Fergie Kehoe was 'the heartbeat of Wexford'
FERGIE Kehoe was the heartbeat of Wexford. He knew everyone and loved the people of Wexford and everyone loved him.'
Wexford Mayor Ger Carthy was one of several politicians who have spoken of their devastation following the loss of popular Fianna Fáil councillor Fergie Kehoe who died tragically at his home on Saturday.
Cllr Carthy said the 33 members of Wexford County Council and the officials in Wexford Borough Council are all shocked and devastated by his loss.
He said Cllr Kehoe was a larger-than-life character who will be greatly missed.
'He always greeted you with a smile. He didn't take himself too seriously and a lot of times people didn't take him too seriously either but that was part of his charm. Whenever he came into the chamber he would say: "How's it going lads eh?" and that will no longer ring out in the council chamber and it will be missed. As mayor of Wexford it was a great honour to serve with him. My late father Leo had great time for him. Fergie served for nine years between Wexford Corporation and Wexford County Council.'
Describing Cllr Kehoe as always up for a 'bit of craic', Cllr Carthy said: 'Little did we know that he was hurting. He will be sorely missed. A dark cloud came over Wexford on Saturday morning when we all heard. Wexford County Council and Wexford Borough Council will never be the same again without him.'
Cllr Carthy said his late friend was an astute businessman who became a good councillor.
'He was well able to get his point across. He knew how the system worked and the internal runnings of it. He was a serious performer in the bigger scheme of things. He always contributed to council meetings and always spoke his mind, raising issues surrounding housing, even though he was chairman of the Strategic Policy Committee.'
He said when Cllr Kehoe was elected to Wexford County Council in 2014 having lost out five years previously, it was one of the proudest moments of the late councillor's life.
'Fergie had hundreds of friends and no enemies. He was the heartbeat of Wexford. Fergie Kehoe really loved the people of Wexford. He loved interacting with them, representing them and performing in front of them. He would burst into song without any notice. I want to extend my deepest sympathies to his wife Frances, son Oisín, his father John and all his family on their sudden and tragic loss.'
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin expressed his condolences to the family of Cllr Kehoe.
Mr Martin said: 'Fergie was a man of outstanding integrity who had a strong sense of civic duty. He was a proud and highly respected Wexford man who always put the interests of his community first and continuously strived for its betterment.
'Fergie was always a great champion for the town. He made a significant contribution to public life in Wexford and played an important role in the development of the town and county as a whole. Fergie served his community with pride and passion on Wexford County Council. He was well respected by people across all sides of the political divide and was always willing to co-operate with others to put the interests of Wexford first. His loss is an enormous loss for Wexford.
'I want to express my deepest condolences and those of all in Fianna Fáil to Fergie's wife Frances, his son Oisín, his father John, family and his wider network of family and friends. Ar dheis De go raibh a anam.'
Cathaoirleach of Wexford County Councillor Tony Dempsey said: 'Cllr Kehoe was a much admired and respected member of Wexford County Council and his sudden death has shocked and saddened all who knew him. He was a generous, caring and committed public representative, whose tragic and untimely passing has deeply saddened his countless friends and colleagues from inside and outside the political arena. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Frances, his son Oisín, and his extended family, at this most difficult time.'
Chief Executive of Wexford County Council, Tom Enright spoke of the high esteem in which Cllr Kehoe was held by all who knew him, and in particular the strong bonds of admiration and mutual respect that existed between the staff of Wexford County Council and Cllr Kehoe.
'Cllr Kehoe was a skilled and thoughtful politician, an absolute gentleman and his leadership skills, sound judgement, quick wit and ability to influence have been often acknowledged by his fellow councillors and staff members alike. This is a very sad day, not just for Wexford County Council, but for all of Wexford and on behalf of the entire staff I extend my deepest sympathy to his family on their very sad loss.'
Cllr George Lawlor said Cllr Kehoe never let the political cross into the personal.
'You could have the biggest political row with Fergie and two minutes later he would be smiling over at you across the chamber.'
Cllr Lawlor said hs late friend always had a smile on his face and an engaging manner.
'Everyone knew him and he was held in affection by everyone. His ability to spontaneously burst into song was legendary. We visited Fleurus in Belgium recently and the first two words the mayor said to him was Sweet Caroline, as he met Fergie the year previously. He had the ability to be a great ambassador for Wexford. People warmed to him. He was a big imposing guy with a big, long stride. He was always impeccably dresssed. I have already received messages of condolences from Belgium, France and Italy. He made a big impression on everyone who met him.'
He said Cllr Kehoe had a tremendous sense of fun.
'Everything he said had a funny angle to it. He was one of the few councillors who still held onto the old traditions and engaged in the banter.'
Cllr Lawlor said Fergie's son Oisín was always on his mind.
'Wherever he went he bought him a soccer jersey. I extend my sympathies to his wife Frances; son Oisín, to his father and brother and to his extended family.'