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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 Michael Colreavy: Information on Michael Colreavy Zoom on Michael Colreavy] My first engagement with what I would call a senior politician was with Ted Nealon. I had engagement with politicians because I was deeply involved in the Joe McDonnell election campaign but it was more about trying to save his life than it was about getting him elected. We were trying to get him elected in order to save his life and the lives of others. I had engagement with many politicians, in particular with Deputies in Sligo-Leitrim and throughout the north west.

I will say now what I have said down through the years. Ted Nealon was the best of the senior politicians I met during that very traumatic time. Ted Nealon was a gentleman, a consummate politician and a humanitarian. Some of the Deputies would not talk to me while others talked to me and said they would do something but nothing happened. On several occasions, Ted Nealon took me in, sat down and explained to me the concern he had not only for the hunger strikers but for society and for the destabilising effect politics was having on people. He explained what he was doing to try to help resolve the situation. He also explained the limitations of a senior politician and the limitations of what he could and could not do. He was superb. He was greatly loved and respected by the people of Sligo-Leitrim. He is probably one of those rare breeds - a gentleman who went into politics but who did not lose the gentlemanly aspect. May the good Lord rest him and may the family be proud of him because the people of Sligo-Leitrim will always be proud of Ted Nealon.

Deputy Dinny McGinley: Information on Dinny McGinley Zoom on Dinny McGinley While I did not share a constituency with Ted Nealon, our constituencies of Donegal South-West and Sligo-Leitrim bordered one another. I got to know Ted very well before I was elected to this House through his television programmes and so on. I had the privilege and the pleasure of sharing 15 or 16 very enjoyable years with him on the third floor of Leinster House. Ted Nealon was a national figure even before he became a Member of this House. He was a very versatile man, a very talented man and a very talented footballer, which we, in Donegal, know all about. He was a journalist, a television pundit, a Deputy and a Minister of State.

  He was a very talented journalist who started off with The Monaghan Argus and ended up as a political correspondent in The Irish Press. Many times he told us that late in the evening, he would get a telephone call from the chief - Deputy Martin will know who the chief was - suggesting to him in a very gentle way what would be a suitable headline for the next day's edition of the newspaper. I believe Ted always paid heed to what the chief suggested.

  In the 1960s, he went on to become one of the anchormen on "7 Days" and succeeded in bringing politics and the workings of this House into every sitting room and to every fireside in the country. He was also a pioneer in his journalistic career and became editor of The Sunday Review, which some Members may remember. I think it was a sister paper of The Irish Times. He brought a new type of political comment to that newspaper.

  I mention the well-known Mayo man, the late John Healy, who the Taoiseach would have known very well and who was probably a friend of his. Saturday would not have been Saturday for those of us who were interested into politics unless we read Backbencher because we were all convinced that whoever Backbencher was, if he was not a Cabinet Minister, then he certainly had a seat underneath the Cabinet table. "Today Tonight" was also a great programme.

  He also made an iconic programme which had to do with my county. He went to Donegal and stood at the top of a mountain near Glenswilly. He had two gentlemen with him, the late Mandy Kelly, who was the Fine Gael man, and the late Tony Gallagher, who was the Fianna Fáil man. They started off at the top of that glen. At O'Donnell's house, Mandy was told it would be his while at the next house, Tony was told it would be his. At the next house, Tony was hold he was one of his while Mandy was told she was on his side. He went through every house in that glen and designated the politics of every person in every house with the exception of the parish priest's house who Ted said had enough on his plate and that they would pass him by. They did not divulge his politics at all. That was one of the iconic programmes he made and I am delighted RTE still has it in its archives and shows it now and again.

  What is known as Nealon's Guide, which is the bible for anyone interested in politics, was mentioned. I remember being abroad a number of times, including at British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly meetings, where people always had a biographical note of who we were and where we came from, which was always taken from Nealon's Guide. I will make a confession to this House that there was one inaccuracy in that guide, of which only Ted Nealon and I were aware. Ted is gone to his eternal rest but I am still here. I suppose at this stage of my political career, it is not worth divulging what that mistake was.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Dinny McGinley: Information on Dinny McGinley Zoom on Dinny McGinley I remember we were at the great Washington conference in 1996, which all Border Deputies and politicians from the North attended. We were guests of President Clinton. Ted and I went to Boston to see some Irish people and for the first time ever, I became aware of my age. We arrived in Boston before the hotel rooms were ready and the lady in the hotel said we had to wait for a few hours but we could not decide what we would do early in the morning. There were leaflets about a tour of Boston on the desk with two prices, €18 and €12. Remember this was 1996, almost 20 years ago. I asked what the difference was between the two prices. The lady said there was no difference except that the €12 price was for senior citizens. Ted said we would have two of those. Whatever about Ted's age, I felt my age that day.

  He was a great friend and raconteur. He worked in the Government Information Service from 1973 to 1977 and there are many stories about that era which have not yet been told. Not only was Ted a colleague but he was a friend. I had the privilege and pleasure of visiting his home in Sligo on numerous occasions where I was entertained with warmth and hospitality by Jo, Fergal and Louise, who unfortunately is not with us today as she is in Australia. I would like to extend my condolences and sympathy to the entire family. He was a great man, a pioneer, in many respects, and a versatile man.

  Mar a dúirt Tomás Ó Criomhthain ina leabhar fadó, An tOileánach, "Ní bheidh a leithéid arís ann". Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.


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