Feargal Quinn ‘patented effective socks long before the Taoiseach born’

Tributes paid in the Seanad to businessman and politician, who died in April

Former colleagues recalled with affection the life and contribution of the supermarket boss Feargal Quinn who members heard was also "a writer, a TV personality, a public servant and a senator" as well as a "hugely popular figure in Irish life".

Leas-Chathaoirleach of the Seanad Paul Coghlan led the tributes to Mr Quinn who died in April aged 82.

Members of the Quinn family, his friends, former employees and colleagues attended for the tributes to the man who spent 23 years in the House between 1996 to 2013. Time is regularly set aside in the Oireachtas to hear tributes to late members of the Houses when it suits their families to attend.

Mr Coghlan said Mr Quinn became a senator because of his commitment to Ireland and democracy and did not take a salary.

He tabled numerous pieces of legislation including the Construction Contracts Bill to protect sub-contractors, which became law with government support. Fianna Fáil Senator Diarmuid Wilson recalled to laughter that “he was the man to patent the effectiveness of socks, long before the Taoiseach was even born”.

Mr Wilson welcomed the opportunity to “pay tribute and due respect to one of our best”.

“He made an immense contribution, characterised by charity, civic duty and innovation”.

In developing the Superquinn supermarket chain “his personal characteristics of kindness and decency shone through in the rough and tumble of the business world”, he said.

“His energy and the example he set for all of his staff became a model that other business owners admired,” he said, adding that his contribution to politics was equally distinguished. “He introduced 17 Bills, marking himself out as a prolific legislator who pinpointed issues.”

Independent Senator Michael McDowell said Mr Quinn was “a man of very strong views, even though he was a man of immense gentility”.

He campaigned despite ill-health to prevent the abolition of the Seanad and “he swung that campaign by simply being the man he was and reminding people of the value of this House”.

Paying tribute for Sinn Féin, Senator Rose Conway-Walsh described him as an innovator in the retail sector who “will be remembered for the likes of the loyalty cards, the self-scanning, coupled with the famous high-level customer service and the stand-out products”.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is a parliamentary reporter with The Irish Times