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Death of Former Members: Expressions of Sympathy (Continued)

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 979 No. 3

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  1 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin] From a long-established farming family, Seymour Crawford embodied the life and soul of his community. During our overlapping years of public service we became mutually respectful friends and constituency colleagues in the true sense, our differences accepted. I extend, once again, my most sincere sympathy to Andrew, Alistair and Kirsten and to all of the extended Crawford family.

  I also extend sympathy to the McGahon family on their bereavement. Brendan McGahon and I did not always have close conversation but he was a presence in this institution.

  May Seymour Crawford and Brendan McGahon rest in peace.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin 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.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan On my own behalf and that of my Independent colleagues, I join in the expressions of sympathy to the McGahon and Crawford families as we remember former Members Brendan McGahon and Seymour Crawford. I served with both of them. They were dedicated workers for their constituencies in this House. Obviously, the broad left in this Chamber would have disagreed with many of the views of Brendan McGahon but on a personal level he had close relationships and friendships with Members from my side of the Dáil.

It was always a pleasure to serve with Seymour Crawford. He was one of the most decent and hardworking Members of this House. I agree with the Taoiseach that he was one of the best Deputies we ever had who was not a Minister. He had an encyclopaedic knowledge of agriculture.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a n-anamacha dílis.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath On behalf of the Rural Independent Group I express our sympathies on the deaths of former Teachtaí Dála, Brendan McGahon agus Seymour Crawford.

I knew Seymour Crawford well. I knew of him before I came into this House because my late father-in-law, Nicholas, was a colleague of his in the IFA and the National Farmers Assocation, NFA, and I had heard many stories regaling his exploits regarding farming politics. He had a huge knowledge of farming issues.

Seymour was first elected as a Fine Gael Deputy in the 1992 general election, when he became a Member of the 27th Dáil. He was re-elected to the Dáil in the 1997, 2002 and 2007 general elections, during which time I got to know him. As was said earlier, he was a member of Monaghan County Council from June 1991 to 2003. He was involved in many of the group water schemes in Monaghan that I became familiar with. In 2004, he was spectacularly elected vice president of the IFA. Many of us here will be going to a meeting soon at which we expect to be lobbied by the IFA. Seymour was also vice chairman of the British-Irish Parliamentary Body in 2004. He straddled the Border well because of his faith and his friendship with former Senator Fox. He held strong views in many areas. He was respected by all in Monaghan and Cavan.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

I did not know Brendan McGahon but I had seen him many times on various television programmes. I recall him being very straight and honest with Mr. Gay Byrne on the "The Late Late Show". I do not think he was ever again a guest on that show but he told Gay Byrne what he thought about different things. He was a straight-talking, fearless politician. They are scarce today. He served his people well. I welcome his family here today, as I welcome the relatives, nephews and nieces of Seymour Crawford. I want to add our voice to the expressions of sympathy. Brendan McGahon and Seymour Crawford served rural constituencies with many different complexities. Seymour had a good eye for future politicians.

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