Graveside Oratation delivered by Deputy Breen following the passing of the late Michael Howard (RIP) Former Senator and Member of Clare County Council at Drumcliff Cemetery

February 19th, 2009 - Pat Breen

Friends and Colleagues, We come here today to pay our final farewell and respects to our friend.

 Michael Howard was born on the 19th September 1933 in Ballinalacken in North Clare.   He was an only child born to Thomas and Bridget Howard. Michael was a relatively young man when his father Thomas passed away and so it was his mother Bridget who was to have a huge influence on his political life.  She was the former Bridget Murphy from Ballymacraven in Ennistymon a cousin of Bill Murphy the former Fine Gael T.D. for County Clare. She encouraged Michael buying him books on Great Political Leaders throughout the World; fostering and engaging him in discussion on politics, and from an early age Michael developed an interest in politics and in particular in Fine Gael, an interest which he maintained right up to the day of his death.


It was no surprise then when Michael subsequently forged a career in politics.     He was first elected to Clare County Council for the Ennis Electoral Area in 1974 and served with distinction until 1991.


Michael tested the water in his efforts to enter into National Politics for the first time in 1969 when he stood for Fine Gael in the Dail Election of that year.    He stood again on two further occasions for the Party in 1973 and 1981.


While Michael did not serve in Dail Eireann it has been often said by many people that this was a great pity and a loss not alone for Michael but for County Clare as he would have made a fine Minister.


However, he did get an opportunity to enter National Politics when he was elected on the Industrial and Commercial Panel to Seanad Eireann in 1977 with the nomination from the VFI.  He served as a member of Seanad Eireann from 1977 to 1987 and again from 1989 to 1997.     As a member of Seanad Eireann, Michael was very highly respected and popular among his peers across the political divide.


He was particularly  proud of the role that Cumann na Gael leaders had played in establishing the founding democratic institutions of our State and he himself remained faithful to the core philosophy and policies of Fine Gael namely Equality of opportunity, Enterprise and Reward, Security, Integrity and Hope.


Even though he retired from politics in 1997 he never lost his love and interest in politics.  He was a regular visitor to Leinster House and he really enjoyed those visits – catching up with old friends and staff while at the same time keeping abreast with the latest news and events and that was very important to Michael.  In fact, every year when the New Dail Term was approaching Michael would call to my Office for a copy of the Legislative Programme for that term.


Speaking personally, he exercised a huge influence on my own political development. I valued the opportunity to benefit from his wisdom and political experience.


As my Director of Elections he was the First person I met when I came to the Count Centre in 2002.  I remember the huge smile on his face, the familiar smile we all knew.    Michael was an expert with tally figures, a widely respected commentator known for his ability to forecast election results.   


We will all miss his guiding hand and the invaluable political insights he provided in relation to current political developments. But most of all we will miss his warmth, his humour, evident in the permanent twinkle in his eyes and his loyal friendship.


Michael was a committed European and loved nothing more than to go to visit the European parliament.  He relished the many visits to places of interest in different Cities throughout Europe.  Indeed some of us here today had the privilege to celebrate his 70th birthday with him in Brussels.  


Former US President Dwight Eisenhower once said that the qualities of a great man are “vision, integrity, courage, and understanding, the power of articulation and profundity of character.”


Michael Howard had all of these qualities in abundance.   


Michael displayed great courage and strength throughout his life.   He demonstrated these qualities when he had to deal with the death of his beloved wife Breda and more recently when faced with his own illness.  He bore his illness with great courage, bravery and dignity. 


But then again Michael was always organised and he was organised for today and that organisation included inviting me to give his Graveside Oration and although it is difficult it is a great privilege and honour for me to do so. Michael had a deep fate in God and was happy to let go knowing that he was going to be reunited with Breda again and in the knowledge that his children and family who he loved so much and he was so proud of are cared for. 


Michael did not want people to be sad today but to celebrate his life, a life in which he was completely fulfilled.    


HE loved life.

HE loved his family.   

HE loved Fine Gael to which he devoted all his adult life.

HE loved his native County Clare, A True patriot who was so proud of his Country.


Today, we have all lost a Great Friend and we have to say goodbye.  But Michael we in the Fine Gael Organisation and all your friends across the Political Divide will never forget you and the influence you had on all our lives.


Friends! It is appropriate for me then that we should remember the words of another Great North Clareman, John O’Donoghue, who also departed this Earth recently when he said


“Let us not look for you only in memory, Where we would grow lonely without you, You would want us to find you in presence, Beside us when beauty brightens, When kindness glows And music echoes eternal tones.

When orchids brighten the earth, Darkest winter has turned to spring; May this dark grief flower with hope in every heart that loves you.

May you continue to Inspire Us!

To enter each day with a generous heart,

To serve the call of courage and love

Until we see your beautiful face again

In that land where there is no more separation,

Where all tears will be wiped from our mind,

And where we will never lose you again.”


To:  Tom, Michael, Mary, Seamus, Elizabeth, Gearoid, Louise and Brid, grandchildren and companion Elizabeth who have suffered the greatest loss. we join with you today in sharing that sorrow.  But we also celebrate his Great Life.

And so Michael Rest Here in Your Native Soil until we meet again.


Ar Dheis De go raibh a Anam Dilis.