Seanad Éireann - Volume 154 - 24 March, 1998
Death of Deputy Coveney: Expressions of Sympathy.
Mr. Cassidy Mr. Cassidy
Mr. Cassidy: I move a vote of sympathy to the Coveney family on the tragic death of Hugh Coveney. He was a man of great integrity and Irish politics has been robbed of one of the finest public representatives in Dáil Éireann. Hugh Coveney was someone highly valued not only within his own party but also within all parties in the Houses of the Oireachtas and by the people of Cork whom he served so loyally and well. His loss will be deeply felt.
He served the constituency from 1981-82 and from 1982-87. As a Cork man, he was a great servant of his city, both as Lord Mayor and as president of the chamber of commerce. As Minister for the Marine, he was a popular, efficient and dedicated man, and his understanding of and great concern for that industry will be remembered by all.
However, it is his wife, Pauline, and his seven children who will feel his tragic passing most. They should take comfort from the glowing and genuine tributes paid to him from all sectors of the community.
 He was that rare individual whose mild but direct manner earned him universal respect. He will always be remembered as fair minded and as one of the true gentlemen of Leinster House, someone about whom no one had a bad word to say.
On behalf of the Fianna Fáil Party and the Members of Seanad Éireann, I extend our deepest sympathies to his wife, Pauline, and to their seven children. Go mbeannfaidh Dia trócaire ar a anam.
Mr. Manning Mr. Manning
Mr. Manning: Few of us have ever seen the spontaneous and sustained outpourings of grief and public mourning which followed the tragic death of Hugh Coveney. We saw it expressed in the huge crowds who turned up to his removal and funeral, in the all-party guard of honour at St. Michael's Church, in the depth and eloquence of the tributes paid to him from across the political spectrum and from other walks of life, and in the people of Cork who were very conscious they had lost a special person.
We were fortunate to have had Hugh Coveney in politics as he gave it a good name. He did so because of the person he was. His integrity shone through everything he did and said. Hugh Coveney's word was his bond; a promise given was a promise kept; a confidence given was a confidence respected.
However, there was more than integrity. There was enormous ability; the capacity to see the big picture but to master the details, as his son Patrick said in his moving funeral tribute. Hugh Coveney was clear in thought, uncluttered and effective. He could listen and see other points of view, and when he had to act, he was decisive, methodical and certain.
He was a patriot in the real sense — a person who loved his country. He was a local patriot in his love of and pride in Cork and his work on its behalf. He was a national patriot, especially in his work for the peace process and his belief in an inclusive, peaceful and coherent argument. He was an international patriot in his work for Chernobyl, most of it done privately and only emerging after his death.
For all his achievements, Hugh was a quiet, shy and almost diffident man. He never boasted or pushed himself. He was one of nature's gentlemen. He adorned everything he touched.
It was an honour to have known him and a proud honour for Fine Gael that it was the party for which he chose to work and through which he chose to serve. We all share in the deep sense of loss, but how much greater must be the loss to Pauline and to the family. To all of them go our deepest and heartfelt sympathies.
Mr. O'Toole Mr. O'Toole
Mr. O'Toole: On behalf of the Independent group, I wish to be associated with the remarks made. It is always difficult to find appropriate words at a time like this but it is important the record shows Hugh Coveney was a man with the gentleness of someone truly big in every way. He  was exemplary in his great confidence and dignity. He always maintained personal privacy while holding high public office, something which requires an extraordinarily balanced approach. There is a danger in paying tribute to people that one begins to talk about one's own experiences but I cannot help but recall that recently he had ensured that many schools were involved in information technology. He had discussed with me the idea of schools being able to keep in contact with members of his family on their boat trip around the world via e-mail. It was a measure of the man that he had such openness to innovation.
As a public representative he gave freely and generously. He gave to public life when many people in his field did not need to, it was his choice. His sense of duty, the paramount dedication to democracy, should be remembered. We on the independent benches extend our condolences to his family, party and constituency.
Mr. Costello Mr. Costello
Mr. Costello: I would like the Labour Party to be associated with the expressions of sympathy and the tributes to the late Hugh Coveney. His death was tragic, cutting him off in the prime of his career. He had achieved much but would have achieved much more had he lived. He had a full career as a successful businessman in Cork, as a local representative who became Lord Mayor of that city and as a national representative who served in the Dáil and in the highest office as Minister. In the area of social justice he showed concern for the less well off as shown by the work he did for the children of Chernobyl. I put on record that we in the Labour Party found him to be a thorough gentleman, a very decent, honourable man who was honest and reasonable. We offer our sympathy to his bereaved family, his wife Pauline and their children. We felt he was one of the finest men of our generation. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.
Ms Keogh Ms Keogh
Ms Keogh: On my own behalf and on behalf of the Progressive Democrats Party, I join in the well deserved tributes to Hugh Coveney. Everyone who knew Hugh Coveney knew he was a thorough gentleman, a man of the highest integrity and decency. In all dealings he acted in that way, in business or in politics. Hugh Coveney epitomised all that was best in public service in his role as a politician and I am proud to have known him even slightly. He is a great loss to Fine Gael and to all his friends in Leinster House. It is a terrible loss for his family, in particular. When a father and husband is taken away in the prime of his life it is a tragedy. We extend our heartfelt sympathies to his wife Pauline and his family.
Mr. Cregan Mr. Cregan
Mr. Cregan: The loss of Hugh Coveney to the country is tragic. When the news was heard in Cork on Sunday morning it gave us all such a fright; we could not imagine Hugh Coveney was gone. Everyone in Cork city and county, and  those in all political parties, felt very warmly toward him.
I knew Hugh Coveney particularly well. He was a different character to me but one never had to go to him, he always came to you. Irrespective of who needed it, he wanted to help. Hugh Coveney did not have to serve, he wanted to serve. He wanted to be involved and he was well able to do that. He had so much to do that the week was not long enough, he needed eight days in each week.
On the day of his funeral it was heart warming to see his unique family. Hugh Coveney was in a class apart. One always wanted to be with him. When he spoke to you he spoke to you alone. Everyone who met him would agree with what I am saying. He meant well and he was well able to give and serve. It is sad that the country has lost such a person, his party has lost a great man but Pauline and his family have lost a great father and a loving husband. Hugh and Pauline were unique — he did not do anything without discussing it with her. He is a tragic loss to his family.
The reaction of friends in all political parties has been enormous and we appreciate the sentiments expressed. Hugh Coveney is an enormous loss to the people of Cork. Irrespective of political affiliations, they felt comfortable with him.
I was privileged to be in this House when Hugh was a Minister. Senator Manning has summed up his abilities as a Minister. He was at his best as Minister for Defence and the Marine. Unfortunately he lost that post even though he did not deserve to do so. He accepted that loss with dignity and went to serve elsewhere. He was outstanding on Northern Ireland issues because he was willing to compromise. He would listen to everyone, understand how they felt and try to reach a compromise. The proof of this ability was that people from all sides in Northern Ireland came to his funeral. He is an enormous loss to us, to Pauline and to his family. May he rest in peace.
Mr. Callanan Mr. Callanan
Mr. Callanan: I join the expressions of sympathy extended to Hugh Coveney's widow, Pauline, and his family. Many fine tributes have been written and many fine words have been spoken about him. I knew Hugh as a neighbour. We came from neighbouring constituencies and parishes. He was a man of fine principles and integrity who served the people of Cork and Ireland well. Hugh Coveney was a fine husband and father; he was part of a fine family. I do not intend to pay any greater tribute to him than that. He was a man of many qualities which we would always wish to have. As a neighbour and friend I extend my sincere sympathies to his wife Pauline and his family.
An Cathaoirleach An Cathaoirleach
An Cathaoirleach: I wish to be associated with the tributes paid to Hugh Coveney. I join in the expressions of sympathy to his wife and family and I ask Members to stand as a mark of respect.
Members rose in their places.
Seanad Éireann 154 Death of Deputy Coveney: Expressions of Sympathy.