Monday 24 June 2019

'You couldn't meet a nicer person' - tributes paid to former politician (80s) who died following tragic house fire

Seamus Houlihan died following a fire at his home in the early hours of this morning
Photo: Liam Burke Press 22
Seamus Houlihan died following a fire at his home in the early hours of this morning Photo: Liam Burke Press 22

David Raleigh

TRIBUTES have been paid to a father-of-two and former Labour Party councillor who tragically lost his life in a house fire in the early hours of this morning.

The deceased man, who has been named locally as Seamus Houlihan, was found dead around 1.30am, lying on the floor of an upstairs bathroom at his home in Limerick City, by his son James, also a former councillor, and neighbour Ger Conway.

Mr Houlihan, who was aged in his early 80s, was elected to Limerick City Council in 1998, and was a well-known champion of rights for the elderly.

He was also well known as an active member of the Irish Senior Citizens’ Parliament national organisation.

Mr Houlihan's son, James, who had been living with his father, discovered the family home on fire as he returned to the property, located at Rose Court in Keyes Park, Southill, in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Gardai said he “discovered the house filled with smoke and his father unresponsive”.

A garda spokeswoman said the scene was “preserved for technical examination”, but, that, gardai believed the fire was "accidental".

Its understood that the fire was caused by an electrical fault, however gardai said their “enquiries are ongoing”.

Mr Conway, said he tried to help James Houlihan bring his father to safety, said: “I could hear James shouting ‘dad, dad, dad’. So I jumped out of bed. James opened the door, and I was behind him, and the smoke came out and hit us - the smoke was tremendous.

“James ran up the stairs and I ran up behind him and Seamus was on the ground, inside in the bathroom. He wasn't breathing.

“I said to James to open all the windows to let the smoke out. It was (hard to see) because I had my shirt (pulled) up to me. The smoke was terrible.”

Mr Conway, 61, said despite their best efforts they couldn’t revive Mr Houlihan.

Mr Conway helped save one of Mr Houlihan’s two beloved pet dogs. One of the dogs was pronounced dead at the scene.

“We brought one into the sitting room but he was dead, but we got the other fella back to life, and they took him to the vet.”

Asked about this gardai said their investigation was “ongoing”.

Paying tribute to the deceased, Mr Houlihan said: “It was a terrible thing to happen. Seamus was a lovely, quiet man, and so was his (late) wife. They are a lovely, quiet family.”

Mr Houlihan’s wife Geraldine passed away peacefully at the family home two years ago.

Former Minister for Education, and Labour’s only TD for Limerick, Jan O’Sullivan, also paid tribute to Mr Houlihan.

“It's a huge shock. My sympathy goes out to Seamus’s two sons James and Kieran,” Deputy O’Sullivan said.

“Seamus was a very good public representative and a very nice man. After he stopped being a councillor he was involved in the senior citizens parliament, lobbying politicians about senior citizens rights.

“He was a real mark on the Southill community and he’ll be sadly missed by everyone.”

Neighbours in the close knit area said they were “in shock”.

Helen Moloney, a close friend, fought back tears as she spoke of hearing the tragic news.

She said: “Seamie and Geraldine were my daughter’s godparents. We're here 52 years and they were here before us, and were always friends.

“He was a very quiet man. He was a peace commissioner at one time. He worked in the royal cinema years ago. He used to show the films there.

“I'm heartbroken. I’ll miss him. He was a good neighbour,” she added.

Another neighbour, Marie Hannon, said: “I'm in shock, shock, total shock. You wouldn't meet a nicer person.”

Mr Houlihan, predeceased by his wife Geraldine, is survived by his sons James and Kieran.

A Garda spokeswoman stated: "Gardaí are investigating a fatal house fire in Keyes Park in Limerick City at 2am on June 2nd 2018. A man in his 80s was pronounced dead at the scene.

"The fire was discovered by the man's son who was returning home. He discovered the house filled with smoke and his father unresponsive in an upstairs bedroom.

"The scene in preserved for technical examination but at this stage Gardaí believe the fire was accidental."

A spokesperson at Munster Fire Control said it received a 999 alert to go to a house, at Keyes Park, Southill, Limerick city, at 1.38am.

Limerick City and County Fire Service dispatched three units to the scene, which was also attended by gardai and ambulance paramedics.

A post mortem will be carried out on the body of the deceased male at University Hospital Limerick.

Gardai at Roxboro Road are investigating the fatal fire.

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