A hUachtaráin agus a dhaoine uaisle, táimid anseo chun saol ár gcara, Breandán, a cheilliúradh agus chun slán croíúil a gabháil leis.
Brendan Halligan has lived a long and full life whose vitality we celebrate and whose passing we mark with a deep sense sadness here today. For his many friends from many walks of life, young and old, there is a real sense of loss – the loss of a man whose gift of friendship, so generously and widely bestowed, was personal, meaningful and affirmative for all who knew him.
And a sense of sadness too, due to the unique circumstances that prevail related to COVID-19, that so many of those friends cannot be here today – personally – to express their genuine sympathy and affection for their fallen comrade, Brendan, and to bid him farewell on his final journey. He would be particularly pleased Mr President and Brendan Howlin, representing the Labour Party, that you are here to offer him one final comradely embrace.
This feeling of sadness is compounded by the several months that Brendan spent in hospital during lockdown depriving him, his family and friends of direct personal contact with a man whose gregarious personality never tired of the companionship of others. Indeed, for Brendan good conversation was a constant – all the more animated and invigorated especially when dining and sharing a fine wine in the company of family and friends.
He bore his long illness with great courage and dignity. In recent months while hospitalised during the lockdown, energy permitting, he enjoyed an endless flow of virtual contacts and telephone calls. I know, because he spoke so often to me about it, the joy he felt at the frequency of the contacts between himself and his grandchildren. This revealed yet again Brendan’s remarkable zest for life. The range, depth and diversity of topics discussed and his appetite, even then, for encouraging, mobilising and harnessing the energies of others driven by his personal dynamism never ceased to amaze.
Brendan was a Dub, through and through, raised in Rialto and educated at St James’s CBS, the Dublin Institute of Technology and UCD. He radiated heartfelt pride when his beloved Dub’s made it five in a row. He began his working life at the Irish Sugar Company forming lifelong friendships that have endured to this day. It is wonderful to see those colleagues here today. He has been an active member of the Labour Party for decades. He served first as its Political Director and then General Secretary for more than twenty years where he honed his organisational and motivational skills. He has been a Senator, a Teachta Dála and a Member of the European Parliament. He was Chairman of Bórd na Móna, of the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, a founder director of his own public affairs consultancy and a Director of Mainstream Renewable Power. It is a curriculum vitae full to overflowing and yet there is more to tell.
Convinced that Ireland’s greater good is served by her integration with Europe, Brendan Halligan threw himself, aged 55, into launching and leading the Institute of European Affairs. This later became the Institute of International and European Affairs of which he was the founder and until his death, President. It is and will be a powerful and enduring legacy.
During Irish European referendum campaigns he was a force of nature – mobilising, organising, encouraging and cajoling – a diverse community of individuals and organisations in the name of civil society to make common cause in serving what he understood to be a vital public purpose.
What marked Brendan out is that he was not just a craftsman and speaker of words but also he was a doer of deeds, a leader of men and women, young and old – the quintessential man in the arena, the personification of active citizenship through which the idea of a Republic best can thrive.
His most recent legacies include the foundation in his eighties of the Ireland China Institute, which he presided, and, after the election of President Macron in France, the convening of the French Reflection Group. His interests in public policy and politics knew no bounds.
The man I and so many others know and admire so much was my senior in years but in truth there was no gap between us or between him and his juniors, whatever their age. Although we all age physically with the passage of time, personally and psychologically, Brendan, at heart, remained essentially a man still in the prime of his life and at the height of his powers through all the years I have known him, right to the end despite a long illness.
Brendan’s encyclopaedic and eclectic reading interests yielded many worthwhile book recommendations for many of his pals. This is another more personal loss that numerous close friends will miss about him.
In his sixties Brendan went back to college as a mature student to study early Irish history, language and culture in Trinity College Dublin in which he invested himself with all the passionate intensity that was the mark of the man. Brendan was European – yes – and Irish to the core – the embodiment in one man of a plurality of identities overlapping, reinforcing and not contradicting each other.
But if all these things stand out as milestones marking the life and times of Brendan Halligan they flowed from the anchored stability of the safe haven which was his home and family – a loving husband of 56 years to his wife, Margie; a lovely dad to his children Gráinne, Fergal and Aoife; a proud grandfather of Cillian, Ailbhe, Fionn, Oisín, Tara, and Rían, a caring brother to his sister Eileen and a much loved family man to his many in-laws.
This was the centre of Brendan’s life from which the energy of his convictions and the force of his personality radiated out across such a wide universe of interests.
Seamus Heaney wrote that: ’Hope is not optimism which expects things to turn out well but something rooted in the conviction – that there is good worth working for’. This served as a leitmotif to the life and times of Brendan Halligan – there is good worth working for.
With profound thanks to his carers in the Mater Private and finally to those who cared for him at his home –
We bid farewell to Brendan – the family man – the public man – the wonderful friend – the thinker of thoughts – the doer of deeds – the mentor to many – the great convenor- the practical patriot – the man who used his God-given talents to the full over the course of a long and well lived life.
No more could be asked – no more could be given.
In the words of his late father that he liked to invoke – ‘have no regrets’. Brendan lived and died true to that dictum – having no regrets.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.
13 August 2020