TRAS HONAN, the only woman to have served as Cathaoirleach of the Seanad has died at the age of 93,
Born in Dublin on January 4th in 1930, she was educated at St Leo’s Convent in Carlow and the Mercy Convent in Clonmel.
She and her family moved to Ennis in 1950 with Tras leaving her mark on the county town, the family had been involved in running the Honan family pub on O’Connell Square.
She served as Cathaoirleach of the Ennis Urban District Council, the first woman to hold the role and was previously the first female elected to the Ennis Urban District Council.
National politics followed when Tras was elected to the Seanad in 1977 where she remained for fifteen years until the 1993 elections.
In 1982, she was elected to the position of Cathaoirleach of the Seanad becoming the first woman to hold the post.
When her sister Carrie Acheson was elected to Dáil Éireann in 1981 they were the first sisters to serve as Oireachtas members at the same time. Carrie, who was also known as the ‘Voice of the Ploughing Championships’, passed away in January of this year.
For her political career, Tras is always associated with Clare. She is included in a collage of images depicting women Senators over the past one-hundred years, which now hangs in the Houses of The Oireachtas.
Her late husband Derry Honan and father-in-law T.V. Honan both served in Seanad Éireann.
Following her retirement from national politics, she relocated to Waterford. She was subsequently appointed as Chairperson of Bus Éireann where she led the development and construction of Waterford Bus Station at Merchant’s Quay., and she also chaired the board of management at Mercy Primary School, Waterford.
Tánaiste Micheál Martin (FF) said he was “very sorry to learn of the death of my friend, fellow party member and former senator, Tras Honan. Tras’s family was steeped in republican heritage. Her late sister Carrie served as TD and her father, Matt Barlow, fought in the War of Independence.
“Tras was a consummate and natural politician. She was in politics for all the right and noble reasons: to strive to improve the lives of people and their communities. She was an able and determined public representative, driven and committed. Tras was a trailblazer for her time, becoming the first woman elected Cathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann, a position she held twice. No other woman has held the position since. I greatly valued her friendship and advice. Even up to very recently, she was in contact, offering her support, advice and invaluable insights”.
Senator Timmy Dooley (FF) stated, “I had the pleasure of knowing her well having served with her on a number of committees over the years. She was forthright and strong willed. She was a beacon for female participation in politics in an era which was dominated by men. Her legacy will live on and she will be spoken fondly of by those who knew her for many decades to come”.
Leader of the Seanad Independent Group, the largest technical group in the Upper House of the Irish Parliament, Senator Victor Boyhan (IND), spoke warmly of former Senator Tras Honan during the Seanad Order of Business. “I first met her in 1982 at the funeral of Dr Bill Loughnane in Ennis in Co Clare. By golly, she was a feisty, determined, pragmatic, driven and focused politician. She loved the Seanad. When she had the opportunity, she opted not to succeed Bill Loughnane in the by-election of 1982, which was won, surprise, surprise, by Donal Carey against the odds” .
“Tras Honan had a huge interest in the Seanad. She used to say that her place was in the Seanad. She had no ambition to go anywhere else. She put every ounce of her energy into this House. She used it creatively and successfully and had a wonderful energy. Tras was a trailblazer. She was Cathaoirleach of the Seanad none once but twice, a rare political accomplishment in itself,” Senator Boyhan added.
He concluded, “ The image of the blue-eyed Tras shining through the photo montage at the bottom of the Seanad stairs today says everything about her. She was a leading role model, an example, for young women in politics…Hopefully, there will be many women candidates that we can consider in the next Seanad election”. She has left a great legacy in both local and national politics”.