Council colleagues salute an irreplaceable figurehead and friend
Councillors met in special session last Thursday to pay tribute to an erstwhile colleague described as the ‘Father of Waterford City’ and “a colossus” of local politics.
There were emotional contributions from the assembled elected body as the sad absence of Davy Daniels, who gave 49 years’ public service up to last month, sunk in at City Hall. A Book of Condolence, opened the previous afternoon, was signed as councillors made their way in.
All members echoed their sincerest condolences to Davy’s wife Mary, his sons Liam and David, his sister Mary, his grandchildren, and extended family on their immense loss, with a stream of heartfelt individual tributes heard from those gathered.
Cllr John O’Leary (FF), Mayor of Waterford City and County Council, moved the formal Vote of Sympathy, and reflected on the late representative’s legacy after a near-half-century in the Chamber.
“A long-time friend and colleague, Davy was steadfast in his role in prioritising the future of Waterford’s development, through and in tandem with communities, charities, business groups and residents’ associations,” he said.
“As a man who loved sport, Davy was committed to the enhancement and provision of sporting amenities. He derived great pleasure when a sports club secured a new pitch, ground or changing facilities. He played an integral part in the development of the Regional Sports Centre, Williamstown Sport Complex, and the People’s Park, being only too well aware of the benefits that sport can bring to individuals and groups.”
The Mayor added that “as a passionate advocate of the arts and culture scene, Davy was protective of Waterford’s theatrical, musical, and visual arts communities, seeking funding and support in order to keep Waterford’s creativity shining bright.
“In addition to his passion, commitment, and dedication, he remained throughout a genuine people-person. Everyone who met him was touched by his warm, caring persona. He had time and a word for everybody he encountered. That to me, is what exemplified Davy, a dedicated councillor, a proud Waterford man, and a compassionate human being.”
Cllr Mary Roche (SD) seconded the motion, saying it was “very poignant to be sitting here next to Davy’s empty chair”. She was certain that, whatever about the members’ guard of honour at his final farewell on Friday, other former colleagues who had predeceased Davy in the recent past — including James Tobin, John Carey, Gary Wyse, Pat Hayes, and Jackie Walsh — would also greet him warmly at “the pearly gates.”
She said Davy was passionate about all things Waterford, particularly in relation to the city. He sat on the governing body of UCC, “keeping an eye on what they were doing down there, anxious that they wouldn’t get too far ahead of us.” He was also on the board of Waterford Museum of Treasures for many years and was a member of various health forums and the South-East Regional Authority.
However, his long-time City East Independent colleague mentioned that Davy “didn’t much like meetings,” preferring to be out and about meeting the people he served, something he regarded as a privilege. She noted that he’d been a member of the old Waterford Corporation — being the last remaining member of the current Council to have done so — as well as the former City Council and the Metropolitan Council under the newly amalgamated local authority.
“One thing he would have been very pleased about was that he did in fact still serve until the very end,” she said, Davy having attended the last Metropolitan meeting on the Monday of Christmas week and the Civic Reception for golfer Seamus Power the following day (20 December, pictured).
Had he exited “more dramatically” at an actual meeting, “it might have appealed to his sense of theatre,” she quipped. More seriously, the sheer respect and love Davy Daniels engendered was measured by the outpouring of grief his passing had prompted. “We will not see his like again,” Cllr Roche said.
Cllr Seamus Ryan (Lab) said “He really was a Waterford City person and campaigned vigorously on behalf of the city, adding: “When I was first elected to the City Council in 1999, one of the first people to congratulate me was Davy Daniels. From that time to this, Davy has been a friend and colleague who was always very generous with his advice. I will miss him greatly.”
Cllr Ryan attributed Davy’s 49-year stint on the council and nine successive election successes to “his hard work and commitment to the people of Waterford.” He said he’d been to the fore in countless campaigns, including the university, improved health facilities in the regional hospital, “and in particular 24-7 cardiac care.” He was also a constant proponent of Waterford getting its equal share in terms of job creation.
Cllr John Pratt (Lab) said Davy was “an absolute gentleman” and an enormously hardworking politician “who was well able to commend you, but equally he was well able to tell you straight if there was something he didn’t agree with.”
Cllr Adam Wyse (FF) said it was “a pleasure and an honour” to have worked alongside Davy Daniels for nine years, as had his father, Gary, before him. He recalled that when he was first seeking election at age 19, a constituent in Grange came to the door and said fair play to him for running, that there were “enough old fogeys in there” — while in the same breath informing him, “Now Davy Daniels is getting number one.”
It showed “he transcended generations,” Cllr Wyse said, remarking on the sheer number of families he had helped in one way or another. He urged everyone in the chamber “to be a bit more like Davy Daniels” in terms of putting differences aside and working on the ground on behalf of the people.
Cllr Jody Power (GP) said he witnessed, in a robust exchange at his very first meeting, how “formidable” Davy could be as a politician, even though he was “such a gentleman” and “Waterford to the core.” Cllr Daniels always had “his finger on the pulse regarding everything that was happening in the city” and impressed his views, and those of his constituents, on the executive. “If we can all take a little leaf out of his book, we will do very well for the people of Waterford,” he said.
Cllr Cristiona Kiely (GP) said Davy was “a gentleman” and gave her “a lovely welcome” when she joined the authority in late 2021. There was no accounting for the numbers of Waterford people he’d helped across generations.
Cllr Lola O’Sullivan (FG) said that though he was known as a councillor and through his work with the ‘Munster Express’, “the Davy I knew was a farmer. Since his retirement he passed my house [in Garrarus] twice daily, if not three or four times, so if I wanted to discuss anything, he was like clockwork, he’d be at the end of the road at a particular time.
“When the Zoom meetings started due to Covid, Davy would often say to me, ‘How are my cows looking?’ And he actually meant it, because I was looking out the window and could see his cows, which he’d be out to check on later in the day.’”
She said that when the City and County Councils were merged in 2014, “Davy was totally opposed to it and I remember when I came in here first, he said, ‘Lola, if you ever want to meet me, I’ll be in the Majestic Hotel at eleven o’clock any day … he had his seat and he had his routine.
Cllr O’Sullivan said the outpouring of sorrow had been “absolutely incredible … I’ll miss him here, I’ll miss him on the road, as a colleague and as a neighbour. But like Cllr Roche said, Waterford is well represented in Heaven.”
Cllr Tomas Phelan (Lab) said he knew Davy as an elder statesman when he was elected in 2019, and his friendliness and openness meant one couldn’t help but get to know him. He was “also very professional in how he went about business in the chamber and outside it too, always asking pertinent questions, consistently raising important issues, and making valuable contributions.” He stayed active as a councillor up until the very end and was an “exemplary” public representative.
Cllr Jason Murphy (FF) said it was hard to condense Davy Daniels’ lifetime of service — as one of the longest serving councillors in the state and Ireland’s longest serving city-based councillor — into a few minutes. He could only be described as “a colossus of local politics” in Waterford.
He said Davy’s “great gift” was, “as well as representing the headline issues” — like the hospital, the university, and the airport — he “never lost sight of the small things that make a huge difference to individuals’ lives. It’s true to say that there are families here in Waterford where Davy has helped maybe three generations.”
Davy, he added, “was quite traditional and old-fashioned in many ways. My memory of him is that whenever we attended any of the Christmas Eve Masses, even the last one which he made a huge effort to attend, there was always a voice in the background telling people ‘It’s time to kneel now … it’s time to stand … to sit down.’” Helpful to the last, Davy Daniels “represented all that was decent in politics.”
Cllr Tom Cronin (FF) said Davy had “serious issues with the amalgamation” but he came to know him as a friend and colleague who loved to chat about farming and GAA. He would be a massive loss to the city and his constituents, but moreover his family.
Cllr Conor McGuinness (SF) said in his three years on the authority he’d “learned a lot from Davy and I have to say I was very fond of him.” He also recalled that initial tense exchange early in the lifetime of the new council and “I said to myself, ‘My God, I’m glad Davy is on my side.’” He said he found him to be a gentleman both within and outside the chamber, and often referred him to city-based constituents in his role as a Peace Commissioner.
One of his abiding memories was the civic reception held at Tramore Racecourse for Cheltenham trainer Henry de Bromhead “when in many respects Davy stole the show” with “a 15-minute lecture on the intricacies of horse-racing. It showed the passion he had for so many aspects of life.”
Clearly “a very able champion” of the community he served, given the repeated mandate he received, “anyone who survives and indeed thrives as a public representative across five decades is doing something right,” Cllr McGuinness said. “He will be sorely missed.”
Cllr Donal Barry (Ind) — who received the sincere sympathies of Mayor O’Leary on behalf of the members on the recent death of his mother — said that in recent times Davy had “often joked to me that we are getting fairly small in numbers now” as Independents.
“But, apart from politics, what I liked about Davy was that, whenever you met him, even before Council meetings, he’d always ask you ‘How are the family? How are they all keeping?’ I told him in recent times that I’d become a grandfather and he said families are great and so important. He was a real family man first and foremost.
“He was loved by everyone who came to know him. He always made time for people. I never heard him say a bad word about anyone. He did his best for people and that’s all that can be asked of anyone. Davy’s term of office, his last campaign, has come to a close, but he has left a remarkable political legacy here in Waterford,” Cllr Barry said.
Cllr Ger Barron (Lab) said Davy was a great family man and a very sociable person, as well as an outstanding public representative.” Their association went way back to their junior soccer days in the late sixties “when Davy was at the peak of his career as a striking centre-forward. He often reminded me, with great fondness, of the cold winter days we spent in the appropriately named Alaska Park in Kilmacthomas.”
Cllr Joe Kelly (Ind) said that when he was first elected as a Sinn Féin representative in 2004, both Davy, “the first man up”, and the late Pat Hayes, very decently approached him separately with genuine offers of advice and guidance about the workings of local government. “He was a great man to hold the management to account — He was very strident in how he put his point of view across, but he didn’t insult anybody. He called it as he saw it.
He told how, after the recent Christmas Eve Mass in the Cathedral, when the elected members were in the sacristy taking off their gowns, Davy, “still in good form,” came up to everyone individually, as he always did, “very gentlemanly and honourably,” and wished them and their families a happy and healthy new year; not realising, sadly, what lay ahead.
Agreeing “we won’t see the likes of him again,” Cllr Kelly said he associated two things in particular with Davy among the many issues he raised over the years: the delivery of 24-7 cardiac care at University Hospital Waterford, and “to fix the fountain in the People’s Park.” Indeed, such was his tenacity in pursuing the latter that Cllr Kelly suggested the fountain, once reinstated, might be named after Davy Daniels in due course.
Cllr Joeanne Bailey (SF) said Davy was “genuine, warm, a total gentleman, and an excellent public representative. He knew everyone, he spoke to everyone, and he made everyone feel welcome in this chamber. He will be truly missed.”
Cllr Jim Griffin (SF) said he came to know Davy Daniels over 25 years ago as a flooring contractor who was asked to do some work in Davy’s house in Viewmount Park. What was meant to be a quick job turned into a few days when Davy kept asking for his chop saw to be turned off as he dealt with the stream of constituents arriving at his front door. “It was a constituency office once Davy was at home and the calls were hot and heavy to say the least,” he remembered.
He also smiled remembering how whenever a phone would ring during a council meeting, “it was often Davy’s — technology wouldn’t have been his strong point — and he’d be walking out saying ‘Hello’ to the person calling before he’d left the room. His constituents were his priority.”
Cllr Damien Geoghegan (FG) said he only came to know Davy after the council merger but he was long considered “a colossus of local politics, not just in Waterford, but nationally.” From his contacts through the Association of Irish Local Government and the Local Authority Members Association, “He was well known and regarded right throughout the country. He was a champion of local government and the cause of councillors at all times.
“He was fantastic company as well, having lunch or dinner at conferences, listening to his anecdotes about local government going back — very witty, great stories. We often had rows and banter across the chamber, but he was the type of fellow you couldn’t fall out with. What I most liked about Davy was, every time I met him, he’d ask how were my parents, and my children. That’s a great character trait in anybody. He was a people person, always genuinely interested in others, and that’s why he was returned here on every occasion since 1974.”
Cllr Seanie Power (FG) said he came to know Davy, “a gentleman and a great character,” through the GAA when Rathgormack were up against St Saviours, whom his son Liam played for as well as Waterford back in the eighties. Later when their paths crossed politically, they’d typically discuss farming. “’Well, how are the cows getting on? Do you’ve many in calf now?’ he’d ask. I’d say, ‘Ah grand, how are yours going?’ ‘Ah, I’ve only a few,’ he’d go. So, I never really got to know how many he had!”
Cllr Pat Nugent (FG) — who offered apologies for his absent colleague Declan Doocey — said he last met Davy at the reception for golfer Seamus Power during Christmas week. He knew sport was a big part of his life: GAA, soccer and horse racing, as well as Garrarus and his business in the Majestic Hotel. He’d served with him on the governing authority of UCD for two terms and “Davy played his politics to a tee there as well. The secretary of the president of UCD had some connection with Waterford, so Davy would be there early in the morning with a present of fresh Blaas.”
Cllr Eamon Quinlan (FF) said “not only was Davy a lovely man who wanted everyone to do well but he took great pride in the institutions of local government. He thought the idea of people being elected to represent local communities in a democratic fashion was something to be proud of. He loved the local authorities in Waterford that he served on for what they were able to do for people.”
Cllr Quinlan observed that “from 1974 to now is almost half the length of time the State has been in existence.” The evolution of Waterford City over that period has been transformative, he said, and “the influence and hand of Davy Daniels in shaping that change — while always doing the basics, doing the right thing by people — shows how valued he was as an elected representative”; as reflected in his remarkable electoral record.
He added that Davy Daniels’ career was “built brick by brick” — each brick being a family or individual he helped, creating a “monument” to public service “that most of us will never even come close to. It’s true what people have said: there’s just a different Waterford now without Davy.”
Cllr Pat Fitzgerald (SF) said Davy Daniels “took his work as a councillor very, very seriously” — likewise his responsibilities as a Peace Commissioner. “His name was mentioned at every door you knocked on” in his electoral area “and nobody had a bad word to say about him.
“His advice was always spot on, he knew the job inside-out, not surprising given his almost half a century of experience of civic matters. And Davy didn’t pull his punches. He said what was on his mind. You knew exactly where Davy stood. And you would have to respect that, because 99% of the time he stood on the right side of things.” He agreed that a plaque or some memorial should be mounted in recognition of Cllr Daniels’ immense service to Waterford.
Cllr Frank Quinlan (FG) said he had known Davy, a great family man, all his life through his association with his uncle Hilary and relatives. He recalled, as a child, Davy arriving into the Tramore Races on the 15th of August “as a God-like figure” during his mayoralty. He was the people’s politician.
Cllr Liam Brazil (FG) said “Davy’s record stands for itself. To succeed in nine successive elections and to top the poll in most of them is phenomenal.” Having served with him at South East Regional Authority level, he always “shouted the loudest for Waterford,” especially on the university issue.
Cllr John Hearne (SF) said Davy Daniels was “an extraordinary loss to the council,” remarking that “When he started out, like the late James Tobin, there was no money to be had.” They came from humble backgrounds, “decent old stock,” and put in decades of service to better the lot of others.
“When you think of the term ‘City Fathers’ — if Waterford City ever had a father, it was Davy Daniels. Everybody knew him, talked to him, and he listened to and worked for everybody. He couldn’t do enough for people. Davy was just a gentleman,” he said.
Michael Walsh paid his own tribute as Council Chief Executive. Since his election in 1974, “in the intervening years, Davy never lost the spark or passion, and that’s what made him a great public representative. He was committed to the betterment of Waterford, be it through economic development, education, social and cultural enhancement, and the promotion of our tourism and archaeological heritage. He never stopped beating the drum for his native city.”
Mr Walsh said he had first come to know Davy as an engineer with the then-City Council 20 years ago and obviously had increased interaction with him as CEO. A councillor of great wisdom and experience, “Davy was very robust certainly in holding us to account, but I never had any difficulty with that whatsoever. He was also entirely gentlemanly in terms of how he did it, always absolutely appropriate, which is a skill in its own right.”
He added: “The persona that Davy had, as a people person, rang true. He loved people, talking, communicating, listening. That was reflected in his electoral mandate over the years. The Council staff, in generality, liked him and there were very few phone calls. There was trouble if Davy rang, put it that way. Because by his nature, he wanted to do his business person to person, and he did that right across the organisation. He never demanded things but [because of that] he probably got more in the long run. There wouldn’t be a person in the broader staff who would have a bad word to say about Davy Daniels.”
The CEO concurred with the use of the word “colossus” to describe the late councillor’s status as an elected representative. “To get that mandate over such a period of time is simply a phenomenal achievement.” Attending their deceased colleague’s Requiem Mass as a Robed Body was a suitable mark of respect, he felt, given that Davy, while not one for the “trappings” of office, “valued the tradition and formality of the Council.”
*A Book of Condolence was opened at City Hall on the Mall and Civic Offices, Dungarvan, last Wednesday. An online Book of Condolence is also available at www.waterfordcouncil.ie.
The Health Service Executive/South East Community Healthcare also expressed its sympathies to the family of Davy Daniels who served terms as a nominee of Waterford City and County Councils on the HSE’s Regional Health Forum South, making “a valued contribution to the development of healthcare services locally.” He also sat on the old South Eastern Health Board.
Jamie O’Keeffe At City Hall