This week marks the 60th anniversary of the election to Dáil Eireann of Kilkenny man Seamus Pattison
The Kilkenny Observer Newspaper takes a look at the life of Seamus Pattison. Politician, Trade Unionist, and Freeman of the city.
Throughout his life, Seamus Pattison proved always to be a man of integrity and honour, upholding the highest standards in both his personal and public life.
Across the political divide Seamus was universally respected and well liked.
This is not surprising, since from his early days as a Trade Union organiser, Seamus focused his concerns on the needs of individuals and not on their political affiliations.
A courageous advocate for the marginalised, he was truly, a man of the people.
Nationally Seamus had a long and distinguished career. First elected to the Dáil at the 1961 general election he held his seat at eleven subsequent general elections until his retirement prior to the 2006 elections.
He served as Minister of State at the Department of Social Welfare, as Ceann Comhairle and as leas Ceann Comhairle and he was an MEP for Leinster from 1981 to 1983.
Locally Seamus served on Kilkenny Corporation 1964 – 1997 and was Mayor of the city on three occasions, 1967,1976,1992. Simultaneously, Seamus was also elected to Kilkenny County Council serving as Chair on two occasions, 1975, 1980.
Although a vociferous protagonist in political life, outside of this arena, Seamus was a quiet, shy, unassuming person with a great sense of humour.
Stories Resulted in Merriment
From his extensive travels and his many interactions, Seamus gathered a fund of stories with which he would regale friends and family.
Delivered with a mischievous grin, these vignettes usually portrayed himself as the innocent countryman caught up in the Machiavellian world of political bureaucracy.
These stories, told against himself, resulted in merriment and laughter, much to Seamus’ delight.
Throughout his life, Seamus remained humble and self- effacing.
He loved the simple things, a walk around the city, visiting friends, attending hurling matches and impromptu chats.
He loved working in his constituency office in Kilkenny, enjoying the intrigues, the frivolities and the camaraderie.
His long -time Personal Assistant, and friend, Nuala Culleton, confirms that Seamus was invigorated when he was able to help his constituents.
Kindness Permeated His Life
Kilkenny was fortunate that Seamus Pattison lived in our city and was active in the community. His kind and compassionate personae permeated his life and his work.
Today, his many good deeds, often delivered in secret, resonate across the years, as they continue to benefit the families of grateful recipients.
Reminiscing, at this remove, it is glaringly obvious that Seamus Pattison loved Kilkenny and thankfully, we are delighted to say, that Kilkenny loved him in return.
Overwhelmed When Made Freeman
In 2008 , Séamus Pattison and Kilkenny hurling manager Brian Cody were both awarded the freedom of their home city.
The two men were conferred as Freemen of Kilkenny at a specially convened meeting of the city’s borough council.
Mayor of Kilkenny Pat Crotty said the honour of freeman is the “greatest tribute” the people can bestow.
“I feel overwhelmed, overawed and a little bit over the moon,” said Mr Pattison, who served as a TD without interruption for 46 years having successfully contested 12 general elections.
Mr Pattison, who served as Ceann Comhairle to the 28th Dáil and as minister of state for the then department of social welfare (1983 to 1987), was honoured for a lifetime of public service.
Accepting the award, Mr Pattison said he felt “a bit inadequate to qualify for such an honour” and that it had been “an honour in itself to serve the people for 46 years”.
“In honouring me, you are honouring great people down through the years,” said Mr Pattison who paid tribute to his father James, who had served in the Dáil for 22 years.
The Best of The Old Labour Tradition
At the time of his death, all political parties were full of praise for Seamus.
Labour leader Brendan Howlin said in a statement:
“Seamus was a stalwart in the Parliamentary Labour Party that I joined as a young man.
“Seamus represented the best of an old Labour tradition. I was proud to have known him and worked with him.”
President Michael D Higgins shared his condolences in a statement:
“As Father of the House in his final term in Dáil Éireann, he was regularly sought out by new TDs across the political spectrum for counsel because of his sharp political brain, and the wisdom he drew from many years of experience,” President Higgins said.
Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin said Mr Pattison was “a gentleman who commanded the respect of all sides of the house. He was fair and impartial and ensured that all TD’s got a fair hearing when he sat in the chair.”
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar paid tribute to Mr Pattison, and said in a statement: “Seamus was a well-respected Ceann Comhairle, and as a Minister, TD and MEP he represented his constituents in Carlow and Kilkenny for nearly five decades with distinction. “
When Seamus retired from politics at the 2007 election he had served in Dáil Éireann for 45 years and 7 months, making him the fifth longest serving TD ever, and the longest-ever-serving Labour Party TD.
He was the longest-serving sitting TD from 1995 to 2007, and had the informal title of Father of the Dáil.
Seamus Pattison died from Parkinson’s disease at his home in Kilkenny on 4 February 2018, aged 81.
The Kilkenny Observer wish to thank the following for their assistance with this article: Maria Dunphy, Nuala Culleton, Mike Quinn, The Pattison family, Anthony O’Halloran, co-author of Politics in a changing Ireland-A tribute to Seamus Pattison, and Kilkenny Archives, based at St Kieran’s College.