Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 20 Nov 2019

Vol. 268 No. 6

Death of Former Member: Expressions of Sympathy

The Seanad will now hear tributes to the late Rory Kiely. Before I invite Senators to contribute, I extend a very warm welcome to the members of Rory’s family who are with us - his children, Vincent, Roderick, Mairéad and Aileen, with their spouses; his sister, Eileen, and extended family and friends. Also in attendance are some of his former Oireachtas colleagues and comrades-in-arms - John Cregan, Liam Aylward, Batt O’Keeffe, Dermot Fitzpatrick, Donie Cassidy, Fiona O'Malley, Geraldine Feeney, Councillor Eamonn Aylward, Deputy Dara Calleary, Mary Cowen who is representing former Taoiseach Brian Cowen and Deputy Michael Collins. I hope I have not missed anyone. I add Deputy Barry Cowen and apologise for omitting him. On behalf of the Members of the Seanad, I again express our sincere sympathy to all those present and hope that, since Rory's unexpected death in June last year, they have been able to come to terms with their very sad loss.

Rory lived a life which had community and public service at its centre. To say he was steeped in the GAA and politics is an understatement. He was first elected to the Seanad in 1977 on the Agriculture Panel. It began a 30-year career in this House in which he served with great distinction. He was a hard and constructive worker in the Seanad in which, as in the GAA, he achieved high office. It was a great honour and privilege for him and his family when he was elected as Cathaoirleach on 12 September 2002. His wife, Eileen, was present in the Visitors Gallery on that wonderful occasion but predeceased him.

Rory represented the Seanad at home and abroad with great honour and respect. I had the privilege of serving as a Member while he was here. We were of different political viewpoints, but that did not prevent us from being friends. At his funeral last year the Cathaoirleach brought to the altar a copy of the Constitution of Ireland as a symbol of Rory’s role as Cathaoirleach and Senator. The Cathaoirleach has asked me to convey to his family his sympathy. He is heartily saddened that, on doctor’s orders, he cannot be here in person on this very important day to pay tribute to his friend.

Rory began his involvement in the GAA in the 1950s and it continued for over 60 years. As well as being an accomplished hurler - he won Limerick senior club hurling titles in the 1960s - he was also chairman of the Limerick County Board, a Munster Council delegate and a trustee of the GAA in Croke Park. He was chairman of the Limerick County Board when Limerick won the all-Ireland hurling final in 1973. It is a great pity that he was not in Croke Park to witness the Liam McCarthy cup going back to Limerick in 2018. His spirit must certainly have been in Croke Park on that memorable day in the month of August.

Rory will be fondly remembered in this House for his warmth, humour and loyalty. Personally, he was affable and pleasant and a great man to talk politics. He had some great stories about political life in west Limerick - Members and our guests know much more about it than I do - a most interesting constituency in which to be, but I will not go into them today. It would be remiss of me, however, not to mention his huge interest in horse racing. I understand and, in fact, know that he was part of several successful syndicates with other Oireachtas Members and also bred horses on his family farm in Feenagh. The family farm was a huge part of his life and he never lost interest in or his love for farming. His heart was always in Feenagh with his family who were central to everything he did. He was a great character and a great Limerick man. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

I call Senator Ned O'Sullivan to lead the tributes from his side of the Chamber.

Is onóir agus pribhléid domsa cúpla focal a rá anseo inniu mar gheall ar ár sean-chara Rory Kiely. Cuirim fáilte is fiche roimh chlann Rory agus a chairde go léir go dtí Seanad Éireann, áit ina rinne sé a dhícheall i gcónaí ar son na tíre, ar son an pháirtí agus ar son mhuintir Luimnigh.

It is a privilege for me to lead the tributes from this side of the House to our dear friend and former colleague the late Rory Kiely, a former Cathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann. As the Leas-Chathaoirleach said, his emotion shows the affection in which he held him that the rest of us share. Rory had friends on all sides of this and the Lower House. His career in national politics extended over a long period, from 1977 to 2007, during which time he endeared himself to everyone he encountered, from Taoisigh and party leaders to officers and staff of the Oireachtas. Unfortunately, as I did not arrive in Leinster House as a Member until the year he retired, others are better qualified to recount his achievements in the Oireachtas - they are many - but my own association with him goes back a long time. I had the pleasure of voting for him in several Seanad campaigns. He was a regular and very welcome visitor to my home in Listowel where he had numerous friends and acquaintances. When it was my turn to run for the Seanad in 2007, he supported, advised and encouraged me in every way he could.

I join the Leas-Chathaoirleach in welcoming Rory's family to the Chamber - his sons, Vincent and Roderick; daughters, Aileen and Mairéad; sons and daughters in law; brother in law; nieces and nephews; and, of course, the joy of his life, his many wonderful grandchildren. His death last year, although not unexpected, was a huge loss to all of them and I know that they are feeling that loss today. He was a great family man and it is a great pity that he did not get to spend more time in retirement with his beloved wife, Eileen, whom we also remember.

It is great to see so many of Rory's old colleagues in the Visitors Gallery, each of whom has his or her own story to tell about him. No doubt, they will re-tell some of them today whenever they get together.

Rory was great company. He was convivial, entertaining and mischievous. He had a keen political intellect and was a great man at sizing up a situation, spotting a move or getting to the very heart of a matter. A simple man in many ways, he had no time for posers or high-flyers. His greatest traits were his loyalty and straightforwardness. You always knew exactly where he stood and if you were moving in the wrong way, you were told quickly and smartly. He straightened me out on more than one occasion.

Rory was a true patriot and gave everything he had to the cause, whether it was his beloved GAA, in which he received the highest honours at national, county and club level; his native parish of Feenagh which was the centre of his universe; or Fianna Fáil, his other great love. Former Senator John Cregan is in the Visitors Gallery. I will not mention names, other than to say John chairs the Limerick County Board, a position Rory held with honour. John will know of all of Rory's achievements at Munster Council and Central Council level and so on. Rory was known and respected greatly by everyone, high and low, in the Fianna Fáil Party, from the cumann member to the county councillor - they were very special to him - to the party leaders with whom he served, each and every one up to its current leader, Deputy Micheál Martin, whom I welcome to the Chamber.

I apologise to Deputy Michéal Martin. I did not see him in order to welcome him to the Chamber earlier. He is most welcome.

Each of the party leaders trusted Rory's advice and they received good advice at all times. Former Taoiseach Brian Cowen was especially close to Rory and made a wonderful oration at his graveside last June.

We think especially of Brian today and wish him continued recovery and good health into the future. It is great to see Deputy Cowen here and I ask him to convey our best wishes to Brian.

The turnout at Rory's funeral was exceptional. It had to be, first as he never missed a funeral himself, and second as he knew everyone and everyone knew him.

I was there myself.

Good man. I saw the Leas-Chathaoirleach there. Rory had a fantastic interest in people and loved to be involved with them. It was not just for the votes, though we are all guilty of that to some extent. Rory was genuinely interested in people. He wanted to know their stories, what they were up to, what was going on with their families, and who was up to what. This stood to him politically and in all other walks of life. In his first run for the Seanad, Rory started from a very low base, but picked up transfers from all parties as the day went on and was elected comfortably in the end. It was that ability to connect with voters, including non-Fianna Fáil supporters, that ensured Rory was re-elected with a plurality in his Seanad elections thereafter. He was a popular choice for Cathaoirleach when he attained that prestigious position in 2002 - the highest honour to which any Senator can aspire. Any young politician setting out in this profession could do worse than study Rory Kiely's modus operandi and CV. Even in this era of new politics and fake news, there is no substitute for personality and hard graft. May it always be so.

I am thinking today, as is the Leas-Chathaoirleach, of our Cathaoirleach, Senator Denis O'Donovan, who was a lifelong friend and companion to Rory. The Cathaoirleach set this event in motion with Rory's family and I know how much he was looking forward to it. I spoke with him this morning. As we know, he was unwell recently, but happily is on the mend and is under doctor's orders. He is watching this on television and is here in spirit.

The best stories I have about Rory would not be allowed to be told under Standing Orders. They are numerous. His GAA connections proved very useful when it came to All-Ireland tickets, which were eagerly sought by Seanad voters. Rory pulled some great strokes and his rivalry with another great GAA Seanadóir from the Border area was something else.

We know a bit about it.

The great Francie. Rory's other great passion was racing, and it was in that sphere of activity that I knew him best. He was a great judge of a horse, as he was of pedigree cattle, and he lived very close to his great friends Cora and Charles Byrnes, the legendary trainer. Many is the good tip I got from Rory and-----

-----many is the big coup he was involved in, though he might not always tell one about it. He was a lifelong member of the grand alliance racing syndicate which was made up of racing aficianados in the Dáil and Seanad. It mostly included Members from Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, and the great Des O'Malley was involved as well. I welcome his daughter Fiona to the House. The syndicate had phenomenal success with good horses such as Arctic Copper and Donna's Palm. I was allowed in towards the end and we had great luck with a horse called Tulsa Jack, which was trained by Noel Meade. In racing, as in politics, Rory gave it everything. Tulsa Jack ran one cold wintry day in Downpatrick, which is a long way from Feenagh. Most of the syndicate cried off and watched it on television but Rory was there leading the horse, and he well into his 80s. That is the kind of commitment and energy that set him apart.

Rory was involved in life to the very end. Not for him were the carpet slippers and the television, apart from "At the Races", of course. I called to see him one evening and could not find a chair to sit on as they were all full of national newspapers, farming journals, racing bulletins, and GAA programmes. He campaigned for years as a Seanadóir to get an elevator for the elderly at Charleville railway station. He tasked me with completing that job when I was elected, and I am glad to say he and his neighbours got the benefit of that lift in his final years.

Mar fhocal scoir, guím rath Dé ar Rory, Eileen agus ar an gclann Kiely uile. In remembering Rory's life, personality, and achievements in sport and politics, we are celebrating a true one-off. He was a man of honour and integrity. He knew the value of loyalty and truth, which were very important to him, and he lived a full, happy and contented life among the people he loved.

I welcome Deputies Jackie Cahill, Niall Collins, Michael Collins, and Michael Moynihan. I call a former Cathaoirleach, Senator Paddy Burke.

I extend my sympathy to Rory's sister, Eileen, and family, and welcome all the family members to the House. It was a great honour to have known Rory Kiely. He was a very affable man and as previous speakers said, he was very loyal to this House and its Members. He was also very loyal to his party, Fianna Fáil, and was a great loss to it when he passed away. He liked to travel and often did so. I knew that well as I was his Leas-Chathaoirleach and had to deputise for him when he was away on his many great missions. He had a great love for the GAA. He was chairman of the Limerick county board, a member of the Munster council, a member of the central council of the GAA, and a trustee of the GAA. Anyone who raised matters relating to the GAA while Rory Kiely was Cathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann came under the full wrath of the former Senator. He never allowed GAA issues to be debated in this House. It may have brought him into contention due to the many All-Ireland tickets he used to get and give out to councillors around the country.

Rory was a very fair Cathaoirleach and was fair to me as Leas-Chathaoirleach as well. He was fair to the Members and gave each of them fair time. All I can say about Rory Kiely is that, based on my observations from serving with him, he was a very fair and loyal man. One can see that from the many Members of the House who are present today, the many Members of Dáil Éireann in the Public Gallery, and the many past Members as well. In my years in this House, I have never seen as many past and present Members of both Houses attend the expressions of sympathy for any late former Member. It is great to see Donie Cassidy, Geraldine Feeney, Dermot Fitzpatrick, Fiona O'Malley, Batt O'Keeffe and John Cregan joining us today for the expressions of sympathy for our great friend Rory Kiely. He was loved by all and always commanded great respect in this House. He set very high standards, not only for himself but for all Members of this House while he presided as Cathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann.

Before calling the next speaker, I welcome former Councillor Mattie Ryan.

The Leas-Chathaoirleach's tribute was wonderful and emotional. I welcome Rory's family here today. It is a very special occasion for them as the Seanad recognises the work of the late Rory Kiely.

He was very proud of his lovely family at all times - his beloved wife, Eileen, who has died, his two sons, Roderick and Vincent, his two daughters, Aileen and Mairead, and his grandchildren. It is also an opportunity to welcome so many friends. Of all the tributes paid to former Members over the years, I have never come across so many friends who travelled from all over Ireland to pay tribute to Rory, particularly the leader of Fianna Fáil, Deputy Micheál Martin, along with Deputy Barry Cowen and Mary Cowen. I thank them for coming here. I wish Brian a speedy recovery. It is a very nice gesture for her to come today.

Rory contested the general election in 1969 and entered the Oireachtas in 1977. He was elected to the 14th Seanad and served here more or less all the time until 2007. He served as Cathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann, which was a marvellous achievement at that time. I had the pleasure of voting for him in the final vote on the day, as I was also a candidate in the election. Nevertheless when it came to the position, I felt that having served so long himself - almost 24 or 25 years - he would make a very good Cathaoirleach, which he did. He was born on 1 May 1934. Senator O'Sullivan and others have outlined what he achieved over his tenure.

Besides his political career, his GAA career is something that should be recognised. He has not been recognised for the work he put into the central council of the GAA and the development of Croke Park. Without his ability and support at that point in time, we would not have the stadium we have today. That is another major tribute to him. It is there as a monument to his work as a member of the central council, a trustee and a prominent member of Fianna Fáil. We were very lucky to have the likes of Rory Kiely diligently working on behalf of Fianna Fáil throughout the country and in Limerick and as a Member of this House. He was a wonderful man who had a wonderful career. He was a wonderful family man, a great Fianna Fáil man, a great Irishman and a great GAA man.

I also welcome the members of Rory's family, those who served with him and those who serve today in both Houses. As has been said on numerous occasions, it is a testament to Rory that there is such a great turnout today, the largest I have seen since I entered the House. Unfortunately, I never served with Rory. As people know, I only came in here three years ago but I got to know him particularly well through horse racing. As Senator O'Sullivan mentioned, he was involved in the Royal Alliance Racing Club. The horse, Tulsa Jack, won the Midlands National on my own track in Kilbeggan, of which I am chairman. It was on that day that Brian Cowen introduced me to Rory. I acknowledge Mary Cowen and send my good wishes to Brian. When Rory heard I was a Senator on the Agricultural Panel, we struck a chord and built a relationship. Our paths kept crossing on the racetracks of Ireland. With that in mind, we usually say on days like this that the person we are honouring is probably up there looking down on us but if there is racing on up there at this particular time, I imagine that we are on "Record" to be viewed later. Senator O'Sullivan struck a chord with me when he said that Rory would always take a young politician under his wing and advise him or her. Based on the relationship I developed with Rory in a short time, I got the impression that I may have been one of these young politicians - young in the political sense, not chronologically.

I have a share in a horse being trained by Paddy Neville in Rory Kiely country. We were down there a couple of weeks ago. I mentioned that there would be tributes to Rory today to a couple of his friends who were talking about him and they said they would like to be here so I extend a special welcome to good friends of Rory - Donie Nestor, Jim Enright and Eamon Leahy - who are here today. The lads told me some stories. We all have an impression of Rory being laidback and placid but two of the lads played hurling with and against him and they will tell you he was anything but when he had the camán in his hand. Donie told me another story that epitomises the Rory that I knew. He was coming to Dublin with him one day to visit somebody in hospital and they ran out of diesel. Rory was driving. Donie started panicking a bit but Rory took out the newspaper and started reading. Lo and behold, somebody just stopped, which Rory had predicted by laying back. The person who stopped happened to have diesel in the car. The colour of the diesel might have been questionable but it did not bother Rory. The man filled the car with diesel and they continued on their trip. Donie said that he thanked the man but never got his name but Rory got the registration number of the car and later tracked down the man who owned it and made sure he was looked after. That says it all about the kind of man Rory was. His involvement in the GAA has been mentioned a lot. It would probably be safe to say that Croke Park had Micheál O'Hehir and Leinster House had Rory Kiely. Go neirigh Dia trocaire ar a anam uasal.

The Sinn Féin team in the Seanad wish to pay tribute to the former Senator and Cathaoirleach, Rory Kiely. I extend our deepest sympathies to Vincent, Roderick, Mairead, Aileen and his sister, Eileen, who are here today along with all who have travelled to be here and all of the Deputies, particularly Deputy Calleary, deputy leader of Fianna Fáil. It was only the week before he died that he travelled to Mayo to be at the funeral of Seán Calleary, Deputy Calleary's father. I did not know Rory Kiely but in respect of all the stories and how people spoke about him, to have words like "affable", "loyal" and "fair" associated with you is an honour for anybody. He was obviously a man of great character. I extend my sympathy to all of the Fianna Fáil party here and throughout the country, including Deputy Micheál Martin as leader. The Leas-Chathaoirleach knows that it is very unusual for me to stand up here and be nice to Fianna Fáil

Is that right? That is a new development.

It is a new coalition.

They should not get used to it. Obviously, he was an exceptional man given the way he has been spoken about and brought an awful lot to politics and to the GAA. Indeed we could do with him in Mayo GAA at the moment to sort out a few things for us. For his family, it is the greatest loss of all. I, again, extend my sympathies to them. May he rest in peace. I have no doubt that his legacy will live for longer than any of us.

Ba bhreá liom freisin comhbhrón a dhéanamh le muintir Kiely, atá anseo inniu. Gabhaim buíochas le, agus cuirim fáilte roimh, na baill agus na hiarbhaill Oireachtais uilig atá anseo, go háirithe na daoine ó chlann Fhianna Fáil atá anseo inniu chun comhbhrón a dhéanamh le muintir Kiely agus chun cuimhneamh ar bhuanna Rory Kiely agus ar an méid a thug sé do na Tithe seo.

It is an honour to be here today to add my few words of tribute to Rory Kiely, express my sympathy to all of his family and add my words of welcome to the unprecedented number of current and former Members of the Oireachtas who are present to join in these very well-deserved tributes to Rory. I did not have the pleasure of knowing him well but I had the honour of meeting him on a number of occasions. I recall very clearly the first occasion. It was in 2007 when there was an induction for new Seanad Members. It was our first time in the Members' restaurant and Rory was there with some friends and colleagues. He had left the Seanad at that stage having carried out the function of Cathaoirleach for the previous term. I still remember how he went out of his way to welcome me and express warm words of support.

That happened again on a few other occasions when I had the pleasure of meeting him. He went out of his way to encourage me in what I was doing.

He was the type of politician I can identify with very easily and have a distinct liking for. Obviously, he came from a rural background, as I also do. He was rooted in many of the great values and ideals of rural Ireland. That was in no way a narrow thing. There was a strong sense of rootedness. I remember other colleagues in all parties, principally Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, but also in the Labour Party, those people from rural areas who have a certain ethos about what it is to be a community person. They do not claim to be right on everything, but they know where they stand on issues. To quote a phrase my father loved, they do not let their feathers go with the wind. They understand the importance of pragmatism, but know that not everything is for sale. I greatly admire that breed of politician and Rory Kiely was certainly in that political mould.

It was mentioned that he received a low first preference vote the first time out. Senator O'Sullivan rightly paid tribute to the ability he showed in being able to attract so many transfers. That comes from being liked and respected, especially in a Seanad election, it also comes from having the homework well done. It is not enough to be liked and respected; a person must have the work ethic to succeed in politics. He always struck me as a quiet and unassuming person, perhaps someone who undersold himself but was very well informed. When it was his moment to perform, he did very well indeed.

Earlier today I was talking to another Rory, the former Ceann Comhairle and Minister for Health, Rory O'Hanlon, who had great affection for Rory Kiely. He recalled the positive role Rory Kiely played when they were abroad together on a number of occasions. I understand the two Rorys led the first Speakers delegation from Ireland to Britain since the foundation of the State. Rory O'Hanlon, who wishes to be associated with today's tributes, recalled that Rory Kiely was always more than able to hold his own. He impressed people by his friendship and engagement. I understand he had a particular friendship and rapport with the then Speaker in Westminster, Michael Martin, funnily enough. It could be said of Rory Kiely, as it might be said of Michael Martin when compared with successive Speakers in Westminster, that he was more understated in style, but always effective.

Rory's success in travelling around the country and getting elected to the Seanad must be considered in the context of how difficult it must have been to be competing for votes on a panel with people like Francie O'Brien and Paddy McGowan. He was always well received and he built up his vote steadily as befitted a man of his capacity and capability.

He was a farmer, of course. He had studied and had a diploma from UCC. He was not just from and of rural Ireland, but determined to contribute to its advancement. It was said that he would insist on appropriate conduct here in the Seanad. I believe a former Clerk of the Seanad gave me to understand that Rory Kiely was responsible for the insertion of the glass panel in front of the Visitors Gallery when somebody in the Gallery was more vocal than they should have been. He understood the dignity of the Houses of the Oireachtas and acted to protect them.

Drawing again on the words of Rory O'Hanlon, Rory Kiely was a very good ambassador for Ireland as well as a very positive and effective politician in these Houses. He developed friendships easily and well. Hopefully now, as we all hope for ourselves, he is developing the greatest friendship of all. Ar dheis Dé go raibh sé.

In paying tribute to the late Rory Kiely, I welcome his family, Vincent, Roderick, Mairéad and Aileen, his sister, Eileen, and his extended family. I also welcome his former colleagues. I know there is great cross-party support in the Gallery. It is great to see so many people here today to pay tribute to Rory.

I knew Rory from a very young age as my late father was a city councillor in Limerick. Even though he was of a different political party, he was a regular caller to my father and was always assured of a preference down the line. They were great friends over many years through both politics and the GAA. My father had a public bar in Limerick. When Rory was in the city, he often came in. The bar had a manager, Fintan Coleman, who was a South Liberties man. Rory came in for double abuse because he used to get into battles over both politics and GAA. They had great banter and I think my father sometimes used to be the referee between the two of them.

Rory was always a thorough gentleman, a really loyal person and totally sincere. In 2007, the year Rory retired, when I received my first nomination for the agricultural panel, I remember meeting Rory and he wished me all the best. He said he hoped he would see me in Seanad Éireann one day. I was unsuccessful then, but I was elected in 2016.

I have fond memories of meeting Rory at GAA matches and especially Limerick matches. I know how passionate he was about his own Feenagh-Kilmeedy club and Limerick GAA. He was a great stalwart up in Croke Park. When the Limerick club functions took place, Rory would always be there to the forefront. He was such a pleasure to meet at matches. He had great knowledge and passion. Politically we often had discussions when I met him at a funeral or other events. He was very knowledgeable and a great ambassador not just for Limerick but nationally as well, as has already been mentioned.

GAA was his first love and he was very dedicated to it. Senator Paul Daly and others referred to his love of horse racing. He was an example of a true politician. I was very sad when I heard of his passing because I had only met him shortly before that and he was in great form. I have very fond memories of him. May Rory Kiely rest in peace.

I welcome the family of Rory Kiely here today for this very special occasion to honour and remember him. We also remember his wife, Eileen, on this occasion.

Rory Kiely was one of those rare people who was a legend in his own lifetime, in that we all heard about him when we were candidates for the Seanad. Those of us in Fianna Fáil and in politics heard of the legend of Rory Kiely and understood that if we could only have a small bit of his magic, we would indeed go far.

He lived a life in many arenas, including politics and sport. Deputy Micheál Martin said on the passing of Rory Kiely that he was the epitome of a gentleman who was widely respected by people of all political hues in every party. We see that today with people from all over Ireland who have retired from politics. Many of them have not been back in this House, but came here specially today to be with the family, and to remember Rory Kiely and what he did for the State.

It was fitting and appropriate that the Cathaoirleach, Senator O'Donovan, was at the funeral to bring forward a copy of the Constitution. One of the few roles mentioned in the Constitution is that of Cathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann. I know Rory was proud to be the Cathaoirleach of the Seanad, as were the Senators proud to have him as their Cathaoirleach - a very strict Cathaoirleach who did not allow much latitude especially when it came to the issue of the GAA.

Anybody who mentioned the GAA in any light other than a glowing light in paying tribute to winning teams was not going to get an ounce of latitude. When it came to the issue of him living his life in many arenas, it would be fitting to talk about the idea that he was one of those people who tried and failed, and tried again and succeeded - he was relentless in what he pursued in all arenas of his life. As was said in a description of another politician, he was not going to be among those cold and withered souls who neither know victory or defeat. He succeeded in all areas of his life. We were honoured to have him as a Member of this House.

I want to welcome Rory's family and I acknowledge the large Fianna Fáil presence and the Progressive Democrats presence here today. I got to know Rory very well as he is from Feenagh, and people would know I spent my childhood in Charleville. We both went to the same secondary school, as did Eamon de Valera, which has been commemorated in the town. Rory was an institution in his lifetime. He was universally liked. I always found him a very deep man, hugely knowledgeable about politics, and he epitomised all that is good about Limerick. His interests were politics, horse racing and the GAA. I want to particularly acknowledge the presence of the Limerick county board chairman, John Cregan, who was a near neighbour of Rory's and would have come up through the same channels, and would have gone into the county board position a short time prior to Rory's passing. The GAA was a great passion with Rory.

When I met him first, he was a model of brevity and always picked the appropriate words. I remember he turned to me and said, "Kieran, remember the power of the transfer." When he first ran for the Seanad, he did very well but to survive initially, he needed the percentages. Rory was the great artist in that area. He understood what politics was about. He was quite sophisticated in his understanding, a great judge of people, passionate about Limerick GAA and, obviously, the fact Limerick won the all-Ireland a short time after his passing clearly meant he was looking down on us.

I am delighted to be here to pay tribute to Rory. The fact there is such an enormous turnout is a tribute to him. I want to take the opportunity to welcome Brian Cowen's wife, Mary, and his brother, Deputy Barry Cowen, and to wish Brian a speedy recovery. I want to put on record that although Rory was well known outside of Limerick, he was a legend in Limerick itself. He commanded respect and affection. Reference was made to Sinn Féin. I have no doubt he got many votes across the spectrum. That is what Rory Kiely was about. I wish his family well. He was a man of his time and he left an indelible mark at national level but more particularly at Limerick level.

I will try not to be too repetitive but there are certain things I would like to mention about Rory. I welcome his family and I want to remember him and, indeed, his late wife. I have been at a number of these tributes since I became a Member of the Seanad in April 2016 and I have never seen so many people, including so many former Members, in the Visitors Gallery, or current Members sitting in the Chamber, of all parties and none. That reflects the warmth and affection for Rory, who was here for pretty much 30 years straight, perhaps with one tiny blip. At the same time, the last time he put himself forward to run was in 2002, which is 17 years ago. There are a lot of people who are not around now who were around then and a lot of people who have come into the system since who would not necessarily have been canvassed by Rory for the Seanad, unlike Senators O'Sullivan, Leyden and Wilson.

I remember becoming a councillor in 2003 and becoming very aware of Rory quite soon. Until I came into the Seanad myself, I did not get the opportunity to talk to him all that often. The first time I had a really good conversation was at a lovely event, the conferring of the honorary doctorate on Brian Cowen by the NUI in June or July 2017. A number of us, including quite a number who are in the Visitors Gallery, were in the Dame Tavern that evening, and he seemed to know an awful lot more about me than I thought he would. We had a long chat and a great conversation.

He must have had you checked out.

That was the point. I did not realise it but it certainly became apparent that he knew a bit more about me than I thought he did. He was in great form. He knew everything about everything - farming, horse racing and Limerick. My local publican happens to be Charlie Chawke, so all kinds of connections were brought in there.

It should never be underestimated that to become Cathaoirleach is a huge ambition but to become a trustee of the GAA is something that very few people get the honour to do. To be trusted to become a trustee of the largest voluntary organisation in the country by a fair mile is an amazing achievement for anyone, and to simultaneously do that and be Cathaoirleach of the Seanad, and be very involved in his family, his farm and horse racing and Limerick generally, is a huge testament to how brilliant a man he was in so many different ways.

I met him again only a few months later at a sad but joyous event in that we were celebrating the life of the late Taoiseach, Liam Cosgrave. We repaired across the road and he was there and he said, "I think it is my third or fourth time in Dublin this week and they have all been funerals." He was up and down, and back up again. As Senator Conway-Walsh mentioned, he had only been at Seán Calleary's funeral the previous week before his very sad and, I suppose, sudden passing, in a way, in that, while he was of a certain age, he was not particularly unwell.

I was at the funeral. It was an amazing celebration of his life. We were in the hotel afterwards and many of the people who are here today were there that day. He was an amazing politician, an amazing person and an amazing family man. I would like to acknowledge Deputies Aylward and O'Keeffe and local Deputy Niall Collins, who have joined us in the Chamber. I will not repeat the names of everyone who has already been mentioned. Myself and former Senator and Deputy, Fiona O'Malley, soldiered together as local election candidates; she was successful the first time around and I was not. However, it is great to see Fiona here as well.

It is a wonderful occasion. He was a most loyal, affable and genuine individual and a true patriot of Ireland. I am delighted to have the privilege to be here to offer my small few words to him and to his family. We were very lucky to have him.

I am delighted to say a few words about Rory Kiely. He was a man of his time. I have never seen as many people in the Visitors Gallery to pay their respects to a man who was very much respected. I see my former colleagues, including Donie Cassidy and Geraldine Feeney. It is hard to believe that since 2002, when I came in here first, such changes have happened in this Chamber.

The first time I met Rory, we had an absolutely blazing row. I stood up to congratulate the Republic of Ireland soccer team in Japan and he stood up to say, "Keep quiet".

The Senator was asking for it.

I remember Joe O'Toole was behind me, saying, "Keep going, young fellow. Keep going." It was probably not the best inauguration of my time in the Seanad. However, we met in the bar afterwards and I apologised, and we were great friends ever since. That was the mark of Rory Kiely.

In the Members' Bar, we have many photographs of our achievements and most seem to be with racehorses or greyhounds, and I think we also played football. However, there is one from Navan in 2001. I do not know the name of the horse, perhaps Tulsa Jack or something like that.

Arctic Copper, I would say.

Arctic Copper. Rory is standing at the front and, while everyone was happy, he was the happiest man and it is a lovely photograph.

Every time I look at it, I think of the past and sporting occasions, and this was a really great sporting occasion. This is there for the Members to see and is something I really enjoy.

People talk about politics. It is great to see so many past politicians here today. Politics is a tough game. Senator O'Sullivan summed it up yesterday where he said that sometimes we are our own worst enemies and allow ourselves to be denigrated where people call shame on us and say that we are all the same. People like Rory came from a background, where he was not a politician but a community man. He was of his people. He was a family and sporting man. He got in here, represented his people and his country through his own personality. He believed in decorum and he ran this Seanad - no offence to the current Leas-Chathaoirleach - very well. Nobody misbehaved in the Seanad.

The Members tell me I am too lax. Mea culpa.

Finally, I am also delighted to hear, as Senator O'Donnell rightly said, that the former Taoiseach, Brian Cowen, is recovering, and like Rory Kiely was, he is a decent and honourable man. Everyone in this House across party lines would like to see Brian Cowen making as speedy a recovery as he can. Brian Cowen is one of the same kind of people as Rory Kiely was. Fianna Fáil ran through their blood and veins. They would tell a person what they thought but were honourable, decent people. I want to say to his sister Eileen, and his family, that he made a difference and stood up for what he believed in. He was of his time. There are sometimes values that we miss from people like Rory Kiely who served this State so well.

I also want to welcome the Kiely family here today and all of Rory's colleagues. It is a great honour today for the Kiely family. I did not know Rory personally but my late father, who was a councillor and Tipperary man, would have known him very well. Tipperary and Limerick were always quite close when it came to elections. I know that my father was a big supporter of Rory's. I heard great things about Rory. He was a big community worker and very much involved in the work that he did in Limerick with the GAA, not to repeat what everyone has already said.

My father used to say that he was a diehard Fianna Fáil man. These are the things that always stick out in my mind. The family must feel so honoured today and proud to listen to what is being said here about Rory and the kind of man he was and his achievements. It is such an honour that one's father was Cathaoirleach of the Seanad and to hear of all of the work that he did in Fianna Fáil, his love of that party, and of his own native Limerick. It is a great honour, tribute and respect to the man. Well done to everyone. We are delighted to be here to pay those tributes to Rory's family - forgive my sore throat - to welcome Mary Cowen, and in particular, to wish Brian well. Brian is another great man, and it is great that he is back on track. We look forward to meeting him again.

I call Senator Wilson now to speak.

I thank the Leas-Chathaoirleach. I welcome the Kiely family to this tribute to their late, great father. I welcome colleagues, past and present, and many friends who have gathered here as well, especially Mary Cowen. I also welcome those watching in, especially our Cathaoirleach, Denis O'Donovan, and as both referenced by the Leas-Chathaoirleach and Senator O'Sullivan, he cannot be here with us for health reasons but will be back very soon.

Rory Kiely was a man of honour and respect. He was steeped in community and public service. As has been said here, without being repetitive, he received the position of trustee of the GAA, an organisation that he loved even more than Fianna Fáil, which is saying something. He and my former colleague from Monaghan, Senator Francis O'Brien, started a tradition of providing endless amounts of tickets for the All-Ireland football and hurling finals to councillors the length and breadth of the country which lasted for three decades. Unfortunately we inherited their great tradition, but unfortunately we did not inherit the suppliers of the tickets. Needless to say, in the weeks preceding both All-Ireland finals we think of Rory and Francie in very fond ways.

I was going through the records of the House recently, and looked at the issues that Rory raised. Like myself, he spoke on very few occasions. Primarily, the main topics he spoke on were agriculture, fisheries, horse breeding and racing, local government funding and greyhound racing. These were among a few other issues he raised for unfortunate constituents.

There are two things that I will never forget about him in his canvassing technique. First of all, he arrived very late at night, probably 11 p.m. or 12 midnight. Time meant nothing to him and he would keep one up until 2 a.m or 3 a.m. with stories, etc. Second, his Christmas card always arrived on Christmas Eve. I do not know how he managed that but it always arrived then.

Colleagues have alluded to the fact that he was a very strict Cathaoirleach with which I can fully agree. On 23 March 2005 he suspended me from this House. I was honoured to be elected in 2002 and to serve with him and it took me some time to get the nerves and confidence built up to speak. By around 2005 I was getting into my stride. During a debate on the M50 toll bridge, I was doing very well when I was told that my time was up. Senator Geraldine Feeney and the late Senator Kieran Phelan were sitting beside me and they encouraged me to keep going and to finish the few words I had to say. I kept going and Rory said:

Senator Wilson must leave the House. He is suspended from the service of the Seanad for the remainder of the day.

That gave my confidence in public speaking a great boost but we remained good friends even after that.

I want to quote the following and it is relevant to today. It a small piece from Rory's address to the Seanad on 12 September 2002, after his election as Cathaoirleach:

It is a great honour and privilege to have been elected as Cathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann. Elections are a healthy sign of democracy. There are many factors which have culminated in my election today and many to whom I owe my gratitude ...

On a more personal note, each of my fellow politicians is aware of the huge burden placed on the home and family life when one is involved in politics. I have spent many years in politics and the honour bestowed on me today could not have come without the continued and unselfish support and encouragement of my wife, Eileen, and our family. To each of them I say, "Thank you". I am delighted that they sit in the Visitors Gallery today to be part of this wonderful occasion.

Since my election in 1977 I have served under nine Cathaoirligh. Each incumbent had his or her particular style. However, there is a tradition in the Seanad of co-operation rather than confrontation which has served the Seanad well. I intend to continue that tradition. As Cathaoirleach, I will gladly subscribe to any change that will enhance the status of Seanad Éireann and allow all Members to make meaningful contributions to the democratic life of the State.

It was an honour to serve with Senator Rory Kiely.

On 3 July 2007, his final words in this Chamber were during a debate on the Ethics in Public Office Bill when he asked, "When is it proposed to take Committee Stage?" I have no doubt that in heaven above, when he is taking time out from horseracing, that he is conducting the affairs of this Chamber. Until we meet again, Senator Rory Kiely, do not conclude that Committee Stage. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a h-anam dílis.

I extend a welcome to the Kiely family and to the many people in the Visitors Gallery, particularly my neighbour Donie Cassidy who has been my good neighbour and friend for many years.

I am not going to add to the comments. A wonderful series of speeches have been made on Senator Kiely. I have been asked specifically by my colleagues in the Sinn Féin Party in Limerick, particularly in the county, to recognise, as everyone has today, that on a cross-party basis, Senator Kiely had huge respect, huge admiration and is sorely missed. I thank everybody for the tremendous speeches that we have heard.

I apologise for not being here to hear all the tributes. I knew of Rory Kiely. I never met the man but I knew him to see. I am speaking on behalf of the Civil Engagement Group, members of whom probably knew less about the man than I did. Having said that, I want to focus on two things, namely, a lifetime of service to the common good and to the public good. Having listened to the comments, I have the impression of a man who was not full of himself and who was, I suspect from what has been said about him, good company. I am a rural person from west Tipperary and Rory was from Kilmallock in County Limerick, which is not too far away. I get a sense that he was engaged locally in the community through politics and sport, in particular. Senators have mentioned his sterling and long-standing commitment to the GAA.

Nobody can do those things on their own and that is where family, friends and support come in. The people who are behind the veil and not in the public space in the same way are the makers or breakers of somebody's public participation. I say that to underline the part families play very quietly but consistently over the years.

Rory's period as Cathaoirleach of the Seanad coincided with what was, in many ways, a high-water mark for people with disabilities in Ireland because of two Bills that came through this House at the time. There was the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004 and the Disability Act 2005. There is no doubt that Rory Kiely, as Cathaoirleach, had a hand in and an important part to play in ensuring the Acts were well steered through the Upper House.

I know many of the people in the Visitors Gallery. A fair few of them were fellow travellers of Rory on the political stage. That the Visitors Gallery is full is a great tribute to the man. Not all of those in the Visitors Gallery are from the Fianna Fail family, which says a lot about him.

Many people do not become household names but are the backbone of political and civil life in this country and in other countries. Rory Kiely was one of them. He played an invaluable role in political life and political service. May he rest in peace and may his family have the comfort of knowing the part he played in Irish political life.

I see a face in the background. My macular oedema deceived me earlier. Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe is very welcome. Finally, I call the Leader of the House, Jerry Buttimer.

Ar mo shon féin agus ar son Fhine Gael déanaim comhbhrón le clann Kiely agus cuirim fíor-fháilte rompu agus roimh mhuintir Fhianna Fáil. Táimid ag smaoineamh agus ag caint mar gheall ar fhear uasal, macánta agus cairdiúil. Nílimid ag céiliúradh ach tá an ócáid seo cosúil le céiliúradh mar tá brón orainn ach ní bás atá ann ach athfhás. Mar a dúirt an Seanadóir Sullivan, tá sé ag breathnú orainn inniu.

I had the pleasure of knowing Rory Kiely for many years not in a political sense but as a GAA man. The tributes paid to him today are well deserved. The number of former and current Members of the Oireachtas present today speaks volumes about the man Rory Kiely was. I welcome his family, in particular. I have been friendly with his son, Vincent, for a long time. I also had the pleasure of meeting his son-in-law, Gerry, who is a Tipperary man.

On my own behalf and that of the Fine Gael Party, I welcome Mary Cowen and Deputy Barry Cowen. I extend our very best wishes to Brian and hope he has a full recovery. Brian is a very genuine, sincere man and I had the pleasure of serving with him in the Oireachtas.

Rory Kiely was a man, as many people have said, who transcended the political divide. He was an extraordinary character. He was, as has been said, a Fianna Fáil man, a GAA man and a Limerick man but he was also a man of his community and of his people. I refer to the magnificent stadium that Croke Park is today, and Senator Leyden is right about that. Tributes have been paid to many members of the Cabinet at the time, the former Taoiseach and presidents of the GAA but Rory Kiely was a pivotal player in ensuring that the funding was given to Croke Park and that the stadium was built in the way that it was. I know that from serving with him on Munster's GAA coaching and games development, and being involved as an officer of the Cork county board.

When one considers Charles J. Kickham's reference to the pride of the parish and pride of place, Rory Kiely comes to mind. Rory was affable, a gentleman and a rogue. He was firm, fair and friendly but he was a really good man.

The former Minister, Batt O'Keeffe, is present. Many Members and former Members will remember the time when Frank Murphy was the county board secretary in Cork. Very few people got beyond the hatch in Páirc Uí Chaoimh and even fewer got beyond the phone to speak to Frank. As a former officer, I had the pleasure of working with Mairéad and Barbara in the office during the summer. On one particular evening we had a meeting and a phone call was put through to the office. Mairéad answered and told the caller that she was not sure if Frank was available. Then Frank walked into the office and Mairéad identified the caller as Rory Kiely. The backroom team was sent away and Frank got on the phone. A couple of minutes later Frank emerged and he asked me whether I had anything on that evening to which I replied "No". He asked me to take a bundle of tickets to Rory Kiely in Limerick and I was duly dispatched with the tickets. It was not a small number of tickets, and John Cregan would have been very proud of his ability to get the tickets. We stopped on the side of the road halfway between Cork and Charleville, just outside Mallow at Newtwopothouse where we met Rory. He opened the envelope and said that Frank was very generous and he asked me if I would like a ticket. I said I would and I got a ticket to the Limerick-Wexford All-Ireland Final.

I will share another GAA memory of Rory Kiely.

I will not name the person concerned - Gerry Maguire will understand - but a prominent Cork hurler was in trouble. I was the chairman of the GAA club in University College Cork at the time. There was a Munster council hearing and I was dispatched with the player to that meeting. For some reason, Rory Kiely sometimes called me "Barry". The chairman of the meeting asked if anyone had any knowledge of Mr. Buttimer and the player and Rory said he did not know Barry at all. The hearing was going badly anyway for the prominent Cork player. Rory might have had a different idea of a good outcome wearing his Limerick hat, but to be fair to him he winked at me halfway through the hearing and said we would be fine. He was right and we won our appeal. Rory Kiely was part of a great triumvirate with Gerald McKenna and Frank Murphy in the GAA.

My other story from the GAA about Rory concerns the time when we were bringing the concept of games development officers and associated bursaries to fruition at third level. Rory Kiely was an extraordinary supporter of that endeavour. I recall another meeting that was not going too well and where we were in a bit of bother. In his calm and understated way, Rory asked a particular question and that allowed me and two other lads to give a speech outlining the virtue of our case. A vote was subsequently taken and Rory Kiely was the man who swung the vote that day.

I also have a story about Rory and Frank Murphy. A Cork candidate was going for a Munster council job. There was an agreed rota for people to be elected to positions on the council, but this particular Cork candidate was anxious to run for election. For some reason, Denis Lyons, former Deputy and Minister of State, and I were earmarked to travel with the candidate and we met Rory, who was supporting a different candidate. We left that meeting, however, thinking that the Cork candidate was getting the vote. I subsequently met Rory at another Munster council meeting and he remarked that our candidate had not done too well. I agreed with him and he reminded me that we would have another day. He was a gentleman. I had the great pleasure of knowing Rory Kiely from a GAA perspective and I had the great pleasure of watching him in Páirc Uí Chaoimh. He went up and down the stand, where he knew and spoke to everybody. He had a word for everybody.

Today is a difficult and emotional day for his family, as well as for the members of the Fianna Fáil Party. Rory was a loyal son, a great father and a great Gael. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a h-anam dílis.

I thank Senator Buttimer. I ask the House to observe a minute's respectful silence in memory of the late Rory Kiely.

Members rose.