namely, a manager, and I did. I told her my story and I started a week later. This was just an after-school job in Blackrock.
Feargal used to do his tours of his shops then. He would put on his hat if he was behind the bakery counter, the meat counter or wherever else. He took the time to visit his stores. We never quite knew when he would come but he came to a number of stores all over Dublin and got his hands dirty in the real business of retailing. He loved customers and loved people. I remember him stopping me one day, apologising and telling me he had meant to introduce himself to me the previous week when he had seen me. I told him the story of how I got the job. I told him Molloys was to close in two weeks' time. He asked whether many other people would lose their jobs there. I said "Yes". He said that that was what competition did, that in the case of a big store there were other stores around it. We know the stores in that area as Blackrock Shopping Centre today. It is currently being renovated. I said I would bring someone from Molloys to Superquinn. Feargal said "No", that I should bring them all down and that they were entitled at least to an interview. There was a feeling that these jobs hinged on the interview, but they did not. I was reminded of this encounter with Feargal in looking back over his life in recent months. How would one describe him? He was a facilitator, a motivator and an organiser. He cared fundamentally about people. That was his innate skill.
Many people will not be aware of the following, so I will share it with the House. Feargal employed many people who came from the Magdalen laundries in south County Dublin. He took a particular interest in the people who grew up in Madonna House in Stillorgan. I think of one particular woman, whom I will call Lily. He gave her a job in Blackrock and trained her. She said she would not really be fit for anything more than work in the back of the store. Feargal asked why not and told her she could come right through the ranks of Superquinn. She was not good at reading or writing, she said, and had literally no numeracy. Feargal encouraged her and arranged for her to go to the vocational school in Stillorgan. She did what we would call writing and sums. Feargal motivated and tutored her. When he took people on, he did not let them down. He saw them through. I spoke to Lily recently. She said that for years after that, Feargal Quinn always sent her a birthday card. She did not have parents. She did not know where she came from. She grew up in care, she said. She got a job, however, and spent years working for Feargal.
One of the hardest decisions she had to deal with was when Feargal one day said he would like to see her up in his office, where he said he wanted her to move out of Blackrock. She said she could not. This was her life. Her friends were there. She lived in a little bedsitter down the road. She was happy. She asked Feargal not to move her. He said he wanted to move her over to the shop on Sundrive Road. This was a promotion. He realised, however, that she had to be stretched and pushed on if she was to grow and gain in confidence. That was Feargal. He believed in people. He saw the potential and capacity in them and he saw these qualities in her. She moved over to the Sundrive Road shop and got a little flat in Kimmage, thanks to Feargal. She said to me one day that she still had the little television table she had got in Dockrells, thanks to Feargal Quinn. He did not go around telling people all about this. I suggest to the House that much of the reason for his not doing so was that he had fundamental Christian principles, which we in politics do not seem to talk about very much today, although someone referred to them earlier. Feargal was ultimately Christian and a humanitarian. He believed in responding to people's needs in everything he did.
I will touch on his very famous programme, "Retail Therapy", with which I was particularly impressed. He loved that programme. He went around the country, visiting in particular the little family stores and provincial towns. He helped the shop owners rejig their stores, make them more relevant and boost their business. He was passionate about provincial towns. He loved them. He saw the potential in the small family business that offered quality and service. It was not always about price. It was about quality and service. He loved doing that programme.
I wish to acknowledge his work on saving the Seanad because perhaps we have not acknowledged it enough in the past. I will not look back on those who advocated abolition. The Seanad is here today thanks to Feargal and a few other people. It is important we acknowledge that.
Many years after I first met Feargal, I met him in the corridors of these Houses, down in the coffee shop. He asked me what I was doing here, and I said I was thinking about running for the Seanad. I was a former Progressive Democrat county councillor. We talked about the past because he remembered me. He said he wanted to nominate me. He nominated Michael McDowell. He had dual nomination rights as a university Senator. I received a call asking me to come out to Santry. Denise may remember this because she was there at the time. He wanted to speak to me. I went out to Santry hospital before the election. I went downstairs to the reception. The woman at reception asked me who I was looking for. I did not want to shout too loudly that I was looking for Feargal Quinn. She rang Feargal, who said he wanted me to come up to him, and I did so. He had his nomination there in the hospital. He joked that he wanted to sign it before having his epidural because he might not have another opportunity. I told him I was really honoured that, having worked for him as a boy, I was there at his request and his invitation to get his nomination.
Feargal asked me to do something else. He asked me to get four independent nominees to support me in seeking election to Seanad Éireann. He was proud of independence and of the fact that one could be effective in the Houses of the Oireachtas without having to take a party whip. He really believed in that. He did not have to offend anyone but he was proud of his independence and the fact that he was not subject to a party whip. I asked him if he could give me one piece of advice. He told me to remember one thing. One comes into politics with one's integrity and, by golly, one should go out with it. He told me that anyone who does that will be very successful. He told me to be independent-minded, not afraid to challenge, to speak up and to advocate, to be important and to be oneself. We see the world from where we stand and our experiences in it. I think I have used that expression often here. I have no doubt that Feargal's personal experiences as a child, growing up in business and within his family, had an impact on him. He brought this to bear because he was human, humane and a humanitarian in all he did.
I was greatly honoured that he should nominate me and greatly honoured and privileged by his advice, which was to be true to oneself, work hard, advocate for people at a disadvantage and go on and do my best in Seanad Éireann. More importantly than anything, I thank him and his extended family for giving me and hundreds of other people a chance and an opportunity. We all need a leg up and a tap on the shoulder. We all need to be encouraged. We all need affirmation and a belief in ourselves and our capacity to bring good and to do good. I learned most of that from Feargal Quinn. I thank Denise and Feargal's family for giving us so much of Feargal's time, their family's time, their family's lifetime. More importantly, I thank them for his service to the institutions of this State, to Seanad Éireann, to business and to people such as Lily and hundreds of others who got the start, the gentle word, the guidance and the advice and who were never forgotten by Feargal.
I call the former Cathaoirleach, Senator Paddy Burke.
I wish to say to Senator Boyhan that the former Senator, Feargal Quinn, was a very practical man. He knew it was all over for the Progressive Democrats at that stage.
I welcome his wife Denise and his family. I would like to be associated with the expressions of sympathy to the late Feargal Quinn. One can only look around the Chamber and see the vast number of Senators and former Senators who are here. I welcome former Senators Maurice Manning, Sean Barrett and Fiach MacConghail. It is not often that we have expressions of sympathy to families that are also attended by former Members so it shows the high esteem in which former Senator Feargal Quinn was held not just in this House but throughout the State.
Feargal Quinn brought a wealth of knowledge from the business community to this Chamber. He did not just bring knowledge from the business end. He brought knowledge from his experience of working in semi-State bodies, including the chairmanship of An Post. He brought all that knowledge into this Chamber and it was of great assistance to Members of this House in making decisions. When Feargal Quinn voted in this Chamber, he did not always vote with the Government and neither did he always vote against it. He always voted based on what he thought was best regardless of whether the Government or his colleagues liked it or not. He voted with his conscience and he voted for what he thought was best for the State.
He is a great loss to Irish society. He loved to tell us the stories about being in the supermarkets helping the customers to pack their trolleys and put their shopping into their cars. That was more to do with finding out what the housekeeper wanted. It was a great way of finding out what she wanted and how fresh the product was so he had first-hand knowledge of his business from meeting customers, getting trolleys for them and helping them to their cars.
He was a very practical man who spoke in very practical terms. It was a great honour to have served in the Chamber with him. I was elected to the Seanad on the same day as Feargal Quinn in 1993. He was a great advocate, as previous speakers have noted, for the retention of this House and played a leading role in that. We can see the amount of legislation he brought through the House. Seventeen Bills is a significant number of Bills for anybody to take through this House. There are probably Ministers who have gone through the Houses without taking any legislation through the Dáil or this House so his value to the State with regard to legislation that has been passed or brought forward is not to be underestimated.
He was a great golfer and loved to play golf in Portmarnock early in the morning with his wife Denise. He often told me that it cleared his head for the day ahead. He sponsored the Oireachtas turkey competition every November or December leading up to Christmas. We used to have a great night in the Dáil restaurant when the Superquinn vouchers were given out. We had many great nights with Feargal Quinn. I, again, wish to be associated with the expressions of sympathy to his wife Denise and his family. May he rest in peace.
I express my sympathy to Denise and Feargal's family on behalf of the Labour Senators. Listening to the array of tributes paid by other colleagues in the Seanad, I am struck by the really moving stories of the immense influence Feargal Quinn had on so many across this House and beyond, the way he encouraged and promoted people and was always so courteous and kind to people. That really fits my own memory of Feargal. I was honoured to serve with him in the Seanad between 2007 and the last election and was part of the group of Independent Senators with him for some time. Although we did not always agree politically, I always got on so well with him. He was always so kind. Others have noted how he was always courteous and how he was a real gentleman. He also had a lovely mischievous sense of humour as exemplified by the colourful socks and tie. It is a pity that Senator McDowell did not emulate Senator Quinn's socks because they added a lovely touch to life and business in the Seanad Chamber.
He was always extremely professional. Others have spoken about his enormous workload and the number of Private Members' Bills he brought forward. Key to the way he worked in the Seanad was always being co-operative, working on a cross-party basis and seeking to ensure consensus and to bring forward legislation.
He was very good at mentoring newer Senators, of whom I was one. I remember him telling me not to mind how short the space of time I had to speak was and to always just make my point in as succinct a way as possible. He was a master of that. If someone asked him whether he would share time with him or her, he would always be happy to do so because he was able to get often very complex points across in a very short space of time. I will take that advice and finish on that point. I will just say how much we miss him in the Seanad and how much affection he was held in by all of us here and beyond. I remember canvassing with him when we campaigned during the referendum on the retention of the Seanad. I saw how people flocked to him in Dublin city centre because he was held in such esteem and regarded with affection by so many people. I repeat how much we sympathise with his family to whom we offer our sympathies and how much we miss him here.
I welcome the Quinn family and am thankful for the opportunity to pay tribute to Feargal Quinn. In a situation like this, I am most envious of my colleagues for the way they can speak most eloquently here in the Chamber about Feargal Quinn. I am really envious because I never met him. However, I had a special interaction with him about 25 years ago. I ask Senators to cast their minds back a few decades to the old shop in Dublin, which would have a grocery part and a post office. I married into such a family business. It was the time when there was a counter with about half a dozen people working behind it who would serve bread, particularly in the poor area where the shop I am thinking of was located. It sold lots of bread, margarine and things that would fill up children in the area.
The shop evolved, particularly when my husband took over. It became one of those £5 shopping basket shops. Supermarkets were around at that time but people started to have cars so they could travel to different supermarkets around the city. Our business went down with each passing week. I remember having the bright idea of writing to Feargal Quinn to ask for his advice on what we should do. I was more than surprised when I got a letter back from him. It was an A4 handwritten letter. He also included a copy of his book. I have no recollection of what he wrote in that letter. All I can remember is the pride and astonishment I felt at getting that letter from such a man. It was pinned up on our staff notice board until it curled and became yellow. Even though I probably did not follow any of his advice, I had to say that this highlighted the person he was. He took time out for people like me, a nobody. We were just one of the crowd yet he wrote to me in person. It was such a lovely gesture that has remained with me all my life. I will always try to make time for people like he did.
When my father died, I was hungry for stories about him so that his memory would not only stay alive for me but I would learn about aspects of him I probably never knew. I hope the stories Feargal Quinn's family have heard today will bring them solace.
I also welcome the family of Feargal Quinn. On the wall of the junior house in Newbridge College, through which many thousands of students have passed, there is a small number of photographs on the wall and one of them is of Feargal. The great thing about it is that there is not one photograph of a rugby player. There is just one of Feargal and two or three others. People recognise the esteem in which he is held by ordinary people. I remember when he opened the shop in Naas and even though Dunnes Stores is there now, it is still known as the Superquinn site. Feargal was always down there, helping people with their groceries. He would be the first man they would meet going in and, possibly, the last they would meet as their groceries were being put into their shopping trolley.
I was lucky enough to sit beside Feargal on the jobs committee and two things really stood out for me. First, he had a huge interest in young people and in getting jobs for young people and he was very interested in apprenticeships and in broadening them out. Second, he was full of ideas. He was always writing stuff down and, no matter who came before our committee, he would always put an idea to them relating to something in stores or that he had picked up in his travels over the years. My memories are the memories of everybody out there - of a lot of positivity towards Feargal Quinn. They are memories of how well he was liked, not only by his peers but by the ordinary man and woman in the street. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.
I extend my sympathies to the Quinn family. I moved to Dublin in 1995 and had never met Feargal Quinn, although I had heard of him. From 1995 to the present day, Feargal Quinn has been responsible for gatherings in my house on a Saturday or a Sunday when we sit down and enjoy the Superquinn sausages. He developed a sausage that cannot be beaten, although I do not know if my cardiologist would necessarily agree with him. The next time I thought of Feargal Quinn was during the debate to save the Seanad. I never dreamed that I would, one day, be sitting beside the icon himself but he saved the Seanad and, for those of us who wanted to enter this House, he created an opportunity to do so. Before I took my seat, one of my sisters remarked to me, "Oh my God, you are going to meet Feargal Quinn and David Norris". They are two icons. Feargal was a small man in stature but he was a giant in Irish society, a massive man.
I would love to have the stories about Feargal Quinn which some of my colleagues have but I only knew him for a very short time. I had the privilege of speaking on two of his Bills. One was on the awards system for Irish citizens and the other was on drones. I taught in information technology for 25-odd years and drone technology was really exciting to me. One would wonder why somebody would one want to condemn it but he convinced me, in just 15 minutes, of the dangers of these devices, which can sneak around people's back gardens, look in house windows and do various other things, so I spoke in favour of his Bill.
What stands out for me is the humanity of the man. He could talk to a checkout operator or to a king - it really did not matter and he treated them all the same. The great shame is that his wonderful books are not among the marketing textbooks in our universities, because he could teach a lot to some of the marketing authors I read. When my first granddaughter was born, Feargal got word of it and stood up behind me in the Seanad to congratulate me, although I had nothing to do with it. He welcomed my granddaughter to the world and we will cherish, forever, the little video clip of him doing so. It will mean an awful lot to my granddaughter in years to come when she understands the man, the icon, who welcomed her into the world. In the last speech he made in this House, he took a few seconds to mention me and, for that, I will be extremely grateful. I am terribly sorry I did not get to know the man better. I never dreamed I would sit beside such an icon, have tea with him and listen to what he had to say. We will miss him and Ireland will miss him. The stores around the country to which Senator Boyhan referred, and which Feargal Quinn went to reshape and relaunch as retail outlets, will also miss him. Nothing we can say today will replace the vacant slot in his family but there are families which gather every Saturday or Sunday morning to have a Superquinn sausage, though maybe not quite as good as the ones he originally developed.
Queen Victoria is supposed to have said that whenever she met William Gladstone, she was always left with the impression that he was a very clever man but that, after a meeting with Benjamin Disraeli, she was left with the impression that she was a very clever woman. There are no prizes for guessing which of the two Prime Ministers of Great Britain she favoured. Feargal had a way of putting you at your ease and showing great interest in what you had to say and your ideas, regardless of whether he agreed or disagreed with them. It was not that he had the cleverness of Disraeli to flatter people; he was genuinely interested in people. It is perhaps the gift of the grocer, even a very successful one, to want to find the good in everybody and to seek to be on good terms with all people, but that does not do justice to the gentlemanliness and - dare I say it - the Christian spirit which I think underlay Feargal's treatment of other people.
Another British parliamentarian, the Anglo-French poet Hilaire Belloc, wrote:
Of Courtesy, it is much lessThan Courage of Heart or Holiness,Yet in my Walks it seems to meThat the Grace of God is in Courtesy.
The word "courtesy" has been mentioned many times, with good reason, as we remember Feargal. Feargal was a Senator for the constituency of the National University of Ireland, as it has been the honour of Senator Higgins, Senator McDowell and me to be, among others. I was greatly honoured and I rejoiced to get to know Feargal and to become friendly with him when I was elected in 2007. I did not realise when I was leaving that I would miss him, or that I would miss him so much when he died, even though I had only seen him a handful of times since he had left the Houses. It was probably something to do with the example he gave in the way he treated people. There is another UCD connection in this, because last Sunday week John Henry Newman, the first rector of the Catholic University which was effectively the forebear of UCD, was canonised in Rome. Apart from being a major church man, Newman was an amazing story in an Ireland in which the majority Catholic community in the 19th century was emerging from times of trial into a new confident age. He was also a great stylist and writer in the English language. I happened to be near Newman's church when I remembered that Newman had particular words to say about a gentleman, which are extremely apt for remembering Feargal. I offer this with apologies to the ladies present, because the language is not as exclusive as it might be if he had written in the 21st century:
He has his eyes on all his company; he is tender towards the bashful, gentle towards the distant, and merciful towards the absurd; he can recollect to whom he is speaking; he guards against unseasonable allusions, or topics which may irritate; he is seldom prominent in conversation, and never wearisome.
That was Feargal. He was understated and yet one was always aware that one was in his presence and enjoyed the conversation. It was not just the fact that he and I shared certain ideas about certain values that are very important and which are temporarily unfashionable. I very much admired his determination to stick to his point of view on things, regardless of what others thought while still holding great affection and goodwill for those people, regardless of their views and where they stood on the issues of great moment on which they disagreed. It is not just that he was also fortunate enough to enjoy some of the good things in this world and was a hospitable and generous host - although I must admit that it is nice to know such people, or at least some of them. It was more the way that being around Feargal was a pleasure. He encouraged other people. He was great encourager. If one made an interesting point or good speech - and they do not always happen around here - he was the most likely person to say that it was well said, a very good point, or very interesting.
Other people have reflected on his political achievements, which were great. He could certainly have graced another office in this country, that is for sure. He would have brought gifts and talents to that office which other holders have not matched, as good as the service they have given us has been. He did not hold that office, however. For whatever reason, it was not part of his story. He had many other achievements in politics however, in addition to his achievements in business and elsewhere. In the end, those things all go to dust. It is much more about the impact we have on other people, starting with our loved ones and families, and we all know how extremely proud of his family Feargal was. One would not be long sitting beside him during a lull or a vote before there would be some reference to something happening in the family, something a family member said, the birth of a new baby, or whatever else it might have been.
In the end, it is the relationships we have with others that impact most and that are our greatest legacy. Many knew Feargal, in whatever capacity. Others will have eulogised him better. Mr. Vincent O'Doherty and his family said some memorable and deserved things about him at his funeral. In the end it is about how one treats those around one, and Feargal was a model parliamentarian in that respect. He showed us how to make a point, how to engage, how to disagree without being disagreeable, and how to always seek to re-establish connections so the work can be done. We are very thankful for the gift Feargal was to these Houses. I personally am very grateful for having known him and for having had the privilege of his friendship. I join with others in again expressing my sincere condolences to his family on their great loss.
Ar an gcéad dul síos, ar mo shon féin agus ar son Fhine Gael, cuirim fíorfháilte roimh mhuintir Quinn, go háirithe roimh a bhean chéile, Denise. Táimid tar éis éisteacht le scéalta an-deas faoi fhear uasal macánta. In one of his last interviews he remarked that he had left the world a better place than when he came to it and had left more people smiling than scowling. I commend Members of the House for their wonderful tributes to our late colleague and friend, Feargal Quinn. I welcome the Quinn family, including the extended family, and his former secretary, Ms Anne O'Broin, to the House. On these occasions we remember and reflect, sometimes in sadness. Today we remember and reflect on a life well-lived and a parliamentary career well-served. Members have mentioned his 17 Bills but, as Senator McDowell has said, what is more important is the way in which one could disagree with the former Senator profoundly - as I did on many occasions - but still have a discussion with him based on respect and mutual admiration for one another's points of view.
Recognised with five honorary doctorates, he was a champion for an honours system for the country. We should all take up such legislation. He was the father to five wonderful children and the grandfather to 19. He was a tremendous husband and, as we have heard today, a wonderful parliamentarian. He was a successful businessman, an entrepreneur beyond, and a broadcaster. Looking at his biography one sees books written, lives transformed, people employed, and people encouraged. Whether we are Hindu, Jew, atheist, or Christian, the life Feargal Quinn lived was one of helping others and reaching out. His guiding principle in everything he did was people-centred. As parliamentarians and politicians, we have a duty to remember that in what we do in this House and beyond. The people, or the customer, is what is most important. As someone said, the customer is king. He was a very gentle, noble man and a professional.
He was transformative in his 23 years in the House. Senator Norris made reference to his election. He first ran for the Seanad in 1973. Senator Paddy Burke made reference to golf. One of the quotes of his I always liked was that the number of votes he got was lower than his golf handicap. I will let Members deduce from that. We should be thankful that he came back to win a seat in 1993, from which he made an immeasurable contribution to political life, civic society and his own community. When we remember Members we seldom see former Members come to the House. The friendships he built with former Senators Barrett and Manning is an enduring legacy of his career in the House. He built bridges and encouraged people. I remember when I came out during the campaign for the marriage equality referendum he sent me a lovely note to congratulate me. He thanked me on the corridor and said "Well done" and that we need leaders.
I offer his family our deepest sympathies. Déanaimid comhbhrón leo. Ní bheidh a leithéid arís ann. Ar dheis láimh Dé go raibh a anam dílis.
I thank the Senator. We will stand in tribute for a minute.