Death of Former Member: Expression of Sympathy.

I pay tribute to the memory of the late Deputy Des Foley. When most of us heard the news of his death as a result of a heart attack at the age of 54, someone who had been throughout his life an outstanding sportsman, who had kept himself in good physical condition and who was in every sense a man of good health, it reminded us of our mortality. On behalf of the Government and my party, I convey to his wife, Rita, his family and all those in north County Dublin who will miss him so much our deepest sympathy.

Des Foley was both a fine sportsman and politician. As a sportsman and member of St. Vincent's, he captained the Dublin team which won the All-Ireland in 1963 and was a member of the last Dublin team to reach an All-Ireland hurling final in 1961. On St. Patrick's Day 1962 he won Railway Cup medals in both football and hurling. I do not believe any other player has achieved such a feat.

It is fair to say that if Des Foley got a great deal out of Gaelic games, in his latter years he put an even greater amount back into the games. His commitment and support for clubs in his native area right up until the end of his life are well known. He and his brother, Lar, were constant in their work to promote the games among young people in their area.

He was also a fine politician. It is worth recalling that he took a stand on principle and lost his party's whip because he stood for his beliefs. This is not an easy thing to do and certainly it does not assist anyone in their political career but he believed sufficiently sincerely in the issues on which he took a stand at that time and paid a large political price. He served as Fianna Fáil Deputy between 1965-71 and sought reelection in 1973.

I ask Members of the House to remember him in their prayers and convey on behalf of Fine Gael and the Government our deepest sympathy to the Fianna Fáil Party on the loss of a loyal member and all his family and friends for the void that has now opened up in their lives.

I join with the Taoiseach in paying tribute to a great sportsman, an excellent Fianna Fáil Member of this House and outstanding gentleman, the late Des Foley who died so tragically on Sunday night. On my own behalf and that of the Fianna Fáil Party I extend our deepest sympathy to his desolate wife, Rita, and all his family.

His sudden death came as a great shock to all who knew and admired him. There were many reasons for admiring Des Foley. He was a tremendous character, quiet in his own way but extremely tough and physical in other ways. Whenever he donned the number 8 shirt for his county in either hurling or football he was somebody to be feared but who still had tremendous respect from all of those sporting opponents whom he came up against in his long playing career. Like all great sports people, he made it look easy. He had a natural style as a player and whenever he got into difficulty he had the great benefit of having his brother Lar on the same pitch.

As the Taoiseach has stated, St. Patrick's Day in 1962 was his great day when he played in both of the Railway Cup finals and was on the victorious Leinster side on both. Those of us from this county remember him best in September 1963 when Alf Ó Muirí presented him with the Sam Maguire Cup. That was a tremendous day for him. Des was a lifetime member of St. Vincent's Football and Hurling Club. The club was very proud of Des and he was very proud of it. In 1959 he won the coveted Hogan Cup medal, which is a rare feat by a person from Dublin. Playing with St. Joseph's Fairview he was a member of the All Ireland Colleges winning team, having starred as a Dublin minor the previous year, 1958. As the Taoiseach stated, Des served in so many ranks in local years. He was a selector in both hurling and football and he was a mentor to the young St. Vincent's stars of later years. He will long be remembered in that part of Dublin for all he achieved on their behalf.

It seemed only right and proper that Des Foley became a Teachta Dála representing his constituency of North County Dublin. He was elected in 1965 and he served with great distinction. He will be remembered fondly by all his constituents and party colleagues and, in particular, by the people of Fingal whom he was very proud of and for whom he had an abiding affection. Being a man of the soil, he gave Fianna Fáil his own particular insights into the difficulties and the opportunities of the farming community and those engaged in horticulture. He continued to put forward his views on agriculture and horticulture, in particular, up to the time of his death.

The city and county of Dublin owe Des and his family a great debt of gratitude for the days of glory and honour he brought to its citizens. It saddens us all that Des departed from our midst in such a sudden manner. Both on and off the field he had a magic aura about him. He was special and we all knew it. Ar dheis lámh Dé go raibh a anam. Fear uasal go deo: ní dhéanfaidh a mhuintir dearmad air go brách na breithe.

Like other colleagues in this House, I would like to join in the messages of sympathy on the untimely death of the late Des Foley. As has been said, Des Foley left his mark on the playing fields in both traditions of hurling and football. He made an enormous contribution in his playing days and later on in his coaching capacity. He also held strong political views and made a contribution to the events of this House. On behalf of the Parliamentary Labour Party I wish to express our sympathy to his wife, Rita, to his family and indeed to his wide circle of friends in St. Vincent's Football and Hurling Club, in Dublin hurling and football circles and the many people he represented on the north side of Dublin. He will be missed and mourned and his untimely death is a sad occasion.

I would like to join with the other party Leaders in extending my sympathy and that of the Progressive Democrats to the late Des Foley's widow, Rita, and to his family. He entered this House at the very young age of 24 and he also left national politics at a relatively young age. As the Taoiseach said, his untimely death is a reminder to us all of where our destiny ultimately lies. We can realise how young he was when we consider that some weeks ago we expressed sympathy to the family of the late Phil Brady who was nearly 50 years older than Des Foley. That puts into context just how young he was. His death was indeed untimely. He was a great sportsman, obviously very fit, and I know his death comes as a great shock to his family and to his many friends, some of whom I spoke to earlier today in this House. I wish to join with other speakers in extending my sympathy.

I wish to be associated with the expressions of sympathy on the death of the late Des Foley. I did not agree with him politically in relation to Northern Ireland but nevertheless he pursued his objectives in that regard through the democratic process. He took his own stand on that issue and is to be applauded for that. He clearly made a major contribution in the area of sport, both in Gaelic football and hurling and perhaps more than anything else he will be remembered for that. I convey my sympathy and the sympathy of Democratic Left to his family and his party colleagues.

I wish to join with the Taoiseach, my party Leader and others who have spoken in paying tribute to the late Des Foley. His untimely death has been a source of great sadness to us all in Fingal since word reached us on Sunday night. Des was very much a farmily man and I particularly join in the expressions of sympathy to Rita and the children. He was more than just a family man to his wife and children; he was a family man to the extended Foley clan. He was, in many ways, the leader of the clan and he was the one to whom the whole family looked for guidance and advice. He will be sadly missed by the whole family.

I have known Des Foley since we were both young men. He entered public life in the general election of 1965. He came into this House as a sportsman but it did not take him long to learn the trade of politics. He had strong beliefs and was not afraid to stand for them at all times but he was also a great constituency worker. He worked for the people of Fingal, irrespective of class or creed. His love of the soil was referred to by Deputy Ahern. He had a special interest in matters agricultural, both in his job and his way of life but also in trying to improve the lot of those he served in Leinster House. He continued that interest having left this House. Tribute has been paid to his belief in and love of all things Irish in relation to the sports field but it carried much further than that, right through all Irish culture and the Irish language. He will be a great loss to the people of North County Dublin and to the Fianna Fáil organisation in Fingal in which he played such an active part. He is a great loss to me personally as a friend. May the Lord have mercy on his soul.

On a personal basis, and on behalf of the Labour Party organisation in Dublin North, I wish to express our deepest sympathy to Des's wife Rita and his children on his untimely death. As a TD and a sportsman, Des made a major impact on the lives of ordinary people, both young and old, in Dublin, and particularly in Fingal. The shock and genuine sadness being expressed in the constituency, right across the political divide, is an indication of this. Des will be a great loss to sports in North County Dublin. He was a person whom young people looked up to. He was an idol and, in many ways, he was a gentle giant. May he rest in peace.

I join the Taoiseach and other speakers in paying tribute to the memory of the late Des Foley. Although Des and I were on different sides politically we had a good working relationship. He was always ultra courteous to me. We had great time for each other and many conversations. Across the party divide there is a sense of loss for this man who has left his mark, in so many ways, on the Fingal area. One could always pick Des out at gatherings, funerals and celebrations, in the Fingal area because he was tall and easily seen and could move among all parties and people in the area. I join others in extending my sympathy to Rita and his family. He will be missed by all of us in Fingal.

As a fellow Fingal man and on behalf of the Green Party, Comhaontas Glas, I extend sympathy to the family of the late Deputy Des Foley and the Fianna Fáil Party who have lost a fine member and representative. I did not know Des Foley well but such was his reputation and influence that for a long time I thought there was two Des Foleys, the sportsman and the politician. That is a reflection of the measure of the man, of what he achieved and was known for. It was moving to see how hundreds of people at St. Brigid's GAA Club in the Castleknock area stood to remember a lost colleague and friend. Many in this House and outside will miss him and regret the passing of a fine man. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

I join the tributes being paid to the late Des Foley. He was a gentle giant and a first class public representative for the people of north Dublin. His politics were republican and he possessed the quality of loyalty whether to country, party or club. His achievements on the sporting field have been well documented here. He was loyal to his GAA club, St. Vincent's. As a Dublin city councillor I worked with him when St. Vincent's moved to its new clubhouse in Marino. He was also a first class clay pigeon shooter and, with his brother Lar, represented Ireland in many international competitions. The shooting fraternity will also miss him a great deal. Des Foley is a prime example for the young sporting enthusiasts of the city. It should be noted that many young people in north Dublin refused to eat their vegetables unless they were Des Foley's vegetables: if one ate Des Foley's vegetables one would end up playing for the Dublin team.

Was that the original Green Party?

Des was a farmer and, as my colleague Deputy Ray Burke said, he loved the soil. To his wife Rita, to his sons and daughters, and particularly to his brother Lar, I extend my sympathy.

As one of the relatively few in the House who not only admired Des Foley for his ability on the sports field both in hurling and in football but saw him come to this House as a Deputy, a young man of ability who gave of his best to his party, I extend my sympathy to his family. His principles and convictions were, perhaps, the cause of his ceasing to be a Member of this House after a short sojourn here. He was not only a strong character, tough on the sports field and in politics, a good representative of his constituency and a good worker, he was also a man of strong convictions, and those convictions, on the whole sorry saga of the Northern conflict that began in 1969, led to his departure at a very young age from the ranks of Fianna Fáil and from membership of this House. More is the pity that that should have happened because, without doubt he had an assured future as a Deputy representing his constituency in north Dublin. He would, no doubt, have achieved high office in this parliament in the intervening years. To his wife, particularly to his children, all his friends and near family and the people of north Dublin I extend sympathy and join everyone in wishing him eternal rest.

Members rose in their places.