Dail unites to honour retiring ushers
IT was a rare moment of harmony and good humour in the Dail yesterday.
Politicians from all sides of the House united to pay tribute to head usher Shay Byrne and his colleague Liam Lynch who both retire this week.
Dubliner Shay Byrne joined the staff of Leinster House in 1973, when Liam Cosgrave was Taoiseach in a Fine Gael-Labour coalition government.
Indeed, such is his longevity in the job that it's given rise to an urban myth that as a baby Shay was left in a basket on the plinth of Leinster House. Shay's colleague Liam has worked as an usher for 10 years.
Ceann Comhairle Seamus Kirk described Shay as "a quiet observer of many changes during the years".
Tanaiste Mary Coughlan hailed the head usher as "a true professional".
She also paid tribute to Liam's "professionalism and can-do attitude".
Several of the speakers brought up one of Shay's proudest moments -- when the dedicated Manchester United fan played in Old Trafford as part of an Oireachtas team.
Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny remarked that when the head usher looked back on his time, the highlight would "not be the 40 years of back slapping. . . whingeing and moaning. . . that goes on in the House. . . but the sublime skill he displayed at Old Trafford".
And Labour leader Eamon Gilmore also expressed his appreciation for Shay. "He was extremely helpful in showing me how to get things done, where things were," he said.
"Sometimes new deputies have to rely on the advice and help of the ushers and the staff of the Houses more than on that of their colleagues to find their way and to find out the tricks of the trade," Eamon added, to laughter from all sides of the chamber. There were calls for the head usher to make a speech of his own, but Shay Byrne quietly slipped back outside the door without a word. Now that must be a first.