Ireland has suffered ‘great loss’, funeral of Seán Treacy told

Former MEP and Ceann Comhairle was ‘a man of the people’

President Michael D Higgins with  former minister Martin Mansergh at the funeral of former ceann comhairle Seán Treacy in Clonmel. Photograph: John D Kelly

President Michael D Higgins with former minister Martin Mansergh at the funeral of former ceann comhairle Seán Treacy in Clonmel. Photograph: John D Kelly

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Ireland has suffered “a great loss, the loss of a leader” with the death of former politician Seán Treacy, who spent 36 years in the Dáil and served four terms as ceann comhairle, his funeral Mass was told.

Canon Billy Meehan, parish priest of St Mary’s Church in Clonmel, told the congregation Mr Treacy, an MEP from 1981 to 1984, always sought to promote the interests of Clonmel, but also the interests of Ireland and Europe.

He said “the community here in Clonmel, and the wider community in Ireland has suffered a great loss, the loss of a leader,” with Mr Treacy’s death.

“Seán was a man of the people, the people of Clonmel,” the priest said, before quoting Rudyard Kipling who said of a public figure, “he walked with princes but never lost the common touch”.

President Michael D Higgins was among the mourners who paid their respects to the late Mr Treacy, who died on Friday night at South Tipperary General Hospital, aged 93.

Others present at the funeral included Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin and Tipperary TD for the party Alan Kelly, as well as other constituency TDs Mattie McGrath, Jackie Cahill, Séamus Healy, and Michael Lowry. The Mayor of Clonmel, Cllr Catherine Carey, was also in attendance, as was the chief executive of Tipperary County Council, Joe McGrath and members of the county council.

Current Dáil Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl attended, along with former minister of state and leas-ceann comhairle Joe Jacob. The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was represented by his aide-de-camp Cmdt Caroline Burke.

Active trade unionist

Mr Treacy was a TD for Tipperary South from 1961 until his retirement in 1997 and held the chair from 1973 to 1977 and 1987 until 1997. He was originally a member for the Labour Party, having been an active trade unionist during his first job in the 1950s in a shoe factory in Clonmel, but was expelled from the party in 1985 after voting against the family planning bill, and was an independent for the remainder of his career.

Mr Treacy was pre-deceased in 2000 by his wife Kitty and the couple had no children.

Speaking at the funeral Mass, a grand-nephew, Terry O’Brien Jnr, said “one of his proudest moments, and that of his family”, was when he was made a Freeman of Clonmel in 2004, and he met many heads of state and world leaders over the years including Helmut Kohl, Nelson Mandela and Bill Clinton, while he and his wife were afforded an audience with Pope John Paul II.

During his time as ceann comhairle, he presided over the introduction of television cameras to the Dáil chamber, which he viewed as a “hugely positive” development for Irish politics.

Mr Treacy was buried in St Patrick’s Cemetery in Clonmel.

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