Dail unites in tribute to respected Labour deputy

 

Sadness and a sense of loss were palpable yesterday when the Dail paid tribute to the Labour TD for Dublin South Central, Dr Pat Upton, who died suddenly on Monday.

After a series of tributes, the House adjourned until today as a mark of respect.

The seat normally occupied by Dr Upton on the Labour benches was vacant, a poignant reminder of the loss of a deputy who enjoyed cross-party popularity.

Leading the tributes, the Labour leader, Mr Ruairi Quinn, said: "We will struggle on without him, but we will never forget him." ail Eireann and his unique and individualistic approach to political life."

Mr Quinn said that as a Dublin TD, Dr Upton had a tremendous love for the city and its people. But he also retained his strong ties with Clare, visiting many times to keep in contact with family and friends in Kilrush.

"The premature death in midlife of a deputy who had all the appearances of a fit and healthy man is an indication of the pressures that public representatives operate under," Mr Quinn said.

The Taoiseach, Mr Ahern, said:

"His love of learning, in particular his great love for our native language and culture, marked him out as very special. "He had the undoubted respect of his parliamentary colleagues on all sides of this House for his straight speaking and his strong sense of the value of public service." The Fine Gael leader, Mr John Bruton, said: "I think it would be fair to say that the sense of trauma undergone by the members of the Labour Party is almost unbearable."

He referred to Dr Upton's capacity to disagree without ever causing hurt, his lovely character and his humanity. He praised his work as a TD, his pride in his Clare heritage, and his commitment to the Irish language.

"I believe there was absolutely no limit to what Pat Upton could have achieved in this House," he said.

The Tanaiste and PD leader, Ms Harney, said that a time when the profession of politics was often discredited, Dr Upton had brought it great distinction. "He had an enormous store of knowledge. He was an academic, but he could also see the big picture."

Constituency colleagues and independent TDs also paid tribute. In a brief, emotional tribute, Mr Ben Briscoe (FF) said Dr Upton had long before the end of his life "earned the esteem" of his fellow human beings. He had dignity, decency and kindness. Another constituency colleague, Mr Gay Mitchell of Fine Gael, said he had lost a great friend whom he would miss dearly.

"Not only was he decent, straightforward, hard-working and great company, but he was a man of great good humour," he said.

Mr Sean Ardagh, a Fianna Fail constituency colleague, described Dr Upton as "an exemplary TD and the type of role model that you can wheel out to any young person in Ireland. He may have had one failing in that he worked hard, and possibly too hard".

Ms Marian McGennis (FF, Dublin Central) described him as a "very quietly effective politician, an extremely hardworking man and a thorough gentleman".

Mr Trevor Sargent (Green, Dublin North) said that the Dail would be a much poorer place for Dr Upton's passing. Dr Upton "educated many of us with his in-depth knowledge of agriculture and science, and all the many other areas of expertise" he had.

"You could be very proud to be in politics when somebody like Dr Pat Upton was a colleague."

Mr Caoimhghin O Caolain (SF, Cavan Monaghan) expressed his condolences and those of the leadership of Sinn Fein to Dr Upton's family and the Labour Party, as did Mr Joe Higgins (Socialist, Dublin West).

As a mark of respect, the House observed a minute's silence and then adjourned.

The remains of the late Dr Upton will be taken to the Church of Pius X, Terenure, Dublin, arriving at 5 p.m. today. The funeral will be after 10 a.m. Mass tomorrow, to Bohernabreena cemetery.