Dáil Éireann - Volume 480 - 10 September, 1997
Expressions of Sympathy. - Death of Mother Teresa and Diana, Princess of Wales.
The Taoiseach Bertie Ahern
The Taoiseach: It is with profound regret that we learned of the death of Mother Teresa last Friday evening. She was a shining light to all the world in her remarkable lifetime's work of reaching out to the poorest of the poor, the weakest of the weak, and the loneliest of the lonely.
From her earliest days Mother Teresa was determined to spend her life working in God's service, and in 1928 she first came to Ireland to join the Loreto Sisters in Rathfarnham. Having left the convent to work in the slums of Calcutta, she received Vatican approval for her Society of the Missionaries of Charity in 1950, and became an Indian citizen. In 1952 she established a home for the dying, destitute of Calcutta, called Pure Heart and since then her band of committed Sisters and Brothers has gained national and international  recognition and appreciation for their work. No one doubts the evident saintliness of Mother Teresa. In word and deed, in her public and private dealings with people, she demonstrated that deep respect for others which expresses the central core of Christian belief.
The Society now has more than 4,000 members worldwide, working in 450 locations in over 115 countries, including Ireland. Hospices for AIDS victims, shelters for the homeless, homes for drug addicts, refuge for lepers, orphanages, schools and clinics form a network of caring and personal contact for all those pushed to the edge and the margins, where they hide in loneliness.
I am glad that among all her very distinguished world honours, we in Ireland were privileged to have bestowed on her the freedom of our capital city, back in 1993. The Irish people spontaneously reached out to embrace her and her work and we can be proud of the practical assistance, the lay volunteers, and the society members which Ireland gave to her. The visit of Uachtarán na hÉireann, Mary Robinson, in that same year gave further national and international profile to the miracles of kindness and love which Mother Teresa worked among the destitute on the streets of Calcutta.
We express our deep gratitude to the Society for Mother Teresa's work on behalf of peace in Ireland and we believe that her generosity of spirit will be an example to us all. We were privileged to live in her time, and learn from her life the lessons of selfless devotion and total giving.
Few events in the history of our times has had such a powerful impact on our consciousness as the tragic death of Diana, Princess of Wales, and the genuine outpouring of emotion all over the world in its wake. Sunday morning, 31 August, will be remembered forever by millions of people as the day Diana died.
All across the world the shock was instantaneous and brutal, and the deep feelings of regret and sorrow for her and for her sons was universal. A deep nerve of human emotion was touched which has expressed itself in unprecedented public displays of mourning, in Ireland and, particularly, in Great Britain. None of us knows the magic hidden in people's hearts until some totally unforeseen event sparks off a unique reaction. Then we know and wonder why we did not see and understand it long ago.
From the time she first came to public notice, but particularly from the time of her wedding in 1981, Diana's face and smile have dominated news stands and television screens and she became one of the foremost icons of our time. In the words of Patrick Kavanagh: “She took her cloak of gold and strolled across the world”. Her vulnerability, warm humanity, espousal of AIDS victims and decisive intervention in the antilandmine campaign were deeply etched on our consciousness.
We saw that her style would not be cramped by rigid structures, that her spirit would not be  crushed by painful adversity, that her charisma would not be dimmed by changing circumstances.
She saw the dangers
Yet she walked
Along the enchanted way.
The poor, the sick, the afflicted, the common man, woman and child saw that she had a special way with her, an honesty, a willingness to give and to please others. In the words of the Prophet:
The aggrieved and the injured said:
Beauty is kind and gentle,
Like a young mother,
Half-shy of her own glory,
She walks among us.
On behalf of the Irish nation, I speak these words of tribute in her honour today. She was indeed the “People's Princess”, not confined by land or sea, not tied to one class, age group or cause, who understood the power she could wield for good causes. The mountains of flowers everywhere were striking testament to the wellspring of public affection which overflowed.
Our thoughts and prayers are especially with her two children and her family, who have to bear this almost intolerable burden of grief. Her memory will endure many lifetimes and her legacy will be most positive and fruitful for the causes she espoused. Now she is at rest.
Diana has joined that special group of people, of whom Kavanagh said:
Count them the beautiful unbroken.
May she rest in peace.
Mr. J. Bruton Mr. J. Bruton
Mr. J. Bruton: On behalf of the Fine Gael party, I join in expressing our deep regret at the death of Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa's belief in God and her humility that derived from a sense that God was greater than her, made her do all the things she did in the service of others. Without the humility that came from her religious faith she would not have sacrificed herself in that way. In this world which materialises everything, it is important to realise that it was Mother Teresa's faith in something which transcended materialism that made her such an inspiring and self-sacrificing figure.
She had the courage to challenge politically fashionable ideas. Let us not forget her eloquent and firm condemnation of taking the life of an unborn child. She opposed abortion fearlessly and we should not forget the moral values she espoused in that matter are relevant and must inspire those who make decisions in this area. Obviously, there is a question as to whether law should enforce morality. Clearly, however, morality must be present either in the voluntary actions of people or in the way the law is framed, otherwise we would have an amoral society.
Mother Teresa stood for a moral society in an increasingly amoral world. It is important to  reflect on why she did so. Her father was a prosperous Albanian nationalist who lived in Skopje, Macedonia. In 1919 he was murdered in prison. As a widow with the means to look after her family well, Mother Teresa's mother insisted that a member of a poor family in the area should be invited to share every meal with them. It was that example of bringing the experience of poverty into an otherwise prosperous home that inspired Mother Teresa to the life she subsequently led. In celebrating her life we should not forget the example set by her widowed mother.
As someone who has a personal association with the Loreto Order, I am pleased to recall that Mother Teresa first entered religion at the Loreto Convent in Rathfarnham, Dublin in 1925.
I also join the Taoiseach in expressing a great sense of loss following the sudden, tragic and appalling death of Diana, Princess of Wales. We must recall that the greatest loss was not suffered by those who may have known her slightly or only through the media, but by her two sons. I hope the Princess of Wales will be remembered above all as a mother. Everything must be done to ensure that her sons are assisted in coping with this dreadful loss.
The Princess of Wales was a person of great status, beauty, prestige and financial security. She could have used those tremendous assets for her benefit alone. The important thing about her, however, was that she chose to use those assets for the benefit of others. In particular she was seen to visit and touch sufferers of AIDS and leprosy. She used her great prestige to remove the stigma that applied to those two dreadful diseases.
It has been said by some, with accuracy, that the Princess of Wales became an icon. We should reflect on what is an icon. An icon is not a human being but an object or a thing. Unfortunately, the public and the media made her into a thing when they made her an icon. In making a human being into a thing and using him or her to promote a cause, to sell newspapers or to achieve some other purpose, we diminish the humanity of that person. It is not a good thing to say she was an icon. Unfortunately, it is a sad commentary on the way in which our society reduces the human to the level of material in a base way.
Mr. Spring Mr. Spring
Mr. Spring: Today we have the sad duty of remembering two remarkable women who died within a week of each other. Diana, Princess of Wales, and Mother Teresa of Calcutta were born and lived in two totally different worlds. That their paths crossed at all says much about their values.
The death of Princess Diana in such tragic and senseless circumstances came as a great shock to us all. Many people of an older generation remember where they were when President Kennedy was shot. Some of us will always remember that horrible moment when news came through of the bombing of Canary Wharf. The news of the  death of Diana, Princess of Wales, is of similar proportion.
Through her work and deeds, Princess Diana showed great compassion and kindness to many people, particularly to children and to those who experienced disadvantage. Hers was a natural compassion, evident in her ease in situations in which many would have felt less comfortable. She was capable of sending to the world signals which challenged our perceptions of people who found themselves in difficult circumstances. Her work with AIDS patients was ground breaking at the time and helped to prompt a reluctant world to come to terms with a frightening disease. The grief evident among the gay community is a testament to how important her work was at an extremely painful time for them. Her work with leprosy, that horrible debilitating disease which historically cast people out from society, was of a similar vein. Her work on the landmines issue cannot be purely ascribed to charitable instincts. Her concern, which this House deeply shares, challenged the vested interests of those who produced those horrible instruments of destruction.
On behalf of the Labour Party, I take this opportunity to extend our sympathies to her family and friends, particularly to her young sons, William and Harry. The death of a young mother, regardless of her status and position in society, is always a particularly tragic affair.
I learned of the death of Mother Teresa with great sadness, coming so soon as it did after Diana's tragic death. Through her work in the community with the sick and disadvantaged, Mother Teresa will be remembered as a truly kind and caring person. Her death will be keenly felt by many people of Ireland because of her close association with this country, an association recognised by the city of Dublin when she was granted the freedom of the city. She enjoyed a special relationship with the Irish people which will not be forgotten.
Many of Mother Teresa's opinions about society and family life were controversial in the west and because of them she drew ire from many quarters. However, no one can doubt they were generated by genuine concern for people, a concern which became the focal point of Mother Teresa's life. I send our condolences to her family and all her colleagues in the Missionaries of Charity at this sad time.
Both these heroic women, Princess Diana and Mother Teresa, used their positions to work with the excluded, the disadvantaged and those on the margins of society. They were two very different women separated by background and age who transcended such boundaries to reach out to people. There is a strange irony that they have now been united in death.
Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Miss Harney) Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Miss Harney)
Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Miss Harney): I join the Taoiseach and other party leaders in expressing my regret at the passing of two of the world's most celebrated and respected women in the space of  six days. Mother Teresa of Calcutta was an inspiration to us all through her work for the under-privileged and for the millions of people in the world who live in appalling circumstances. She founded the Missionaries of Charity and tried by providing education to give the world's poorest people a passport away from their misery. In that, she had all our support. She touched us in a very special way and raised public awareness generally around the world for the world's most deprived and vulnerable citizens.
Princess Diana came from a very different background, but in many ways she and Mother Teresa were similar. She too cared about sick children and vulnerable people, the victims of AIDS, leprosy and landmines. Although she was privileged and had fame and fortune, she had her share of misery. Her death was all the more tragic because it seemed to come at a time when she had at last found personal happiness.
The public reaction to her death is encouraging and in death she will bring about remarkable changes. I hope many people learn lessons from the way she was treated. I suppose she was loved all the more in Ireland because she was a royal rebel. I agree it is her children we must remember. Our concern must be for them and them alone. Two young boys have been left without a mother, a woman who died at the age of 36.
In expressing my regret I say that in different ways two remarkable women, during a very long life in the case of Mother Teresa and a very short one in the case of Princess Diana, helped to make the world a better place for all of us. I hope those of us who are in public life can be inspired by the work of these two remarkable women.
Proinsias De Rossa Proinsias De Rossa
Proinsias De Rossa: On behalf of Democratic Left, I express my sympathy and join my colleagues in extending condolences on the deaths of Diana, Princess of Wales, and Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
These were two very different women, but two of the best known women in the world. One was young; one was old. One was born into British aristocracy; the other into an Albanian peasant family. One enjoyed a life of great wealth; the other chose a life of poverty and simplicity. Yet both of them touched the lives of millions of people all over the world.
One does not have to be a monarchist to admire the work Diana undertook to rid the world of the scourge of landmines and to ensure a more compassionate approach to those suffering from the AIDS virus just as one does not have to approve of all of Mother Teresa's quasi-political views to admire her absolute commitment to the poor and disadvantaged throughout the world and the exceptional determination and energy she showed right up to the end of her long life.
Like many other people I was struck by the extent of the outpourings of public grief shown by British people in the aftermath of the death of Diana. There was a genuine sense of shock and grief here too, no doubt fed by the recognition of  her genuine humanity. It was, as somebody pointed out, like the death of a neighbour's child. We might have had differences and argued with a neighbour in the past but when neighbours lose a child in tragic circumstances such as these, they deserve our compassion, sympathy and support.
I express my sympathy and extend condolences to the families and community of the two women, and also the families of Dodi al Fayed and Henri Paul, who also died in the Paris crash and whose deaths are no doubt as deeply felt by people close to them.
Mr. Sargent Mr. Sargent
Mr. Sargent: I extend the sympathy of the Green Party to the families, colleagues and friends of both Princess Diana and Mother Teresa.
Mother Teresa was a woman who did not just preach compassion; she lived it every day, caring for the most destitute people in the world, the outcasts, the homeless, the sick, the dying, the old and the lonely. Although we do not live in Calcutta where Mother Teresa lived and worked nor do we experience the absolute poverty and destitution she worked amidst every day, she showed us the importance of compassion and love, and that compassion is sadly missing from our modern world where materialism and wealth seem to rule.
We are lucky we had such strong connections with Mother Teresa and that she took the time to take an interest in our development. Even if her views did not fit in with our view of our modernising country, it is a connection we should cherish and remember in the future development of this country, particularly when it comes to including people with whom Mother Teresa would have liked to have spent her time.
It is tragic and uncanny that two women of widely differing lifestyles who were inextricably linked in the media and in people's minds should die in the same week. However, it is inevitable that they were linked in this way because, despite the differences in their lifestyles, Diana, Princess of Wales, and Mother Teresa had much in common. Both were loving, energetic and compassionate women who, spontaneously and without prejudice, reached out to the poor, the sick and the dying. As her brother Earl Spencer said on Saturday last, Diana, Princess of Wales, “needed no royal title to continue to generate her particular brand of magic”.
Through her tireless charity Diana, Princess of Wales, repeatedly showed that, regardless of accidents of birth, everyone must be treated equally. I refer to her work to highlight the tragedy of landmines. Although she was constantly berated by members of the media for being involved in areas they assumed she should not be involved in, Diana persevered in her attempts to raise people's awareness of the suffering caused by landmines in countries already ravaged by senseless wars. This required great courage and the tide of public opinion was beginning to turn. I hope the awareness she had begun to generate  will not disappear. Although Diana is no longer here to champion the cause, the death fields have not disappeared. We owe it to this remarkable woman to continue the work she so bravely started.
An Ceann Comhairle Séamus Pattison
An Ceann Comhairle: I ask Members to rise.
Dáil Éireann 480 Expressions of Sympathy. Death of Mother Teresa and Diana, Princess of Wales.