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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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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath] Tá an tAire anseo inniu. She knows I know all the people up that way, so she is always careful in what she says to me. I am delighted to welcome everyone here. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a n-anamacha dílse.

Deputy Eamon Ryan: Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan I knew Brendan McGahon. My colleagues, Trevor Sargent and John Gormley, did also and always spoke so well about him. Similarly, my colleagues in the Green Party in Dundalk, Councillors Mark Deary and Marianne Butler spoke in the same vein of his honesty, his bravery and his integrity which was known to our party and very much appreciated.

I also knew Seymour Crawford and had the great privilege of being in the Dáil at the same time he was here. It was a privilege to work with him. He was a gentleman, a gentle giant, as others have said of him today. The culture of this place is convivial and collegiate and Seymour epitomised that. It is important we have that, namely, those basic decent Christian values that he espoused and lived in every small engagement he had. One could have a difference of opinion and a different political outlook but when one met him and chatted about things one sensed that he respected one's view while holding dearly onto his own. He epitomised what is good about this place and he is sorely missed. We send our respects to both families and thank them for what their men did for this Dáil.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl We will hear from constituency colleagues. Deputy O'Dowd is abroad on Oireachtas business but sends his sympathies to both colleagues' families.

Deputy Declan Breathnach: Information on Declan Breathnach Zoom on Declan Breathnach I welcome both families here today. Having this vote of sympathy is an expression and a celebration of their lives. I come from an area that was subject to many boundary reviews. We were in and out of the Monaghan and Louth constituencies on a regular basis. I got to know Seymour in relation to health services and Deputy Mattie McGrath mentioned his guidance in relation to water schemes. I was very appreciative of that and I want to put that on the record.

I would describe Brendan McGahon as a man of his people. Others have said he was not afraid to say what is on this mind. While one might not have been in agreement with everything he said, he was certainly colourful and outspoken and often held controversial views. He did not care what others thought if he knew and believed what he said was right.

While he was not of my political strand, it was said of him that he got on well with everybody and I witnessed this for myself. As young person coming into Leinster House as a member of the Fianna Fáil national executive, he never failed to make sure that there was food available to me in the restaurant. Indeed, the memories of him in Dundalk will go back to him frog-marching from his constituency clinic to the town hall on a Monday morning with his constituents following him like a real leader solving the problems of the people. As Deputy Howlin did, it would be remiss not to make reference to the lineage of the McGahon family from T. F., O. B., Hugh, Conor, Johnny, who is here, to Johnny's father, who served on the local authority. I will conclude by saying that having served with Conor on Louth County Council, it was always a privilege to work with him and I wish his nephew, who will try to continue that dynasty, every success, once he does not take my seat in Louth.

Deputy Brendan Smith: Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith I join with other Members in paying tribute to the late Brendan McGahon and my former constituency colleague, the late Seymour Crawford. Seymour and I were both elected to the Dáil on the same day in 1992. Although we differed in our politics, we were always able to work closely together on issues of concern to constituents. On constituency issues, Seymour was a good colleague and a team player with all his fellow Oireachtas Members. As we know, Seymour was an extremely hard-working and committed public representative who gave great service to the people of Cavan-Monaghan. He had a great knowledge and understanding of rural Ireland and was a strong and consistent advocate for rural development.

In the early 1990s and later, we served together on the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly and in those very demanding days in our constituencies, along with Brendan McGahon and others, we were able to highlight the huge difficulties facing Border communities at that time and the need for political progress. While Seymour was being waked at his home in Aghabog, a plenary meeting of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly was being held in London. I, along with others, paid tribute to him at that meeting on his commitment and diligent work over many years in that assembly. My words were repeated by Members from both the Westminster and Irish Parliaments. I saw at first hand that he built up close friendships and good working relationships with other parliamentarians from these islands. I know that Seymour always took a particular pride in his work on the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly and, indeed, when I visited his house to pay my respects, there were photographs of the many plenary meetings of the assembly from the early 1990s and later. Included in those gatherings were many parliamentarians from both Ireland and Britain who played an important role in improving the friendships and the political relationships between our islands. I recall a former Fine Gael Minister for Agriculture tell me some years ago that he held the office of Minister while Seymour held national office in the IFA. The former Minister told me that no matter where he went on a trade mission, Seymour had been there before him. As we know, Seymour was partial to a bit of foreign travel while he served in national office in the IFA.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh anamacha Bhreandáin agus Seymour and I extend my sincere sympathy to both families.

Deputy Peter Fitzpatrick: Information on Peter Fitzpatrick Zoom on Peter Fitzpatrick Brendan McGahon was a gentleman, a politician, a family man and a friend. It was a very sad day for the people of Louth when Brendan passed away on 8 February 2017. Brendan was predeceased by his wife Celine and survived by his five children, Robert, Conor, Adele, Keith and Jill. What can one say about Brendan McGahon? He was a great man and he used to call to my constituency office to give me, as a new Deputy, advice and then he would take me on walk through the streets of Dundalk. When one took such a walk through Dundalk, one felt nothing but jealousy because everybody knew Brendan. People would say thanks to him for getting planning permission, a medical card or a house. He was thanked for almost everything. I welcome his family here today and his close friends Isobel Sanroma, Kay Duffin, former Senator Jim D'Arcy and Anna McKenna. People travelled from Dundalk today.

Brendan was first elected to the Dáil 1982 and retired in 2002, having served two decades. The first thing Brendan said to me when I became a politician was that a politician requires a personality and not a party. In fairness, I studied that from day one. We could talk about Brendan all day. Brendan loved soccer and used to slag me that he played for Dundalk in the League of Ireland, which was fantastic. He was also a GAA supporter. He loved the horse racing and I used to meet him sometimes in Barry O'Brien's bookies' shop in Quay Street. Brendan would say to me not be afraid to my hand in my pocket and give the locals a few pound. He was always very good that way.

I remember visiting Brendan in Beaumont Hospital shortly before he died. I only intended to stay a few minutes but ended up staying two hours. The knowledge, the respect and everything else Brendan had was unbelievable. He was a great character.

I remember when I became a politician and joined Fine Gael, myself and Brendan did not meet eye to eye because we did not really know each other. I remember the first time I met him in his kitchen in the house in Ravensdale. He said to me that he did not know me and that I did not really know him. We sat there for nearly an hour after which we became good friends. I explained the reason I became involved in politics and joined Fine Gael and, in fairness, he showed me respect. I had nothing but admiration for him. It was a very sad day for the people of Louth when he died. I wish the family and his friends all the best in the future.

Deputy Niamh Smyth: Information on Niamh Smyth Zoom on Niamh Smyth The late Deputy Seymour Crawford served with distinction in Cavan-Monaghan. Unfortunately, I never had the pleasure of serving with him because I am only on my first term but he was known, as so many of my colleagues said today, as the gentle giant. Reverend Colin Anderson rightly focused on Seymour Crawford's contribution, most importantly to the peace process, which was a hugely significant part of politics for the Border counties back in those times.


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