Fellow senators pay tribute to late Tom Fitzgerald in Seanad Eireann

THE MEMORY of late Senator Tom Fitzgerald was honoured in Seanad Éireann recently as fellow Senators and colleagues spoke of the positive and lasting impact the Lispole native made during his life.

On Wednesday, February 12 Seanad Éireann honoured Senator Fitzgerald, who passed away on Friday June 7 last, having served as a County Councillor, Senator and Government Chief Whip during his career.

Tom's wife Bridie, his daughter Michelle, daughter-in-law Siobhan, son Breandán (who is in the running for a council seat in the upcoming local elections) and many more family and friends sat in the visitor's gallery of Seanad Éireann as his former colleagues paid warm tribute.

Leader of the House Maurice Cummins of Fine Gael described Senator Fitzgerald as "an excellent public representative who was strongly committed to Kerry and, particularly, to Dingle and the Corca Dhuibhne Gaeltacht."

"He was also a custodian of the Irish language and a strong voice for the protection and development of the language," he added.

Fianna Fáil Senator Mark Daly from Kenmare said: "When I was elected to the Seanad, Tom Fitzgerald was good enough to give me some great advice, much of which one would never see written in any book. This is the best advice one could ever get."

Senator Daly also described Senator Fitzgerald as proactive politician who achieved many goals.

"As a politician, Tom got things done, including through his chairmanship of Dingle Harbour Commissioners. We have all seen the photograph of Dingle in the 1960s and comparisons between the pier then and now. The pier today is a world-class facility, thanks to the ability, guile and cunning of Tom Fitzgerald in ensuring his area would get the best of what was available."

Killarney Senator, Paul Coughan of Fine Gael, recalled Senator Fitzgerald's great wit and homour, adding that despite having differing political ideologies, he enjoyed a great friendship with the West Kerry man.

"One of my greatest honours was being a member of the Dingle Harbour Commissioners from 1991 until 1997, when Tom was the chairman. He was a very fair chairman and was very good to me. We differed politically but I was the only Fine Gael man on the board. Tom was the greatest friend I could have had serving on it," said Senator Coughlan.

Independent Senator and former Presidential candidate David Norris described Senator Fitzgerald as "a man of vision who managed to bring that vision to pass".

"As I told Tom a number of times, I heard him speak on my very first day and he made the most magnificent speech on a fisheries bill," said Senator Norris.

"Had people like Tom Fitzgerald been listened to, we might be in a much better position now with regard to the fishing industry, which we betrayed and gave away at the time of Ireland's entry into the European Union."