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Howlin, Brendan

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Death of Former Members: Expressions of Sympathy

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Death of Former Members: Expressions of Sympathy

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Death of Former Members: Expressions of Sympathy

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Snippet Contents:

I rise on my own behalf and on behalf of the Labour Party to express our condolences to the families of the late Brendan McGahon and Seymour Crawford, both very distinguished former Members of this House. Having served here for some time, I had the privilege of serving with both and I remember both very fondly.
Brendan McGahon came from a long and distinguished lineage of democrats. His grandfather, T. F. McGahon, was one of the inaugural members of Dundalk Urban District Council when it was established in 1898 and a leading member of the Irish Parliamentary Party at that time. He established a local newspaper, the Dundalk Democrat, which, I understand, Brendan later ran in the 1960s. Brendan succeeded his cousin, Hugh, on Dundalk Town Council and on Louth County Council at the 1979 local elections and entered this House in the November 1982 general election as a very proud Deputy for the constituency of Louth.
The Ceann Comhairle said with a degree of understatement that Brendan McGahon was sometimes controversial. He certainly was, but always passionate about his belief. Brendan McGahon was a cousin of Ruairí Quinn. Two more disparate perspectives on normal political discourse or issues would be hard to find, but they were best mates. They loved presenting themselves as cousins, with each often saying, "Have you heard my cousin's view on that..." Usually, they were very divergent on any of the issues of the time.
As others have stated, Brendan McGahon always took a very courageous stand in regard to the campaign of violence of the Provisional IRA. He took risks with his own safety on these issues. It is no small matter when one takes a stand of such a fundamental nature. He took risks years later when he gave evidence in the High Court in support of The Sunday Times, which was being sued for libel at the time by an individual who was accused of directing IRA bombing campaigns in Britain. This was the sort of moral courage that Brendan McGahon exuded. He was respected by all across this House, even those who in general terms would not have agreed with his positions on a range of issues. We need people of that calibre in this House, people who think through their opinions with force and strength and who argue with conviction even at the risk of their own personal integrity and safety. I commend his service. I know that Brendan's family will take great comfort in his contribution to public discourse in our nation and in our Parliament.
I also had the privilege of working with Seymour Crawford, again, a large figure in every way in this House. He was gentle, forceful, strong and clear. He was a distinguished former vice president of the Irish Farmers' Association and so he had a deep understanding of matters agricultural. People listened to him and learned from him when contributed on agricultural matters in this House. Others have said that during his Dáil terms Seymour was the only Presbyterian Member of the Oireachtas. It was important to have perspectives like his in the House. In his eulogy, the Reverend Nesbitt highlighted Seymour's deep interest in all cross-Border structures and underscored his work in advancing North-South understanding, trust and reconciliation, matters that are germane and important right now. In 2004, Seymour Crawford served as vice chairman of the British-Irish Interparliamentary Body and he served as a member of that body for 14 years. In his work, he made a significant personal contribution to the advancement of the peace process. I think Brendan and Seymour would be concerned at what is unfolding now in regard to Brexit after all their years of effort in building reconciliation across this island.
The extended family of Seymour Crawford can be very proud of his contribution to this House and the role in played in serving this country.