Ba mhaith liom an deis seo a ghlacadh chun mo chomhbhrón agus comhbhrón mhuintir uile Fhine Gael a dhéanamh le clann Godfrey Timmins a d'éag go hobann aréir.
I am grateful for the opportunity to mark the sudden and untimely death of Godfrey Timmins, a former member of Dáil Éireann, a life-long stalwart of the Fine Gael Party and a good friend and mentor of mine when I commenced service in this House in 1981. To Godfrey's wife Nora, his son Billy, who is a popular Member of the House, other members of his immediate family, his friends and his enormous circle of colleagues and supporters in Wicklow, I offer my personal condolences and those of the Fine Gael Party.
Godfrey was a lover of Gaelic football, a sport that is renowned among Wicklow men. However, it was more than that for Godfrey Timmins. It was one of two consuming passions that filled his waking hours. When those hours were not totally filled by a passion for politics, he allowed his passion for football to take full expression. Tragic and untimely as his death was, it was fitting at least that it took place at a Gaelic football game in Dunlavin where Godfrey had gone to watch one of his grandchildren play in a minor match.
Godfrey had a long and distinguished parliamentary career as a Member of this House. He represented the people of his native Wicklow from 1968 to 1997, with only a two year break in that service from 1987 to 1989. Godfrey's service to the people of Wicklow spanned almost half a century. He served as a member of Wicklow County Council continuously from 1950 to 1999, a span of 49 years. During this time he served on the council's committee of agriculture, Wicklow VEC and the Eastern Health Board.
His long and distinguished career in national politics began with his victory in a by-election in March 1968 following the death of Labour Party Deputy James Everett. He was re-elected in the following year's general election and in every election until he lost his seat narrowly in 1987. Godfrey surprised many of his colleagues in the Fine Gael Party by deciding not to contest the subsequent Seanad election in which he would have been assured of a seat. Instead, he chose to wait and duly regained his seat in the Dáil in 1989. He held this seat until his retirement from national politics in 1997. During his time here, he served as the Fine Gael Party's Chief Whip, Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts and a member of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges.
While Godfrey was a distinguished parliamentarian, he will, I believe, be best remembered by Members of this House on all sides as the epitome of a gentleman – he was a gentleman and a gentle man. This is how his friends and colleagues will like to remember him. In his distinctive west Wicklow lilt, Godfrey generously dispensed many words of wisdom to young and inexperienced new Members of this House as they tried to find their feet in the Dáil.
A verse in a very evocative Seamus Heaney poem, The Diviner, comes to mind.
The bystanders would ask to have a try.
He handed them the rod without a word.
It lay dead in their grasp till nonchalantly
He gripped expectant wrists. The hazel stirred.
For many of us who first entered this House in 1981, Godfrey was our diviner. The well spring of this gentle, unassuming, wonderful man's life may now have run dry, but his great gift has been passed to others to continue the quest for a better life for all our people. Ar dheis lámh Dé go raibh a anam uasal.