Dáil moderniser retires after 40 years

Kieran Coughlan served the State with distinction, honour and loyalty Taoiseach says

Kieran Coughlan pictured with Ms Justice Mary Finlay Geoghegan last year. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Kieran Coughlan pictured with Ms Justice Mary Finlay Geoghegan last year. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times


Tributes have been paid to secretary general and clerk of the Dáil Kieran Coughlan who has retired after 40 years in Leinster House.

Mr Coughlan was described as a “moderniser” with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the House.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he had given a long and distinguished career of public service to the State. And since he started in 1973, “the outstanding characteristic of this Clerk of the Dáil was his absolute integrity in all his dealings with matters of public life and of the Houses of the Oireachtas”.

Mr Coughlan “has served this State with distinction, honour and loyalty, as well as with great integrity and on this Members absolutely commend him”, the Taoiseach said.

Clerk of the Dáil for 23 years, Mr Coughlan’s role included responsibilities in referendum commissions, constituency commissions and the Standards in Public Office Commission.

The Taoiseach and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said he had presided over the Dáil during a period of great change. Mr Gilmore highlighted the change of government mid-term in the 1990s without a general election as well as the development of the committee system and the establishment of the Standards in Public Office Commission and the Oireachtas Commission, responsible for the running of the Dáil and Seanad.

Mr Gilmore said Mr Coughlan “epitomises public service at its best”.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin thanked Mr Coughlan “for his outstanding contribution to the evolution of our parliamentary system” and said he would be seen as “one of the great modernisers and modernising influences in the evolution of our parliament”.

Mr Martin suggested the Cork native should consider writing a memoir because his serviced covered the election of eight taoisigh.

“Consider the history involved in all of that alone, and the sense of drama that surrounded it. He has witnessed many general elections and he has served 11 holders of the Office of Ceann Comhairle. It is an extraordinary life span of contribution and service.”

He said Mr Coughlan “has an encyclopedic knowledge of the House and particularly of the Standing Orders” and he “exudes a very calm demeanour under great pressure”.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said Mr Coughlan was “extremely courteous, understated, very helpful, thoroughly professional and good humoured”.

The party’s health spokesman, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, the first Sinn Féin TD in the Dáil since the Troubles began in 1969, said that when he became a TD in 1997, the Dáil was “a cold place politically”.

But the staff of the Houses of the Oireachtas had all been extremely courteous and helpful. “For me, Kieran Coughlan stands out as certainly the most accessible, helpful and courteous of all. He is an outstanding administrator, a public servant of the highest calibre, epitomising the very best that our public service offers.”

Speaking for the technical group, Independent Catherine Murphy said Mr Coughlan had given “an extraordinary service over an extraordinary length of time”.

She said he had received the group with “knowledge, trust and integrity”. She said he was “an incredibly nice and likeable man”.