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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)

[Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin] Most Members of the House and those who knew him will remember him with fondness because he was a genuinely pleasant, friendly individual and people will always have fond recollections of that humanity and engagement. He excelled in everything to which he turned his hand, whether that was on the football field playing for Sligo, being a national newspaper editor or a television presenter. The people had trust and confidence in him and he was easy with people, which is an important trait in any public representative.

  Reflecting on his life, it was a varied one. For people contemplating politics, such a varied life and the different experiences one has in life can contribute to a more effective political life. There are lessons to be drawn from that. He had a fantastic and varied career. He started his days with The Irish Press, not a newspaper overly associated with the Fine Gael Party, soon after he became editor of the Sunday Review and he wrote a column which everybody read because of the behind-the-scenes information, gossip and leaks in the days when, allegedly, there were no leaks. He had a great dry wit as well. Long before Twitter and Facebook, people relied on people like Ted Nealon for the real news. He played an enormous role in Irish broadcasting, both in terms of "Seven Days" and in terms of farming and rural life in the "On the Land" programme, which was a significant one in its own right.

  There was an election in 1973. As a 13 year old, and being the emerging nerd that I was, Ted Nealon's uncanny predictions of that election and the exact results that materialised outdid the computer, rudimentary as it was at that time. We did not particularly like the predictions but they came true in any event. His capacity to analyse constituencies, voters, geography, transfers and so forth was incredible. Basil Chubb, one of our original pioneering political scientists, described Ted Nealon as having an "encyclopaedic and detailed knowledge of people, places, local events and opinions". He was the founder and editor of Nealon's Guide, which has become the bible in terms of research, quickly wanting to reference various elections, Deputies, Senators and so forth. That is one of his lasting legacies that has informed the work of many people who cover and analyse politics to the present day.

   He was, in many respects, ideal for politics, public life and membership of Dáil Éireann. The Taoiseach referenced his role as a press officer or Jack of all trades for the Fine Gael Party in earlier times when he was Government press secretary in 1976. He knew politics from every side of the coin, every angle and every perspective. As a Minister for State, he was particularly effective, particularly in the arts and culture portfolio which I would single out. He had a particular grá for that and that was in the days before we have a full ministry for the arts and culture. He also served as Minister of State in the Department of Agriculture and Minister of State in the Department of Posts and Telegraphs.

  He did great work in Sligo, particularly in working for the establishment of the North West Hospice, which owes a great deal to his work and contribution. He will be remembered for his integrity as a public servant and politician, as a legendary raconteur and for his story telling capacity and as a very well liked and very able politician across this House and across politics in general. His family can be very proud of his contribution to Irish life in its many and varied forms. We extend our sincere sympathies to his family and to the Fine Gael Party who have lost one of their true friends and great contributors. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams Ba mhaith liom mo chomhbhrón a dhéanamh le clann Ted Nealon. Ní raibh aithne pearsanta agam ar Ted ach léigh mé na leabhair a scríobh sé, go háirithe Nealon's Guide, agus chonaic mé é agus an tUasal Brian Farrell ar RTE. Mar a dúirt an Taoiseach agus daoine eile, mar Theachta Dála agus mar shaoránach, rinne Ted Nealon obair galánta ar son mhuintir an Stáit agus ar son a Dháilcheantar féin. Thar ceann Shinn Féin, ba mhaith liom mo chomhbhrón a dhéanamh lena bhean chéile, Jo, a mhac, Fergal, a iníon, Louise, agus an teaghlach ar fad. Ba mhaith liom mo chomhbhrón a dhéanamh fosta le Fine Gael.

  Fine Gael was very much a part of Ted Nealon's life and he enriched it as has been said and acknowledged by his contribution over many years. I did not know him personally. I read Nealon's Guide and I saw him on RTE programmes, particularly on "Seven Days" with Brian Farrell. As others have pointed out, he was elected to this House in 1981. I remember that year well because it was the year of the hunger strikes. Kieran Doherty and Paddy Agnew were also elected and Joe McDonald narrowly missed being elected in Sligo-Leitrim. That was Ted's second attempt to be elected and he went on to hold that seat for 16 years, winning six successive general elections before he retired. As is well known, before he became a full-time politician, he was a journalist. I want to associate myself with the Taoiseach's remarks and other remarks about Brian Farrell. These two men modernised people's understanding of politics, particularly in the detailed approach that they took and the encyclopaedic knowledge they both had. I noticed a few times in the days of black-and-white broadcasting that he clashed with people with whom he would later share government. His work as a journalist obviously empowered him and gave him particular insights as to how he would function as a Deputy.

  I read Ted Nealon's Nealon's Guide. Some members of the current Fine Gael Party might not appreciate the fact that his very well researched work was utilised by Sinn Féin to assist our electoral engagement but I am sure Ted Nealon would be delighted because it is very clear that he loved politics, electoralism, Parliament and all that goes with it.

  On top of all of this, we must remember that, aside from the being a public figure, he was a husband and a father. To Jo, Fergal, Louise, and his extended family, I express my sincere sympathies because it is they who will have the huge gap in their lives. I hope they will take comfort from the tributes paid here and those I am sure that were paid locally and that they will know that in his long life he helped many people and that he was generally liked and respected by friends and political opponents alike. That is something that is hard to achieve - to be liked by one's political opponents as well as by one's friends. Go ndéana Dia trócaire ar a anam dílis.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett I call Deputy Shane Ross on behalf of the Technical Group.

Deputy Shane Ross: Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross I join all the other speakers in expressing sympathy at the death of Ted Nealon to his wife, Jo, his son, Fergal, and to his daughter, Louise. I knew Ted Nealon and was here when he was a Minister and a Deputy. He brought to this House a full and very fulfilled life and, as other speakers have said, a great knowledge of the outside world, which was the basis and foundation of his expertise in politics when he came here.

He wrote the book to which everybody has referred after 1973 when he starred in that famous programme and defied all the other predictions which were being made by experts, including computers, in forecasting during the programme that the party, which he was later to join, would form a government. That was because he had done an extraordinary amount of work and carried an enormous amount of knowledge about the detail of every village and town in this country.

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