President joins mourners at Séamus Pattison’s funeral

Former ceann comhairle and Labour stalwart was a 46-year veteran of the Dáil

The funeral of former ceann comhairle Séamus Pattison at St Patrick’s Church in Kilkenny city on Tuesday. Photograph: Dylan Vaughan

The funeral of former ceann comhairle Séamus Pattison at St Patrick’s Church in Kilkenny city on Tuesday. Photograph: Dylan Vaughan

 

President Michael D Higgins was among the mourners at the funeral Mass for former ceann comhairle and 46-year veteran of the Dáil Séamus Pattison who was buried in his native Kilkenny on Tuesday.

Hundreds of people gathered to pay their respects to the former Labour politician who was a member of Dáil Éireann from 1961 until his retirement in 2007, by which time he was one of the longest-serving parliamentarians in Europe. He died on Sunday at the age of 81, following a long illness.

As well as President Higgins, the congregation at the Mass in St Patrick’s Church in Kilkenny city, not far from the late Mr Pattison’s home, included Labour leader Brendan Howlin, former leaders Joan Burton, Eamon Gilmore and Pat Rabbitte, and colleagues from all parties.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was represented by his aide de camp, Cmdt Caroline Burke.

Eulogy

The eulogy was delivered by Mr Howlin, who spoke of Mr Pattison’s early days as a trade union activist, and also of his 46 years in the Dáil which included a term as ceann comhairle, four years as minister of state and a term as leas ceann comhairle.

“In all areas of his life, Séamus had a genuine and sincere interest in helping people,” Mr Howlin said. “He was there to do whatever he could for them, irrespective of their political creed. He never made anyone feel as if they were outside or different.”

He had a “unique insight” into parliamentary democracy in Ireland, given his 46 years in the Dáil, and served with TDs from the first Dáil to the 30th Dáil. There is a photograph in Leinster House, Mr Howlin said, taken on June 28th, 1963, of the 169 members of the Dáil.

They are all looking at their visitor on that day, President John F Kennedy, and the only one who was still a member of the House by 2007 was Séamus Pattison.

Illness took its toll on him and Mr Howlin recalled his last meeting with Mr Pattison, who was then in a wheelchair. He leaned over and whispered into the Labour leader’s ear: “If you need me to stand, I’ll win again.”

Other mourners included current Carlow-Kilkenny TDs John McGuinness, Pat Deering and Kathleen Funchion; former MEP Liam Aylward; Jack O’Connor of Siptu; Labour TDs Alan Kelly and Willie Penrose; Labour Senator Jed Nash; former Labour TDs Brian O’Shea, Ann Phelan and Emmet Stagg; former senator Michael Lanigan; Kilkenny County Council cathaoirleach David Fitzpatrick; and Kilkenny city mayor Michael Doyle.

Distinguished CV

Mr Pattison was also a three-time mayor of Kilkenny and sat in the European Parliament from 1981 to 1983. He was made a freeman of Kilkenny city in 2008. He is survived by his brothers Monsignor Francis, who is in San Diego, Joe and Michael, sisters-in-law and other relatives.

Chief celebrants among the 12 priests at the funeral was Fr Willie Purcell who said Mr Pattison was a man with a long and distinguished CV, who met kings, queens, presidents and popes and travelled the world through his work, but for whom family always came first.

His religion was also important to him: “He said to me his faith was his strength and prayers were his armour and, in politics, you need a lot of armour.”

All of the important people he met throughout his long career were “no different to you and me”, Mr Pattison told him.

“A good man has passed our way and we have been truly blessed to have known him,” Fr Purcell said.

Afterwards, the cortège made its way to Foulkstown cemetery outside Kilkenny where Mr Pattison was laid to rest.