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Cowen leads tributes to ‘great man’ Killilea (79)

Passed away: Former TD, senator and MEP Mark Killilea died on Monday
Passed away: Former TD, senator and MEP Mark Killilea died on Monday

Former Taoiseach Brian Cowen has led tributes to the late Fianna Fáil politician Mark Killilea, who he remembered as “one of the great political characters of his time”.

Mr Killilea, a former senator, TD for Galway East and Connacht-Ulster MEP passed away on Monday aged 79.

Mr Cowen remembered Mr Killilea as a dedicated and hard-working public representative with a “larger-than-life personality”.

He said he was a “very popular figure” in Fianna Fáil and was “steeped in the traditions” of the party where his father Mark Snr had been a founding member and TD.

Mr Cowen said Mr Killilea “really shone” during his time in the European Parliament when reform of the Common Agricultural Policy was on the agenda. “He was a great man to explain in simple terms what the impact of the reforms would be and why they should be supported.”

Mr Cowen also praised Mr Killilea’s time as junior minister for Posts and Telegraphs in Charles Haughey’s 1981 government.

He said he worked closely with the then-senior minister Albert Reynolds to modernise Ireland’s communications network at a time when many experienced long delays in getting telephone connections.

Mr Killilea later recalled the period himself at the time of Mr Reynolds’s passing in 2014, saying: “Bad pigeons were better than the postal service and telecommunications we had.”

A more famous quote from Mr Killilea was when he said during an election campaign he was a voice for the ordinary people of Ireland who “ate their dinner in the middle of the day”.

Mr Cowen said “he had many memorable colourful phrases”.

He also said: “I’ll certainly miss him as a good friend. He was a great source of encouragement during difficult times.”


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Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said he was saddened to learn of Mr Killilea’s passing.

He said he had a “long and distinguished career” here and in Europe but “never forgot where he came from” and “Galway was never far from his thoughts”. He expressed his deepest condolences to Mr Killilea’s family.

Current Galway East TD Anne Rabbitte recalled his “incredible way with people” but said he was “first and foremost a family man”.

She said that voters asked her during the 2016 General Election if she had the backing of her predecessor.

She said she had visited him and he gave advice for her as a “rookie”.

The Dáil’s Leas-Cheann Comhairle, Pat ‘The Cope’ Gallagher, himself a former MEP, described Mr Killilea as a “gifted public representative” who could see clearly how the European project could help the west of Ireland.

Mr Killilea experienced tragedy in recent years when his son Mark lost his life in a car crash in 2009.

The former MEP is survived by his wife Anne and their family, including another son Donagh, who is a Fianna Fáil councillor.

Mr Killilea will be laid to rest following a funeral Mass tomorrow.

Irish Independent


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