Seanad Éireann - Volume 171 - 29 January, 2003

Death of Former Member: Expressions of Sympathy.

  Ms O'Rourke: I propose a vote of sympathy on behalf of my party and, I am sure, many others to the family of former Senator Peggy Farrell of Roscommon. Mrs. Farrell was appointed to this House by the then Taoiseach, the late Jack Lynch, in 1969 and served until 1973. She was the outgoing president of the ICA and had formidable business acumen. She ran her own business in Roscommon town where she lived until she passed away.

[3]  I knew Peggy Farrell well as she was in the adjoining constituency. While she was known nationally through her work with the ICA, she was also well known locally. She was a member of the national body for small businesses. She was also well noted as an articulate spokesperson and had a sharp – in the correct sense of the term – and focused way of looking at matters and making her opinions known. She contributed to many debates in this House. I met her at a function once and think she was getting tired of being the “ICA woman”. She had undoubted skills with which she wanted to be credited, as she was, both here and in business.

  We have a fine record of paying tribute to former Members. To her husband, Gussy, and three children, Michael, Jan and Jill, I offer, on behalf of my party, our deepest sympathies. They will dearly miss her presence. I am sure the Lord will welcome her to His kingdom.

  Mr. B. Hayes: On behalf of the Fine Gael Party in the Seanad, I offer our condolences to Fianna Fáil and the family of the late Peggy Farrell. The death of a former Member is always an occasion when colleagues on all sides will remember the person and pay tribute to his or her contribution to national politics. Peggy Farrell was a Member of this House from 1969 until 1973. I was born in 1969 and did not know her well, but my colleagues, particularly those from Roscommon, have told me she was a formidable female politician at a time when it was very difficult for a woman to be in politics.

  While this House has one of the lowest percentages in terms of women in politics in any EU country, it was appalling in the 1960s and 1970s. County Roscommon is quite unique in this respect as it had a number of other female politicians at the time. Joan Burke, a former Fine Gael Deputy, and Peggy Farrell were both outstanding female politicians. Those women got into politics when it was difficult to do so.

  Peggy Farrell was an employer in Roscommon town. Rather than merely talking about jobs she created them, which was a tremendous achievement. She was involved in the ICA for many years and was a former president of the association.

  On behalf of the Fine Gael Party, I would like to be associated with the tributes that have been paid to her memory. I would also like to offer our deepest sympathy to her family, her three children and her husband. I would like her memory to be cherished and remembered forever in this House of which she was a fine and distinguished Member for four years.

  Mr. O'Toole: None of us on the Independent benches knew the late Senator Farrell. Nevertheless, we would like to be associated with the expressions of condolence to her family and her party. As is always said on these occasions, people come and go through these Houses. Such [4]people took part in the development of this country, this nation, this House and legislation, which makes us who we are. In that sense, it is utterly appropriate that we should pay tribute to people who have given time to public life.

  Senator Farrell could have done many other things, but she chose to spend her time not working for herself but making a contribution as a public representative. This is a time to remind ourselves and others of the importance of public representation and of attracting and maintaining good people in it. That is what we remember today in expressing our condolences.

  Mr. Ryan: I did not know the former Senator Farrell, but on behalf of the Labour Party I would like to express our sympathies to her husband and children. The former Senator was an exceptional person because, as Senator Hayes said, women were rare in politics in those days and female business people were even rarer.

  I knew Roscommon slightly in the middle to late 1960s. To set up a business there and create employment in those days was a considerable achievement, given that it was not the most attractive investment climate. As I recall, it was a poor county.

  We, in the Labour Party, would like to pay tribute to the late Peggy Farrell because, as Senator O'Toole said, we should pay tribute to all those who have given service, which was often thankless. She made a contribution to Irish life. The ICA in which she was very involved has also made an enormous contribution to Irish life. We would like to be associated with the tributes and the expressions of sympathy to her family.

  Mr. Dardis: On behalf of the Progressive Democrats, I join others in expressing our sympathy and support to the family of the late Peggy Farrell. It is not readily appreciated nowadays how formidable an achievement it was in those days to become president of the Irish Countrywomen's Association, which was and still is a major national organisation. The late Peggy Farrell obviously revealed fairly formidable and forceful qualities in becoming president of that association. It is notable that several presidents of that association from that period went on to achieve national distinction in politics and, subsequently, in other areas.

  The late Peggy Farrell contributed greatly to the welfare of her community and contributed significantly to the proceedings of this House. We join in extending our sympathy to her husband, her children and her party colleagues.

  Mr. Leyden: I want to express my deepest sympathy to the family of the late Peggy Farrell. She hailed from Bantry in County Cork and was formerly Peggy Spillane. She came to Roscommon as a poultry instructress where she met and married her husband, Gussy Farrell, a local business man. She died on 17 January.

  Peggy Farrell was a Senator from 1969 until [5]1973. She was president of the ICA. She established and was involved in An Grianán and in the Sliabh Bán co-operative, Strokestown. She established a successful business and gave extremely good employment in Roscommon and had tremendous respect for employees. I remember her efforts in this regard as being open, broad and imaginative.

  During her period in the Seanad from 1969 to 1973 she spoke on important issues such as the European Communities Act, the Export Promotion (Amendment) Act and the Redundancy Payments Act. She took the Fianna Fáil Party Whip, which was not obligatory as she was appointed by the former Taoiseach, the late Jack Lynch. She was involved in local politics in Roscommon where she became secretary of the local Fianna Fáil cumann in Roscommon town, which showed her commitment to and involvement in politics.

  Peggy Farrell was also involved until recently in the county enterprise board and the Confederation of Irish Industry and was a founder member of the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association. She was known the length and breadth of Ireland.

  She was a devoted wife, mother and grandmother, a great friend of mine and an inspiration to all who came in contact with her. She was until recently active in developments in Roscommon town. Peggy will be sadly missed by her family and the people of Roscommon. She will be especially missed by her husband, Gussy, her son, Michael, and daughters, Jan and Jill. She lost her son, Donal, some years ago. She had many crosses in life in that regard.

  I am privileged to be in a position to be associated with all the fine tributes to her in the Seanad. We extend our deepest sympathies to her family.

  Mr. Feighan: I also wish to be associated with the kind remarks about the late Peggy Farrell. She was ICA president and, as Senator Leyden pointed out, started the Sliabh Bán co-operative which assisted people in County Roscommon interested in handcrafts to market their products. She was a business lady of repute and ensured women's affairs were brought to the forefront in a rural county such as Roscommon.

  I had the honour and privilege of serving with Peggy on the county enterprise board. When she had a view, she certainly spoke her mind. She was loyal and, when she put her forensic mind to analysing submissions to the county enterprise board, we were assured that the best result would be achieved.

  On my election to the Seanad, I received a touching letter from Peggy which I appreciated. People like her will be missed in rural counties such as Roscommon. I would like to be associated with the remarks made about her.

  An Cathaoirleach: I would also like to be associated with both the vote of sympathy to [6]Peggy Farrell and the kind words said about her. I remember when she was appointed because, having contested a general election unsuccessfully, one had one's eye on the Seanad. I remember the occasion she was appointed and took note of the valuable contribution she made to the Seanad. I am pleased to be associated with the vote of sympathy.

  Members rose.