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Mícheál Ó Sé BL - Obituary
Gaeilgeoir, orator, advocate and proud Kerryman, Mícheál Ó Sé left us on October 13, 2021, just short of his 58th birthday, after a tough battle fought with courage and stoicism. His passing leaves a deep void, most of all for his wife Marie, children Muireann and Piaras, and his brothers and sisters, as well as those who had the good fortune to know him. Mícheál was a gentleman in every sense of the word, a true and loyal friend, utterly sincere, with undoubted integrity. Moreover, he was a great colleague who maintained the highest standards, and a fine lawyer who was appreciated by his many grateful clients.
We met at a history lecture on our first day in UCG 40 years ago, were called to the Bar on the same day in 1989, and shortly afterwards entered the Law Library together. For a whole generation of students, Mícheál will be fondly remembered from his days in the debating chamber of the famed ‘Lit&Deb’, the Literary and Debating Society at UCG. From his first utterance, he made an immediate impression. Barrel chested and with serious intent, he would stand and briefly clear his throat to announce his presence. He was gifted with a rich deep voice, which along with his distinctive Kerry lilt, enraptured audiences as he projected like a latter day Daniel O’Connell addressing a monster meeting. The weekly Thursday debates were usually packed to the rafters with a raucous, impatient crowd, who would sit up and listen in anticipation whenever he gave one of his frequent contributions from the floor. In formal debates, he was a passionate and sometimes ferocious orator. He would often begin by gripping the podium with his big strong hands and bellowing forth for several minutes at full volume, denouncing the feeble arguments of opponents, before suddenly taking a step backwards and announcing in a hushed voice, to unintended hilarity, that he was now going to “cool it”. He would then proceed calmly, with relentless logic and an impressive vocabulary, to demolish any remaining arguments. A hugely popular figure, it was no surprise when he was elected Auditor of the Society. During his tenure, he garnered for the Lit&Deb the world record in continuous debating, on the motion ‘That Ireland is green’, an achievement recognised in that year’s edition of the Guinness Book of Records. He also represented the college with great distinction in many intervarsity events and was a popular figure wherever he went. While his advocacy style mellowed in practice, the flame was always capable of being lit if the circumstances demanded it, but only under the most severe provocation.
Force of nature
He also debated in his native Irish, coming as he did from the north face of Mount Brandon, for which he held a huge attachment, and relished spending every summer there, walking the mountains and beaches with his children and other family members. It took a particularly strong force of nature to draw him across the Shannon Estuary to Clare, where he married our colleague, Marie Slattery, and lived a life of great contentment for the past 25 years. He immersed himself in the local community around Ruan, where they settled on a small farm and raised Aberdeen Angus cattle. With the help and expertise of his great friend Tom Howard, he tackled the restoration of the farmhouse and outhouses with great enthusiasm to make it the lovely home it is today. Small wonder then that Mícheál resisted the lure of the Inner Bar or any other advancement, for which he would have been most suited and clearly qualified; he simply never wanted to leave home.
The high regard in which he was held in the community was evident from the large attendance and organisations represented in the guard of honour at his funeral. He was particularly involved in the local GAA and took great pleasure and pride in watching the growing skills of his son Piaras, a gifted hurler. Mícheál’s wit and acuity was evident to the end as he got to spend his last few days at home with his family. When a discussion arose about how often Piaras, in his younger days, had put the sliotar through a window, Mícheál opened one eye to join in and stated definitively “Two too many!”
A man of great faith, he was fittingly laid to rest just beside the church in Ruan. He was a staunch traditionalist, recognised in the lovely rendition of Tantum Ergo by his sister-in-law, Helen, during the Mass. He would also have approved of Muireann’s violin recital as the reflection after communion, as her playing always gave him such great pleasure. He was proud too of her choice of legal studies, following in the footsteps of Marie and himself. Mícheál retained a life-long interest in history, particularly great leaders and battles, and was a committed European. He was always ready to tackle any hill or mountain with a stout stick and gusto, as he did for many years with another great friend, Seán Malone, a gifted photographer who managed to capture the essence of Mícheál, complete with his mischievous grin and twinkle in the eye, in the photograph that adorned his coffin. His passing was marked by his many colleagues on the South Western Circuit, who paid warm tributes to him in the courts in which he practised and was held in such high esteem.
To borrow from the sentiments expressed so well in his favourite poem, Faoiseamh a Gheobhadsa by Máirtín Ó Díreáin – may he find solace now at home amongst his people in the west.
Brendan Grehan, Senior Counsel