By David Raleigh
The mayor of Limerick has joined others in paying tribute to former Labour Party councillor Seamus Houlihan, who died in a fire at his home in Limerick city.
Mr Houlihan, a widowed father of two, from Rose Court, Keyes Park, died after a fire broke out at the property, in the early hours of Saturday, June 2.
The deceased, aged in his 80s, was discovered in an upstairs room at the house by his son James, also a former Limerick city Labour Party councillor.
Gardai believe the fire was accidental and that it may have started due to an electrical fault with a kitchen appliance.
In a statment, mayor of Limerick city and county, Cllr Stephen Keary offered his condolences to the Houlihan family.
“On behalf of the people of Limerick and the elected representatives, I would like to extend my sincere condolences to Seamus’s sons Kieran and James following their tragic loss. Seamus was a member of the Labour Party and was co-opted onto the then Limerick City Council following the death of Jim Kemmy," the mayor said.
“All our thoughts are with his family, sons Kieran and James, grandchildren and other family and friends at this tragic time. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dhilís”.
Mr Houlihan, was elected to Limerick City Council in 1998, and was a well-known champion of rights for the elderly, said Limerick Labour TD and former Minister for Education, Jan O'Sullivan.
He was also well known as an active member of the Irish Senior Citizens’ Parliament national organisation.
Despite attempts by Mr Houlihan's son, James, as well as a neighbour, Ger Conway, to revive him, he was pronounced dead at the scene.
Gardai said James Houlihan “discovered the house filled with smoke and his father unresponsive”.
Ger Conway, who ran into the burning house to help Mr Houlihan's son, said: “I could hear James shouting ‘dad, dad, dad’. So I jumped out of bed. James opened the door, and I was behind him, and the smoke came out and hit us.”
“The smoke was tremendous.”
“I said to James to open all the windows to let the smoke out. It was (hard to see) because I had my shirt (pulled) up to me. The smoke was terrible.”
Mr Conway, 61, said despite their best efforts they couldn’t revive Mr Houlihan.
“I was pulling Seamus, I was shaking him, and calling his name, but there was no movement out of him, nothing at all.”
“The fire brigade came so quick then and they ran in with the oxygen masks.”
Mr Houlihan’s wife Geraldine passed away peacefully at the family home two years ago.
Former Minister for Education, and Labour’s only TD for Limerick, Jan O’Sullivan, paying tribute, said: “It's a huge shock. My sympathy goes out to Seamus’s two sons James and Kieran."
“Seamus was a very good public representative and a very nice man. After he stopped being a councillor he was involved in the senior citizens parliament, lobbying politicians about senior citizens rights.”
Neighbours were also “in shock”, including Helen Moloney, a close friend, who fought back tears at hearing the news.
“I'm heartbroken, and I’ll miss him. He was a good neighbour,” she said.
Family friend, Marie Hannon, added: “I'm in shock, shock, total shock. You wouldn't meet a nicer person.”
Mr Houlihan, predeceased by his wife Geraldine, is survived by his sons James and Kieran.
He was also a peace commissioner and a projectionist at the former Royal Cinema, Limerick, neighbours said.
A post mortem was due to be carried out on Mr Houlihan's body at University Hospital Limerick.
Funeral details have yet to be finalised.