It is with a heavy heart that I speak about the sad passing of a friend and colleague, Kieran Phelan, someone for whom I had great admiration. He was a truly wonderful person, a highly intellectual Member of Seanad Éireann and one of the best attendees. He was also an astute and capable individual who was interested in getting things done. He leaves a legacy of hard work and a strong commitment to public service having served the people at local and national level.
A farmer and an auctioneer from Raheen Upper, Donaghamore, Portlaoise, County Laois, Kieran was first elected to Laois County Council in 1991, continuing the tradition begun by his late father, Paddy, who had served for 12 years. Kieran served for 12 years as a councillor for the Borris-in-Ossory area and, as we all know, topped the poll in the 1999 elections. He was very proud to be elected chairman of Laois County Council in 1998, a role he performed with great pride and dignity. He was also vice chairman of County Laois Vocational Education Committee and chairman of Rathdowney GAA Club, a club he loved all of his life.
I first met Kieran in 1978 when he was director of elections for the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, for whom both he and his wife, Mary, worked hard to get her elected, particularly in the Dáil elections of 1981, February 1982 and November 1982. She has stated it is doubtful she would have been elected without Kieran's and Mary's expertise and input in those three general election campaigns.
The peak of Kieran's career was when he was elected to the 22nd Seanad on the Industrial and Commercial Panel in 2002. At approximately 9.10 a.m. on a Monday after the general election in 2002 the doorbell rang at my home. When I answered the door, standing there were Marty Rohan, John Moloney — now a Deputy and Minister of State — and Kieran who, as they put it, had come for some advice on how to fight a Seanad election. Any one of the three could have written the book himself. They achieved their mission and goal and were very well looked after in County Westmeath. Kieran was loved by the local authority members and respected in the county each time he stood for election to Seanad Éireann. He was re-elected in 2007 and our spokesperson in the Seanad on defence at the time of his death.
From the moment he was first elected to Laois County Council in 1991 Kieran served the people of that county with tremendous dedication and commitment until 2002 when Members of the Oireachtas had to stand down and were no longer allowed to have a dual mandate. As we know, his seat on the county council was taken by his brother, Brendan, who continues the family tradition to this day. As a Member of the Upper House, Kieran continued to work on behalf of the people of County Laois and never faltered in his determination to help them in whatever way he could.
Kieran was an unassuming man who was held in high regard by everyone but particularly in his local community. His enthusiasm and warm personality endeared him to all. He was kind, easygoing, dependable and, above all, loyal. He had a great ability to be able to relate to people. It is small wonder that he was such an immensely popular man and I know his loss will be felt among his friends and colleagues. On this side of the House we knew him as a great servant of the Fianna Fáil Party, of which he was so proud. He was a staunch defender of the party and a great upholder of its traditional values. We will miss him. On a personal note, I was privileged to serve as Leader of the House during Kieran's tenure as Senator. I owe him a great deal of gratitude for his loyalty and the service he gave the party and the House.
Despite his love of Seanad Éireann, Kieran's greatest love was for his wife and children, mother, grandchild and extended family. His sudden death has robbed them of a great husband, father, brother, uncle and friend. On behalf of Members and the Fianna Fáil Party, I offer our condolences to his wife, Mary; his five children, Fiona, Martina, Brenda, Aisling and Patrick; his grandson; his mother, Delia; his brothers and sisters and extended family who have come here today in such large numbers. I have been a Member of the Oireachtas for almost 29 years and have never seen such a large turnout of members of the extended family. May God comfort and console them on their great loss. Go ndéanfaidh Dia trócaire ar a anam.