Seanad Éireann - Volume 144 - 04 July, 1995

Death of Cathaoirleach: Expression of Sympathy.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Words cannot express the sense of loss I felt on hearing of the death of the Cathaoirleach, Senator Seán Fallon. Elected to Seanad Éireann in 1981, the same year as myself, Seán was appointed Leader of the House in 1990 and was elected Cathaoirleach in 1992. He was one of [590] the most highly respected Senators of all time. Many qualities strike you when you think of Seán. Seán was a charismatic figure. He was a great conversationalist and a ready listener. People came to him to share their joys and troubles and for advice and reassurance. He was caring, wise, politically astute and shrewd.

He understood the ups and downs of politics. He was quick to congratulate and wish well those who were successful and equally sympathetic and understanding to those who were less fortunate. The mantle of Cathaoirleach sat lightly on his shoulders. He was a great Cathaoirleach — a natural.

He was not confrontational. His witty interventions diffused many politically explosive situations. Senators trusted his judgment and respected his rulings because they knew he was always impartial and would give fair play. Above all, he was a man of integrity, one you could trust. He was relentless in his pursuit of justice and fair play.

Seán was a great ambassador for Athlone, Seanad Éireann and Ireland. He was at ease with people at national and international levels and was highly respected among his colleagues in Europe.

He was a great athlete and sportsman. He retained his love of and interest in all sports. He was a familiar figure at Leopardstown, Shelbourne Park and Clounanna. His easy humour was infectious. He was never happier than when he was planning to play a practical joke.

I knew Seán long before either of us entered politics. We are from the same parish but from different counties. I will miss him, not alone as a Senator and politician but as a personal friend.

He was a man at peace with himself and the world. He was a great family man and loved his wife Anne and his family, Pádraic, Morgan, John and Niamh, his only daughter who held a special place in his heart. To all of his family, on your behalf and on my own, I send our sincere sympathies. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

[591] Mr. Manning: For the second time in a week it has been your melancholy duty to inform the House of the death of one of our Members. In the space of a week this House has lost two of its most respected and beloved Members, two men who represented all that is finest, best and most wholesome in politics. Seán Fallon was one of nature's gentlemen. He did not have to try as good manners, sensitivity, concern for others, kindness, generosity of time and spirit and respect for others were instinctive to him — they were part of his make up.

For the past four and a half years Seán Fallon was our Cathaoirleach. As such, he spoke for the House and represented us in the highest councils of the land. We could not have asked for more than he gave. He performed his duties with dignity and decorum. He was the essence of fairness and impartiality in everything he did. He was gentle but firm and, above all else, he was conscious of the dignity and traditions of this House. As the custodian of those traditions, he was determined that they should not just be upheld but enhanced. He did this by the unfailing high standards he set and insisted upon from all others, but most of all from himself. Seán Fallon has left an indelible mark on this House through his simplicity of style and fairness and the utter integrity which he brought to the office of Cathaoirleach.

Seán Fallon was, of course, a party man. He was proud to be a member of Fianna Fáil and he was always loyal to his party. He had no trouble with party discipline but he was never a yes man. He had his say, which he said clearly and with conviction, and then he got on with it. He knew he could not win on every issue and that politics was about accommodation, compromise and seeing other points of view. Fianna Fáil has lost a great member in Seán Fallon and I extend my sympathy and that of my party to them.

It is as a person, however, that we will most remember Seán Fallon. We will remember his bravery and stoicism in the face of ill health and how he [592] remained calm, courageous and cheerful, even when he was in pain and discomfort. He did not want to talk about himself as his concern was always for others. We will remember his sense of humour, as the Leas-Chathaoirleach pointed out. Like much else about him, his humour was gentle, almost innocent and never hurtful. It was this sense of humour, with his consideration for others, that made him such a joy to work with and for, as the staff of this House will be the first to acknowledge.

He had too a great love of sport. In his day he was a fine sportsman and later his attention turned to greyhounds and horses. Many Members will have very happy memories of hours shared with him at race meetings and football matches, where his judgment was better than most and where he had a great capacity to relax and enjoy himself.

He was also a fine local representative and others will speak of him in that role. All I will say is that there is genuine sadness in the midlands at the loss of a fine and concerned public representative who leaves behind him a record of genuine concern and achievement.

However, it is the person Seán Fallon who we most remember today. He has a wonderful, brave and good wife and a fine and loving family. Their loss is impossible to quantify and we send our deepest, heartfelt sympathy to all of them. Today we mourn a genuine and good friend. We mourn a man of decency, goodness and integrity. We mourn a Cathaoirleach who brought distinction to the high office he held. We mourn a true gentleman, a patriotic Irishman and a loyal colleague. Most of all we mourn a truly good man. May he rest in peace.

Mr. Wright: It was with deep personal regret and shock that I learned of the untimely death of our esteemed colleague Seán Fallon, the highly respected Cathaoirleach of this House. I have known Seán all my political life and I always found him to be not only a sincere friend but a model of all that a politician [593] should aspire to be. His dedication and integrity were of the highest calibre and this was shown in part by the fact that he was elected unopposed to the position of Cathaoirleach. It was also demonstrated by the honour and respect shown to him by all of us in the conduct of our business. At a time when politicians are treated sceptically and often criticised, Seán Fallon was above reproach and an example to all.

During a relatively short life, Seán enriched the political, cultural and sporting life of this nation by his activities and zealous example. In my own political career I owe a tremendous debt to Seán. It was my great honour to follow him as Leader of the Fianna Fáil group and then Leader of the Seanad. His advice to me in this role was invaluable.

He was a true friend and while his demise is a great personal loss to me it is a greater loss to this House and this nation. The greatest and saddest loss, however, is to his wife Anne who has lost a devoted husband and to his children Pádraic, Morgan, John and Niamh who have lost a loving father. To them I offer my sincere personal condolences and that of the Fianna Fáil group. May he rest in peace.

Dr. Henry: In the absence of Senator O'Toole, it is my privilege on behalf of the Independent Senators to express our deep sadness at the death of Senator Seán Fallon. While his loss is terrible to members of the Fianna Fáil party, I hope they will not take it amiss if I say that the loss is felt by the rest of us. It is rare for someone in such a powerful position to be so impartial and to grace the office with such humility.

We seem to be living in the worst of times. Within one week we have lost two of our finest Members and the blow to all of us is extraordinary. Seán and I had children of the same age and we often talked about the exams they were sitting; one is doing medicine, one is working in UCG, another in Trinity and his daughter Niamh was sitting the leaving certificate. We discussed his great [594] hopes and his joy in their achievements. He was a man who took great pride in his family and having met them recently I understand why.

I thank his wife for allowing me to visit Seán in hospital. She was the greatest partner any man could have had. He was rightly proud of his family who had many of their father's fine attributes. They were able to bear the great troubles of the last few weeks with such grace. They had a model in him. For many years he had borne great physical pain arising from a serious medical condition and it is rare for someone to be able to continue with such good humour and courage over such a long period of time.

We have all mentioned his humour and humanity. What struck me most was how often he would talk about individual Members of the House with such concern. No matter which side of the House they were from, he would talk about his concern for them and his hopes for their future. Many of us confided in Seán Fallon those things which we would like to see brought forward in the Seanad.

His love of dogs and horses has been mentioned. I will remember most sharing jokes with him about the horses and dogs in which he had had an interest. He got great enjoyment out of such things. To his family, friends and close colleagues in this House, I hope his memory will always be cherished as much as it is today.

Ms O'Sullivan: These have been sad weeks in the Seanad with the loss of Senator Gordon Wilson last week and now that of the Cathaoirleach, Senator Seán Fallon. He was a true gentleman and one of the kindest, nicest, most decent people you could meet. As other Senators have stated, he was a friend to all Members of this House. He is a particular loss to the Fianna Fáil party but, as Senator Henry stated, he is a loss to every one of us in Seanad Éireann and the people of the midlands whom he served so well for so many years.

[595] Senator Fallon had an in-depth knowledge of and respect for the procedures of the House. He chaired it in a way which was totally impartial and retained the honour of the House. He did so with humour and kindness and never put anybody down in a hurtful way, even if they were out of order. The House could not have been run in a better fashion. He was there to give advice and I needed it because I stepped into the role of leading my group on my first day in this House. Seán was always there to give advice when it was needed.

I first met Seán Fallon about 12 years ago. I was not a public representative at the time and I met him on holiday in County Kerry. His daughter, Niamh, struck up a friendship with my daughter during that holiday. I met him first in his role as a father rather than as a politician. In that sense I would like to convey my sympathy, and that of my party, to his daughter Niamh, his wife and his sons. He will be missed in this House, in the midlands and, in particular, by his family.

Mr. Dardis: For the second time in a week, this House has suffered a grievious blow, and Irish society has also suffered a blow, with the passing of Senator Fallon. When we heard that he faced major surgery we hoped, prayed and were confident that he would be back with us in the autumn. Our hopes rose and fell as we received news on a regular basis from the hospital. He passed a crisis last weekend and we hoped that would be the last one he would have to go through. Unfortunately he has been taken from us. He will be greatly missed by all Members, by the staff of the House, the ushers and everybody who is part of the family that is Leinster House.

It is worth recording that he took over the Chair at a very difficult time. It was a measure of his authority that he restored the credibility of the Chair almost immediately. That was a measure of his stature as a politician and a parliamentarian; he was very committed [596] to Parliament. He was a kind man. He held one of the senior constitutional offices of this State and he did so with a great deal of dignity but it never affected him, he was still the same Seán Fallon he had always been. A very calm man, his guidance was valued by all. He gave that advice to everybody without any edge or angles attached to it. He gave good advice and was always evenhanded. It is unfortunate that he has been taken at such an early age.

I believe there are parallels between his life and that of Senator Wilson, who we mourned last week, in that he displayed exceptional courage, in this case in the face of physical infirmity. I never heard him complain about it. We would ask him how he was and he would reply “I am fine”, but he never complained. His sporting qualities have been alluded to. Many people did not know that he had been such a successful athlete and because of his physical infirmity could not believe it. He sat at a particular spot near the winning post at the Curragh races. We missed him last Saturday. I remarked upon his absence on Saturday because he attended the Curragh on a regular basis. My weekend would have been much better had he been around because his advice was to be valued in that area also.

On the day he was unanimously elected Cathaoirleach, I said he had a unique characteristic, one I have never known in another politician. I never heard anybody speak ill of Seán Fallon, and that is unique in political life.

On behalf of the Progressive Democrats, I extend our deepest sympathy to his wife, Anne, his family, his colleagues in the Fianna Fáil Party and his friends.

Mr. Cosgrave: I join with other Members in expressing my deep regret at the untimely death of the Cathaoirleach, Senator Seán Fallon. In the 14 or so years since I got to know him, we developed a great friendship. I worked closely with him in the various positions he held in this House, as a Member, as Leader and, as the ever more efficient and effective Cathaoirleach. At all times [597] he discharged his duty with integrity, impartiality, with that soft gentle humour and with the greatest respect for all. He was well liked by all the Members, officers and staff of both Houses of the Oireachtas. In particular, his devotion, support and generosity to the staff in his office is only too well known.

He served his native Westmeath County Council and Athlone Urban District Council over four decades and was chairman on several occasions. I also served with him on the General Council of County Councils, where his advice and friendship were well known. His deep love for politics and all that entails was self-evident. In particular, he served the party he loved, the Fianna Fáil Party. As a fellow Member of the Industrial and Commercial Panel, I can testify that he was a formidable but considerate opponent in getting himself elected.

Apart from politics, his other great passion was attending the race track, whether the equine or canine variety. Like others here, I got to know him even better at these venues and our friendship grew. Whether it was the Curragh, his beloved native Kilbeggan or Shelbourne Park, Seán had a way of meeting people, talking to them, discussing form and the various aspects of every race, pooling information and, hopefully, trying to arrive at a profitable result. In recent times, he became a successful owner and, some months ago he joked that despite the best laid plans, the horse had got away and won without the stable's confidence.

Seán was known and respected by everyone and had a friendly soft word for all. There is no doubt that the House has lost one of its greatest servants. To his wife, Anne, his daughter, Niamh, and sons, Padraic, Morgan and John, I extend my deepest sympathy.

Mr. Cassidy: As a fellow Westmeath man, it is with great sadness that I pay a short tribute to our excellent Cathaoirleach, Senator Seán Fallon. He was an inspiration to all who had the pleasure of working with him over the [598] last number of years. Seán was a family man, a politician, a sportsman, a man with a positive attitude and he will be sadly missed by all who have known him.

Seán Fallon was born in September 1937. He was educated at the Dean Kelly School, Athlone, and with the Marist Brothers and received a medal for an award of excellence in his final year of studies.

Seán first came to prominence as an athlete. He was all-Ireland schools champion at 100 yards and 200 yards and captained the Westmeath Minor Football Team in 1955. He was noted for his excellence in basketball and represented Connaught at provincial level. He also perfected the game of rugby and played with his native Athlone for a number of years.

Of course, as many Members have already said, he had a great love for the greyhound and horse industries. As a frequent visitor to Shelbourne Park and Mullingar greyhound track, Seán was dearly loved by all who knew him. He was also a frequent visitor to the Curragh, Roscommon and Kilbeggan races, which he enjoyed on so many occasions. I remember at meetings of Westmeath County Council he would spearhead an early adjournment so that Members could attend the Kilbeggan races. There were also other occasions that I remember well when I was first elected to Seanad Éireann — Seán attending in Castlepollard and giving us a great rendition of The Tumble-down Shack in Athlone.

Seán Fallon the politician, as we have all known him in latter years, was first elected to Athlone Urban District Council and Westmeath County Council in 1967 and had the great distinction of chairing both the county council and the UDC on numerous occasions. He was a member of the Midland Health Board, the County Westmeath Vocational Education Committee, the General Council of County Councils and many other bodies throughout the years. He became a Senator in August 1981 and has served with great distinction [599] both for his party and his country ever since. He became Fianna Fáil Party Whip and went on to become leader of the Fianna Fáil group and Leader of the House. He was honoured four years ago by being elected Cathaoirleach of this distinguished House and a member of the Council of State. He held those positions until his untimely death this morning.

Senator Fallon was one of the most respected Cathaoirligh in the history of the Seanad. His was a helpful attitude that so many of us experienced. His aim was to retain the importance of the Seanad as the Upper House of the Oireachtas. We all witnessed this over the last number of years. He was the guiding light of his party — Fianna Fáil — in which, as he often said, his mother had played such an important role many years ago. He was a tower of strength to us in the midlands over the years, as a previous speaker has said, particularly those of us in the county council and the Seanad and many Deputies, Ministers and Taoisigh. His sound advice and guidance on many occasions will not be forgotten.

His wife Anne and sons Pádraic, Morgan and John and daughter Niamh stand as an example of the happy family home. In suffering over the years without a word of complaint, he was a great example to us all in this House. Up to the day before he went into hospital to have his operation, he always worried about the person to whom he was talking and never worried about himself.

I want to be associated with the expressions of sympathy here this morning. To say that it is a sad occasion is an understatement. He will be missed by the many friends he had across the country, all Members of the Oireachtas, the generous and kind staff — the Clerk and the Assistant Clerk — who have been so kind to him up to his final hour and have been a tower of strength to his family and those close to him.

Mr. Magner: I join with other Members in extending to the family of [600] Seán Fallon our deepest sympathy. If the business of this House is marked by an absence of petty political backbiting, it is due in the main to the Leadership of Senator Manning, his predecessor, Senator Wright, and most of all to the way Seán Fallon chaired this House. He was the father of this House in more ways than one. We all paid visits to the confessional in his office from time to time to discuss not only Fianna Fáil politics but, in some cases, Labour Party politics and to get good advice, which he always gave. He was, as Senator Cassidy said, a confidante of the Leaders of Fianna Fáil and he played an important role during the break-up of the last Government. His wisdom and encouragement were a testament to his sense of fairness.

He was a brave man. Few of us understood how uncomfortable he was doing his daily business. When he led a delegation to Hungary we could see how difficult it was for him to carry out his political duties. He was a man of great dignity. He sat as easily with us as he did with the President of Hungary with whom he discussed Irish literature. It was a privilege to be led by someone of the calibre of Seán Fallon.

I extend my sympathy to the Leader of the Fianna Fáil group and my Fianna Fáil colleagues. Seán will be sadly missed. I frequently visit Athlone and I often teased him about a particular shop where he bought his newspaper which has a type of rogues gallery of you, Sir, Seán Fallon, Deputy Brian Lenihan and a few more people. We often joked about that newspaper shop. He will be sadly missed in this House and in the political life of this country.

Mr. Mullooly: I want to be associated with the tributes which have been paid to Seán Fallon. I also join in the expression of sympathy to his wife, Anne, and his family.

I knew Seán Fallon long before we were both elected as Members of the Seanad in 1981. Although Seán was domiciled in Westmeath, he was proud of his Roscommon roots. In his early [601] years in the Seanad he was spokesman on Health and Finance, a duty which he carried out with distinction. He then became Leader of the Fianna Fáil group in the Seanad and in 1992 he was elected Cathaoirleach. One could only be impressed by his impartiality and great consideration for all Members and staff of the House. He represented the Seanad as Cathaoirleach with great dignity both at home and abroad.

As other Members pointed out, he also served with distinction on Westmeath County Council and Athlone Urban District Council for many years. He was a former chairman of both bodies. He was proud of his local authority membership.

Seán was one of nature's gentlemen but he was also a gifted politician. As a general rule in politics, one has many acquaintances, but few close friends. Seán Fallon was an exception in this regard. Seán had more close friends in politics than any other politician I know, or have ever known. It was an honour and a privilege to know Seán Fallon. He is the one person of whom it can be said, ní fheicfimíd a leithéid arís. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam uasal.

Mr. Cregan: This House has suffered a great loss. I knew the Cathaoirleach as a good friend who was sincere with everyone. The House has lost a good Cathaoirleach and the State has lost a statesman. He did his work in a simple way and that is why we liked him so much. It is hard to understand how he could care so much for people when he did not seem to worry about the fact that he was sick. It was great that a small man like Seán could look so tall when representing this House and nation at home and abroad. He is a sad loss. Members on this side of the House and councillors throughout the country, irrespective of their political party, were friendly with Seán. Everyone who has spoken said he had no enemies.

I extend my deepest condolences to his wife, Anne, and his family.

[602] Mr. Lanigan: Listening to the words of John Wesley last week, I did not think we would be paying tribute to the late Senator Seán Fallon this week. The words used were: “If your heart is right with my heart, give me your hand.” Seán Fallon always did that.

I have been competing with Seán Fallon since the 1950s. I ran against him and competed with him on the athletic track from 1951 to 1955. I missed him through the 1960s because his health began to fail but I have been competing with him on the political track ever since. I first competed with him on the Industrial and Commercial Panel in 1977 and I have never heard a hard word said about or against him. It is difficult when you lose someone like him. He is a loss to the nation and to the House. I feel a deep sense of personal loss. I cannot say any more.

Mr. Belton: I express my sympathy to the family of the late Seán Fallon. He was highly respected in Athlone and throughout County Westmeath. He was a well known enthusiast of greyhounds and horses. His passing is a great loss to this House. He was everybody's friend.

Ms Honan: I too express my sympathy to his wife, Anne, his sons, Pádraig, Morgan and John and his daughter, Niamh. Seán Fallon was a great inspiration and example to us all. As a new Senator after the last election, I saw him as a great example. He was kind, gentle and generous to us all. The fact that he was elected Cathaoirleach unanimously showed the high esteem in which he was held by everybody in the House. We are all devastated by the news of his death this morning and I will always remember his smile and his great sense of humour. Having someone of the calibre of Seán Fallon was very good for politics, this House and the country. We will all miss him so much as he was a great friend to us all. He loved us and we loved him very dearly. We will miss him greatly.

[603] Mr. Wall: I, too, extend my deepest sympathy to Anne and the Fallen family on the death of our beloved Cathaoirleach. I also extend my deepest sympathy to his colleagues in Fianna Fáil. Today is a very sad day for us all in that we have all lost a beloved friend.

Seán Fallon ensured the smooth running of the House. He extended his sympathy and informed new Members of the working of the Seanad and ensured that, as far as possible, we would try to emulate the ideals he set for the House; that was his legacy to us.

I extend my deepest sympathy to his family and all his friends in the midlands.

Mr. McGowan: I join with Members of the House in extending our deepest sympathy to the Fallon family. I came to know Seán Fallon under very tragic circumstances. He was not long in the Seanad when I received a telephone call early one morning to tell me that the late Clement Coughlan had been killed near Athlone. His dignity and the way he handled that very serious matter, which was a big shock for the Coughlan family and for all of us marked him out and distinguished him. Few people could have handled such a difficult situation.

Seán was one of the kindest persons to come into the House. The Seanad has lost one of its main advisers. He kept us on our best behaviour. The Seanad performed excellently under Seán Fallon and I hope we can continue the good work. As a tribute to him, I hope we will have a guard of honour at the funeral and send our expression of sympathy to his wife and family.

Mr. Enright: I join with other speakers in extending my sympathy to the late Cathaoirleach's widow and family. We all feel a deep sense of loss following his death. While we and the staff of the House feel the loss, there is also a great sense of loss outside this House, particularly among the people of his native town of Athlone, the people of Westmeath [604] and the people throughout the nation.

The late Cathaoirleach had a great love of this House and a great respect for its Members. At all times he chaired this House with grace and dignity. He loved to see a Bill thoroughly debated and enjoyed listening to the different debates. If he was happy with the way a Bill had passed through the House, he let it be known; if he felt a Bill might have got closer scrutiny he would not be shy about mentioning it either. That was his way. He had a great dignity at all times. He graciously and with finesse welcomed all visitors — Ministers or visiting dignitaries — to the House. The way he extended his pure friendship was appreciated by everybody.

The late Cathaoirleach was elected to Westmeath County Council in 1967 and I was elected to Offaly County Council the same year. Over the years we met at different times on boards and committees. I would like to pay tribute to him for his contribution to health in the Midland Health Board area. As you are aware, a Leas-Chathaoirligh, the four counties are closely involved. When the health board was reorganised, many unpopular decisions had to be made. Seán Fallon and the other Oireachtas Members from Laois, Offaly, Longford and Westmeath put their heads together and got many right answers. Last week the Minister for Health visited the Midland Health Board area and I am certain the Cathaoirleach was happy to see the progress that has been made over the years. He was part and parcel of that progress.

I had a fine regard and great respect for him and also a great love of him. Everybody who met him will have benefited from his friendship.

Mr. Bohan: I would like to express my deepest sympathy to Seán's wife, Anne, and his family. There are many things I would like to say about Seán but they have all been said very eloquently by previous speakers. I find it hard to believe that the man has passed away. We knew he was ill but I did not [605] realise the extent of his illness until I was speaking to Deputy Reynolds at the Curragh on Sunday and he told me he was not likely to recover.

It seems such a short time ago since I travelled to Athlone to celebrate his election as Cathaoirleach of the Seanad. Little did we think that we would be passing a vote of sympathy to his family today. Like Senator Lanigan, I have been on the same panel as Seán for the last eight years and I have never heard him speak one bad word about anyone. If he had something to say about a person, it was something good. I am in a state of shock; he was an old friend. My heart goes out to his wife and family. He is a great loss.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: I join with my colleagues in extending our sympathy to Anne and the Fallon family. While Seán had a bad set back about ten days ago, knowing his zest for life, his energy and his determination, everybody here felt he would fight through and come out the other end. I was shocked this morning to learn that he had passed away.

Seán was a very fine Cathaoirleach who commanded the respect of Members and the public. He had a very fine presence which lent itself to orderly behaviour in this House and all Members respected his position. He had a respect for the constitutional position of this House and acted accordingly. That is important in a democracy. Seán was a very shrewd politician and Fianna Fáil will lose a lot of sound common sense and political knowledge in his passing. He was a very sociable man and was always ready to sit down and have a chat, tell a story and enjoy a joke. That was one of the very pleasant aspects of his personality.

As Cathaoirleach, and as somebody from another party, I have always found him extremely fair. As Cathaoirleach he was a man of integrity, very helpful and always willing to accommodate us as far as possible. We have lost a great Cathaoirleach.

[606] Miss Ormonde: I, too, extend my sympathy to Seán's wife, Anne, and to his children. When I first was elected to the Seanad I found Seán to be a very nice man, very gentle and courteous. He had a sense of one-to-oneness. He knew how to listen, he had a sense of empathy, he understood people's problems; he had a great sense of people. He had a lovely personality and that was reflected in his many interests. He showed also his commitment to his interests because he spoke about everything he did with such knowledge that it was clear that he gave his full commitment to whatever he was doing. Seán will be very sadly missed. He was very fair. We have lost a very fine Cathaoirleach.

Ms Kelly: I wish to extend my sympathy to Senator Fallon's wife, his family, to the Fianna Fáil Party and to his constituents. Seán was a great man, he was a great Christian and he showed that in the care and concern he had for every one of us. He seemed to know when each of us was facing our own particular crisis and was very caring. He had friends everywhere. Newcastlewest is quite a distance from Athlone, yet regularly I would meet people who asked me if I knew Seán Fallon and they would ask after his health. He, in turn, would regularly ask me about people he knew in my constituency and ask me to pass on his regards. One of my biggest regrets, as it was with the death of Senator Wilson, is that I did not get to know the man better, because he was a great man.

Mr. Fahey: I join with the other Members in paying tribute to Seán Fallon and in expressing sympathy to his wife and family. Seán epitomised the diplomatic way to get things done. He was good natured, friendly and gracious. He had an easy going approach and never became excited. He bore his physical disability with great fortitude and never complained of the obvious discomfort he experienced from time to time. This was typical of him. He was [607] very interested in racing and had a great knowledge of dogs and horses; this was his interest outside politics. He will be sadly missed inside and outside the House. We will remember him as good natured and gracious.

Mr. Doyle: I would like to pay tribute to our late Cathaoirleach. One of my lasting memories of him is his beautiful smile and the glint in his beautiful blue eyes. When he met people in the corridor he always had time for a chat. He would stand and wait for people to talk to them. He never appeared to be in a hurry. He had a wonderful sense of humour and was one of nature's gentlemen. To his wife and family and Fianna Fáil colleagues, who will miss him dearly, I offer my deepest sympathy.

Mr. Fitzgerald: I, too, would like to be associated with the expression of sympathy on the death of Seán Fallon. Everybody who has spoken, even if they were on the other side of the House to Seán, had a long connection or relationship with him, whether it was in politics or before they entered politics. He was remarkable. I first came to know him in 1974 when I was a member of the General Council of County Councils. Our friendship grew over the years. We were both councillors and were both elected to the Seanad in 1981. He was a great person to turn to for advice. When people went unannounced to his office to talk to him, they found Ministers and, sometimes, even a Taoiseach having a conversation with him and taking his advice. He was the type of person we would all love to be. Everybody will look back and say Seán was a great politician who never hurt anybody. He had a great knack of saying things and going against his opponents without hurting their feelings. He will be sadly missed. He was a great Cathaoirleach and a great friend. Like many others, I will miss him.

About four or five days before he went into hospital, we spoke about his [608] problems and he knew the score. I suffered from the same ailment myself and I know he had no choice but to go into hospital, have an operation and hope for the best. It was with deep regret that I learned of his death this morning and I wish to be associated with the sympathy expressed by Members today. It is not easy to get one's thoughts straight after losing such a great friend.

Mr. Cashin: I would like to extend my sincere sympathy to Seán's wife and family and to the Fianna Fáil Party, which has lost a great representative and friend, and to the House. I got to know Seán Fallon two years ago and I regret that I did not meet this great man sooner; I will cherish those two years. He extended the hand of friendship to me and to every new Member of the Seanad and I believe we were adopted into his extended family. Through the years as a great sportsman, Seán found the courage to continue in his high office. Although he was afflicted and at times in pain and in bad health, he showed good humour and was always courteous and polite to everyone.

On one occasion Seán informed me that a young man had taken up a position as a journalist in my home town of Kanturk. He asked me to make him feel at home and I assured him I would. That was typical of the great man. May God have mercy on his soul.

Mr. D. Kiely: I join with the numerous remarks made about a noble statesman. I knew Seán Fallon for a number of years. I was extremely friendly with him and we shared many jokes. On the evening he took ill in the Chamber I went to his office after he had recovered and had a joke or two with him. As Senator Fitzgerald said, we spoke about his illness. He told me he was booked into hospital on a certain date. I said that if it were me I would bring the date forward because I would not be able to wait. I did not think that would be the last time I would see the man.

Seán will be sadly missed as a statesman. I concur with what was said by [609] other speakers and those who ran for election in his panel. I canvassed in a number of elections and I met him on the road on many occasions. I never heard him criticise a colleague or say anything bad about a councillor or Senator from any political party, nor did I ever hear a councillor say anything bad about him. He was a kind man and he will be sadly missed. I join with the vote of sympathy to his wife and family. He will be a hard act to follow as Cathaoirleach.

Mr. Farrelly: I would like to be associated with the tributes paid to the late Cathaoirleach, Seán Fallon. When a number of us were elected to the Seanad from the other House, it was a great change. Seán was the one man who recognised those of us who were lucky to be elected to the Seanad for the first time and spent time advising us and helping us to fit in. I was one of the Members with whom he spent time. I would like to be associated with the vote of sympathy to his wife Anne, his family and to his colleagues in the Fianna Fáil Party and in the Seanad. I know how much they will miss him. He was a gentleman and one could ask him anything. He was always willing and able to help, something for which we will all remember him.

Mr. R. Kiely: I would also like to join in the tributes paid to the late Cathaoirleach, Senator Seán Fallon. I was shocked to hear of his death on the car radio on my way here. I did not expect that his death would be so untimely despite his recent serious illness. It was the last thing I expected to hear on the radio and I was saddened and shocked. I knew Seán Fallon before he was elected to this House in 1981. He was very popular and successive elections proved that. He was a thorough gentlemen. As my neighbour in west Limerick, Senator Kelly, said, a neighbour of ours was on holiday in the same place as Seán and they developed a friendship. He found Seán's family to be very nice and Seán to be a thorough gentlemen.

[610] We shared an interest in politics and also in greyhounds. It was a pleasure to meet him in Shelbourne Park and, like those colleagues who met him at the racecourses, he always had advice as regards winners. He had great knowledge. If I was in Athlone he would always be disappointed if I did not call. On the few occasions I did, the hospitality and kindness accorded to me in his house by him, his wife and family were first class. I have known Seán for many years and I will miss him. I extend my sympathy to Anne, his sons and daughter.

Ms Gallagher: It was with great shock that I learned of the death of the Cathaoirleach on the radio this moming. I had heard he was not well but like many others, I carelessly assumed that he would amble back through this House with that glint in his eye and a ready smile. It is an awful shock that he passed away so quickly.

I first heard of Seán Fallon as a naive politician in the Seanad election when I was competing with him on the same panel. I thought it peculiar that so many people asked me if I had met Seán Fallon. Everybody had a good word for him, and that is unique in politics.

When I came into this House, Seán made it his business to ask me how I was getting on. He was genuinely interested to know if I had settled in. He made it his business to see to everybody's concerns. He was a genuine man in that regard and an absolute gentleman. He worked extremely hard and it must have been difficult for him, as an athlete, to accept his physical disability, yet he bore it with such grace and courage and never complained. He worked tirelessly for his constituents and his country. If at times we feel politics and politicians have a bad name, Seán Fallon gave politics a good name. He will sorely missed. I extend my sympathy to his family.

Mr. Daly: No words can express the shock and sadness I felt on hearing of the untimely death of the late Cathaoirleach, Seán Fallon. I join with others in [611] expressing my sincere sympathy to his widow and family.

I knew Seán for many years before he was elected to the House and I had many dealings with him during my political career. I was part of a delegation which he led to the institutions of the European Union where he was held in the same high regard. He was as well known in the Parliament and in the Community as he was at home. He was also well known to our colleagues on the county councils. I am sure many of the county councillors in County Clare would like me to express their sympathy to his family. I recall his deep love of the Irish language and I would like to conclude with a few words which have often been quoted on sad occasions:

Brón ar an mbás, 'sé dhubh mo chroíse,

D'fhuadaigh mo ghrá agus d'fhág mé cloíte,

Gan charaid, gan chompánach, fá dhíon mo thighse,

Ach an léan seo im' lár agus mé ag caoineadh.

I wish to be associated with the words of sympathy expressed here today.

Mr. Burke: I wish to be associated with the words of sympathy to the late Cathaoirleach's wife and family. I have known Seán Fallon for the last two years. It is only now that I can fully appreciate why he was elected unanimously to the office of Cathaoirleach two and a half years ago. Senator McDonagh and I were the only two members of the Fine Gael Party who were new Members of the Oireachtas at that time. The courtesy and kindness shown to me by Seán Fallon since then was magnificent. He was a great friend. He was the kind of person who reminded me of the father of a house, a person everybody respected and looked up to. He was a small man, but he had a magnificent presence. May he rest in peace.

Mr. Farrell: Tá a lán bróin sa Teach seo inniú tar éis bhás an Chathaorligh, [612] Seán Fallon. Seán was a small man in stature but he was a very big man in every other way. He had a big heart; he was big at giving advice and big at helping others; he was big in generosity. I campaigned on the same panel as Seán since 1981 and I always found him a very keen campaigner. He fought his battles, but fought them clean. There was never any acrimony or problem and we would sit and chat about how things were going.

He was a big man in everything with which he was associated, whether it was sports, politics or everyday life. He made friends easily and he had many friends. I have no doubt but that himself, the late Gordon Wilson and many other late Members of the House are in heaven today having a chat and renewing old acquaintances. That was the kind he was.

Níl a fhios agam cad is ceart a rá lena bhean agus a chlann ach nach maith liom a mbris. Go dtuga Dia suaimhneas d'anam Sheáin.

Mr. Townsend: I join with Members in expressing my sincere sympathy with the wife and family of the late Senator Fallon. I agree with the fine tributes paid to him today. As a new Member I found him most helpful. He was a thorough gentleman and a great Irishman. It has been a great honour and privilege for me to have known Seán Fallon and to have worked with him here for the past two and a half years.

Members rose in their places.