New MEPs say goodbye to Dail politics; Billy Kelleher pays tribute to people of Cork North Central

New MEPs say goodbye to Dail politics; Billy Kelleher pays tribute to people of Cork North Central

Fianna Fáil's Billy Kelleher has thanked the people of Cork North Central and said it was nice to leave the Dáil "on your own terms”.

Speaking for the final time as a TD ahead of taking up a seat in Brussels, Mr Kelleher also joked that it was “nice to be able to pay tribute to yourself”.

He said it had been a huge honour to have served as a TD since 1993 when he won a Dáil seat at the age of 24.

Mr Kelleher was among the departing TDs who, in a break with protocol, were given the opportunity to bid farewell to their colleagues and thank their supporters.

Four sitting TDs along with Green Party Senator Grace O’Sullivan were elected to the European Parliament in last month's elections and will take up their seats next Tuesday.

Independents 4 Change TD Mick Wallace became emotional in his final address. He described his time as a national political as amazing and frustrating in equal measure.

Mr Wallace said he had been “pretty critical” of the HSE during his time as a TD but his voice quivered when he thanked two named HSE employees who he said “have done some very good work for someone very close to me”.

However, he sparked laughter from across the benches when he detailed his questioning of Government and State bodies on numerous issues and controversies.

“I’ve probably been pretty merciless with a lot of Ministers over there but I like to think my criticism was never personal and I always respected the person I was taking lumps off," he said.

Mr Wallace admitted that he would have a "very challenging and difficult" job in Europe but vowed to work had to "try and rescue Europe from the hands of large corporations and the whole neo- liberal philosophy".

New MEPs say goodbye to Dail politics; Billy Kelleher pays tribute to people of Cork North Central

Former Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald said it had been a “fantastic privilege" to serve in the Dáil, describing her time as a TD as “challenging, interesting and worthwhile”.

Clare Daly did not attend.

Leas Cheann Comhairle Pat ‘The Cope’ Gallagher paid tribute to all of the outgoing TDs and said that they might be "carrying different political flags from the left to the right but you will represent Ireland and you will wear the Irish jersey” in Europe.

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