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Death of Former Member: Expressions of Sympathy (Continued)

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 859 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny] How many people around the country have thumbed through those pages looking at the photographs of the different constituencies and the different parties, the first count, the second count, the elimination process and eventually the line-up of those elected? It is an extraordinary series of books, encompassing an entire social and political history throughout the country.

Sadly along with Ted Nealon, this month the nation mourns the loss of another great broadcasting icon, the presenter, author and academic Brian Farrell. On Irish television in black and white in the early days of the 1960s Ted Nealon and Brian Farrell worked very closely together on the current affairs programme "7 Days". Many men and women now in their late 40s, 50s and 60s remember the silence that was called for in the kitchen or the sitting room that the "7 Days" programme demanded and got. Brian and Ted made necessary - even compulsive - viewing in what were often difficult times for our country.

I recall when Ted Nealon, God rest him, was appointed as a Minister of State. He was invited to speak in the Imperial Hotel in Castlebar, where Michael Davitt held many of his meetings after the Land League was started, to talk on the vista that lay ahead for agriculture. He gave a strong presentation on what was in store for farmers. At the end of the Minister of State's contributions the chairman on the night called for questions. The question had nothing to do with the Minister of State's presentation on the agricultural vista that lay ahead, but asked whether the Minister of State would be in a position to re-infect the rabbits in Ballyglass with myxomatosis as they had eaten all the ditches in the surrounding parish. This is one of the many stories Ted Nealon used to love to recount and be involved in through his enjoyment of politics.

To Jo, Feargal, Louise and the extended family, I offer our heartfelt thanks for his contribution to Ireland and to politics. I express our deepest sympathy. It was an honour to serve with him in the House and to enjoy his company, and to learn from his journalistic and broadcasting brain about the science of politics and what made it work for him. Go ndéanfaidh Dia trócaire ar a anam dílis.

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brendan Howlin): Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin On behalf of the Labour Party, I join the Taoiseach in expressing our sympathy to the family of the late Ted Nealon.

  Ted, as the Taoiseach indicated, was first elected as Fine Gael Deputy for Sligo-Leitrim in 1981. He was appointed Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture in the Fine Gael-Labour Party Government of 1981-82, and went on to serve as Minister of State with responsibility for arts and culture in 1983 - a period that will be very well remembered - and Minister of State at the Department of Posts and Telegraphs.

  Ted Nealon carved that rare path from prominent current affairs journalist and broadcaster to Minister of State. His journey on that route was marked by excellence in journalism and service - and love as the Taoiseach has said - as Deputy for his native Sligo-Leitrim constituency.

  Ted spoke with an authoritative voice, and was convincing and knowledgeable about public affairs and about the business of politics. His success in journalism saw him presented with a Jacob’s Award, which was bestowed on those who had given an outstanding contribution to Irish television. He received the award for his anchoring of RTE’s coverage of the 1973 general election, a ground-breaking time in Irish politics. He was a pioneer of broadcasting in Ireland, and brought that deep understanding of political and social affairs to politics and service not only of his native county and constituency, but also of the country.

  As the Taoiseach has said, he was editor and founder of what was knowns as Nealon’s Guide to the Dáil and Seanad. It was one of the most important works in introducing the innate love most Irish people have of the political systems here and giving us the factsheet to work on. Since its first outing in 1973, the guide has become the repository of each and every statistic from each general election, and an indispensable guide for all practitioners, professional journalists, working politicians and anybody with an interest in public affairs. As the Taoiseach has said, it is a poignant and sad coincidence to lose Ted Nealon and Brian Farrell in the same time period.

  As Minister of State in the Department of the Taoiseach with responsibility for arts and culture Ted brought his trademark energy and creativity to the role, as he did in his capacity as Minister of State in what was then the Department of Posts and Telegraphs. His success in politics can be glimpsed through the simple statistic that he was re-elected at every general election from 1981 to 1997, securing and keeping the trust of the people of Sligo and Leitrim.

  On behalf of the Labour Party, I thank Ted Nealon for his contribution to journalism, to politics and to his country. I express my condolences to his wife Jo; his son, Fergal; his daughter, Louise, and all his extended family. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Ba mhaith liom comhbhrón a dhéanamh le clann Ted Nealon, lena bhean Jo, a mhac, Fergal, agus a iníon, Louise, as ucht a bháis. Níl aon amhras ann ach gurb iriseoir agus polaiteoir den scoth ab ea é. Chuir sé seirbhís poiblí chun tosaigh i rith a shaoil. Mar Theachta Dála agus mar Aire Stáit, d'oibrigh sé go dian agus go dícheallach ar son mhuintir na tíre. Táimid go léir buíoch de agus dá chlann dá bharr.

  I add my voice to those of the Taoiseach and the Minister, Deputy Howlin, in expressing on behalf of my party and on my own behalf our deepest sympathies to the Nealon family - to Ted's wife, Jo, son, Fergal and daughter Louise on the death of their beloved father.

  He was a ground-breaking person in terms of media and politics. In many ways I always had a strong affinity and affection for him. I can trace my real engagement with politics to the "7 Days" programme that has been mentioned. When I was a young second-level student in Coláiste Chríost Rí, we had a teacher whose instruction was, "Boys, will you go home tonight and watch "7 Days"? I'll ask ye questions about it tomorrow morning". Invariably about three or four of us would watch "7 Days". When the rest of the class saw the pattern developing they would say to a couple of us, "Would you get him talking about "7 Days" again because we've no homework done". Ever since, "7 Days", Ted Nealon and the late, great Brian Farrell were synonymous with that bit of mischief going on in a classroom in a second level school.

  I trace my own motivation to become engaged with and involved in politics to the captivating broadcasting skill that Ted Nealon, Brian Farrell and others had. We can talk about all the junior certificate CSPE programmes we like, but that raw talent and ability to capture young people's imagination, to be engaged in a subject matter like politics, was a rare gift that we remember today when paying tribute to a person of the calibre of Ted Nealon.

  He was highly capable and very intelligent, and was eloquent in his speeches and contributions to public life. As has been said, he moved from the media world where he had a key role in politics to politics, itself. Fundamentally what we acknowledge and remember today is the raison d'être of political life - giving of oneself to the public and being of service to the public, and he did that in an exceptional manner.

  He was elected to represent Sligo-Leitrim in 1981 and served his constituents exceptionally well until 1997.

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