Dáil Éireann - Volume 447 - 24 January, 1995

Death of Former Members: Expressions of Sympathy.

[1491] The Taoiseach: Thank you, a Cheann Comhairle, for giving me the opportunity to express sympathy on behalf of the Government to the families of three former Members of the House who died during the Christmas recess. The late Phil Burton, a former Fine Gael TD for the old constituencies of Cork North East and Mid-Cork, was a Member of the House from 1961 until 1973 and of the Seanad from 1973 until 1977 when he retired from public life. He joined Cumann na nGael in 1932 and addressed his first public meeting in Tyllylease in the company of the late Dan Vaughan TD. In 1942 he was elected a member of Cork County Council and served as chairman of that body on five separate occasions. He served his community with honour, dedication and ability. From my recollection he was a man who only spoke in this House or elsewhere when he had something to say. He was a man of deep personal conviction which was often hidden by a somewhat gruff exterior. His loss will be felt deeply by his wife and family, his friends and his native county of Cork. On behalf of the Government and the Fine Gael Party, I wish to convey to his wife Eileen, his sons and daughters and to his brother Dan our sincere sympathy on their loss.

Former Deputy Stevie Coughlan was a colourful and, at times, controversial Member of this House. He was sometimes described as the stormy petrel of Irish politics. He joined the newly formed Clann na Pobhlachta in 1947 and was an unsuccessful candidate in the general elections of 1954 and 1957. He joined the Labour Party in 1960 and served as a Member of the Dáil from 1961 until 1977. He served twice as Mayor of Limerick, first in 1950 and again in 1969, and he served on the city council there for 30 years. He was also well known in private business as a bookmaker and he was, for a time, the owner of a licensed premises. Anybody who had the pleasure of seeing, as I did [1492] on both occasions that it was shown, the television documentary on Stevie Coughlan's life will have a sense of what a great character he was. What struck me most forcibly — and it was something that struck me also during his time in this House when he was a backbencher in a Government of which I was a member — was that for him, neither party, Government nor popularity came before his commitment to the city of Limerick. He stood for whatever he believed was in the interests of his city and its citizens. On behalf of the Government and my party I wish to offer to his wife Peggy, his sons, daughters and his sisters our sincere sympathy.

Finally, it falls to me to say some words about another Member of this House who has passed away, a man whom I counted among my close friends in political life, although he served on a different side of the House from me, the former Deputy, Phil Brady, who served in this House for 26 years. Indeed, he was elected at an age that many might consider to be an appropriate age for retiring from this House. Notwithstanding that he continued to serve for a full and productive 26 year term as a Member of this House up to the year 1977. He was a former Lord Mayor of the City of Dublin. As Members know, he qualified as a pharmacist in 1917 and his business premises at Kelly's Corner on the South Circular Road is a landmark in Dublin. I suppose that is why he chose that particular location and why his business was so successful. He had a very good sense of positioning in politics and a sense of being in the right place at the right time. He lived a remarkably long life, a life that was very fulfilled and all those who attended his funeral will have a sense not just of the sadness but also of the pleasure that many could draw from recalling such a full life. Indeed, in a recent interview, he referred to his earliest recollections of political matters and it is interesting that the first political event he was able to [1493] recall in his life was the controversy surrounding the Boer War, and that is a while ago. What struck me most forcibly about him was his outstanding courtesy, a courtesy which he passed on to all his sons and daughters and, in particular, to his son Gerard who served as a Deputy and a Minister in this House. On behalf of my party and the House I extend sympathy to the Brady family and indeed to the Fianna Fáil Party on its loss as well as to the Labour Party on the loss of Stevie Coughlan. We have lost three good friends of this House and of parliamentary democracy.

Mr. B. Ahern: It is always a matter of great sadness when former Members of the House pass away. Today, as the Taoiseach stated, we mourn the passing of three former Members, Philip Brady, Philip Burton and Stephen Coughlan. Phil Brady lived to the ripe old age of 102. As the Taoiseach outlined, that allowed him to play an active part in his career both as a successful businessman in this city and his great involvement in the medical and pharmaceutical industry. In 1993, his friends and colleagues celebrated his 100th birthday and those who were present on that occasion will remember that he gave a strong speech on how we should all perform in politics and business for the next 100 years.

Phil Brady was a Deputy for Dublin South East for 26 years, from 1951 to 1977, when he was succeeded by his son, Gerard, with whom Members will be familiar. The late Mr. Brady also carried on that great business which is notorious throughout the city. He was well known in his professional life throughout the country. We will be eternally grateful for the significant role he played as a public representative and as a member of the party of which I am now leader. He had a special interest in the health service and was committed to its development throughout this city.

It is difficult when somebody has reached the age of 102 to put his life in perspective at various junctures. By way of trying to put Philip Brady's life in [1494] sequence, we recall that, for example, he was Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1959-60 and played a prominent role at that time. Deputy Brian Lenihan, a good colleague and longstanding member of this party, recounted recently that when he entered the Seanad 38 years ago there was a tradition in the party that an older Member took the newly elected Member around the premises and that, in his case, Philip Brady, at the age of 65, was the one to show him the ropes. I extend our sympathy to the family of the late Deputy Brady.

Philip Burton, a farmer by profession, was a founder member of Fine Gael, Chairman of Cork County Council, Member of the Seanad and Deputy for Cork for 12 years from 1961 to 1973. Again we wish to extend out sympathy to his wife, Eileen, and his family.

Although I did not know Stephen Coughlan, I knew a good deal about him from documents, programmes and debates. Born in 1910, he was twice Mayor of Limerick and was also a Deputy from 1961 to 1973. He was colourful and controversial to say the least and someone who, if one had an interest in politics, one would want to read about to know what made him tick. To his wife Peggy and his family we extend our sympathy.

I pay tribute to the memory of all three of our former colleagues. They sought to represent their constituents to the best of their ability and worked for the national welfare according to their lights. May they rest in peace.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Spring): On behalf of the Parliamentary Labour Party I rise to pay our respect and tributes to the three late Deputies, Philip Brady, Philip Burton and Stephen Coughlan. I happen to have known all three Deputies to varying degrees. In regard to Philip Brady what one will always remember is his outstanding courtesy irrespective of what was happening in the House. He was a frequent visitor to this House in his retirement and he always had time [1495] to stop for a conversation. He was a gentleman of outstanding qualities and made a remarkable contribution to this House and to the Fianna Fáil Party. I extend my sympathy to the Fianna Fáil Party and to the Brady family, many of whom I know well.

Deputy Philip Burton was a farmer from Cork who represented his constituency very effectively in both Dáil and Seanad. He was of a quiet disposition but he worked assiduously and fought to protect the interests of his constituents, whatever the issue.

I had the opportunity of knowing Deputy Coughlan better than I knew Deputies Brady or Burton. As has been said, he was a colourful character, controversial both within and without the Labour Party. Indeed, it is fair to say that on occasion there was not exactly a coincidence of interest between the priorities of Deputy Coughlan and those of the Labour Party. Deputy Coughlan's priorities were well understood by my own predecessor in Kerry North. Indeed there were many occasions when they formed alliances within the party. I suspect the Ceann Comhairle is smiling because he has a good memory of such things.

As the Leader of the Opposition, Deputy Ahern, has said, all three former Members made outstanding contributions to this House and to their respective constituencies. In Deputy Coughlan's case Limerick came first and last. Our sympathy goes to the Brady, Burton and Coughlan families. We will miss the former Members and will not forget the contribution they made to Irish political life.

Miss Harney: I, too, would like to join with the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and the Leader of Fianna Fáil in extending my sympathy and that of the Progressive Democrats to the families of the three late Deputies. The only one of them I knew was the late Deputy Brady and I concur with everything that has been said about him. He was a courteous [1496] man, always in good humour, always very friendly. Only four or five months ago I saw him in Leinster House. He was a frequent visitor here, always enjoying his visit and meeting some of his former colleagues. I attended his funeral at which representatives from every party in this House were present in large numbers, and that was the greatest tribute that could be paid to a former colleague. Mr. Brady was fortunate to enjoy such a long and healthy life.

I extend my sympathy to his family and, in particular, to his son Gerard who is also a former colleague of ours. By any standards 26 years of service is an outstanding record.

I did not know Deputy Stephen Coughlan but as one who used visit this House as a student between 1973 and 1977, I got to know a good deal about him. I enjoyed very much the television documentary of his life. It was a fitting tribute to a man of great character who went about his task with a sense of mission but also with a sense of fun and determination. To his wife Peggy, to his family and to the Labour Party I should like to extend my sympathy.

Neither did I know Deputy Burton who served in the Dáil for 12 years and in the Seanad for four years — again, a very long record. To his party, Fine Gael, to his wife, Eileen, and his children I extend my sympathy and that of the Progressive Democrats.

Minister for Social Welfare (Proinsias De Rossa): On behalf of Democratic Left I would like to convey the sympathy of my party to the relatives, friends and party colleagues of the three former Deputies who have died. I did not know any of the three personally but it is clear from what has been said about them that they made a considerable contribution to Irish public life. Like other Deputies, I knew some of them by repute and it is clear that, though having different perspectives and being on different sides of the political fence, all three served in politics [1497] out of conviction and for what they believed would be right for the people. I offer my sympathy to the families and friends of the three former Members.

Members rose.