Seanad Éireann - Volume 154 - 26 March, 1998

Death of Former Member: Expressions of Sympathy.

Mr. Cassidy: It is with deep regret that we learned of the death yesterday evening of an esteemed former Member of this House, Micheál Prendergast. He was born in Farranfore, County Kerry, and was first elected to the agricultural panel in 1954. He was successfully re-elected in 1957, 1961, 1965 and 1969 and did not contest the [1142] 1973 elections. During his time in the Seanad he was vocal on agricultural issues, particularly on matters relating to livestock. He was an active member of the Irish Live Stock Exporters' and Traders' Association and was its chairman in 1961 and 1969. He was also a member of the national executive of the Irish livestock trade and was its chairman in 1970. He was also a member of the Dublin Port and Docks Board since 1960.

During his long service in public life, Micheál continually pressed the interests of those he represented. He will be greatly missed. On behalf of the House and Fianna Fáil I extend deepest sympathy to his wife Barbara and his family, Fine Gael and those groups he so ably represented. Go ndéana Dia trócaire ar a anam.

Mrs. A. Doyle: The former Senator Prendergast died yesterday in Melbourne, Australia. He was 77 years old. I offer my sincere sympathy and that of Fine Gael to his wife Barbara, his son Seán and his daughters Siobhán, Anne-Marie, Caitríona, Ciara, Michelle and Marie-Therese at this sad time in their lives.

It is many years since Micheál graced the portals of this Chamber. He was a Member of this House from 1954 to 1974. Those who remember him will recall his great charisma and humour. His contribution was widespread and was mainly on agricultural matters. In his maiden speech he spoke about the eradication of bovine TB. He could not have been a happy man about the way that developed. Micheál chided the Minister for Agriculture at the time, James Dillon, for saying it would take 20 years to rid the island of the scourge of bovine TB; he said it should be done in ten years. Neither must have been happy with what transpired subsequently as we still await the eradication of bovine TB many years later.

Micheál was very committed to the livestock trade and cattle industry. He was reared in Kilcock, County Kildare, although he was born in Farranfore, County Kerry. He got his love of land and cattle from his late father, John, and he spent many years in the livestock export business.

He had many other strings to his bow apart from agriculture. He was active in the Dublin Port and Docks Board, was chairman and long time committee member of the Irish Live Stock Exporters' and Traders' Association and a council member of the Agricultural Institute, now known as Teagasc, from 1960 to 1963. He loved horses, had a great interest in rugby and loved to have a pint. For the past 12 years he lived with Barbara and his family in Melbourne. On his many visits home he would come into the Members' Bar to have a drink with any of us who was around and catch up with the Irish political scene, in which he always maintained an interest.

He met his Australian wife Barbara at the Aga Khan Cup in 1959 and they married six months later. It was an extremely happy marriage and they had a large family. Barbara was visiting Ireland at the time supporting her great love, the [1143] Australian rugby team. We will not dwell on the results back in those days either. It was through her love of rugby and connections with friends who had married here that Micheál and Barbara met.

We remember a party colleague of great humour and charm. He was someone people loved to meet on these corridors, even long after his retirement. He had a great interest in Fine Gael and the democratic system in Ireland and was very proud of his contribution to democracy through his 20 years contribution to the Seanad and as father of this House. On my behalf and on that of the Fine Gael Party I express my sincere sympathy to Barbara and their children. Micheál will be brought back to Ireland and will be buried with his parents in the Kilcock graveyard on Saturday week. May he rest in peace.

Mr. Ross: On behalf of the Independents, I would like to be associated with the words of sympathy to the wife and family of the former Senator Prendergast. Like most other Members, apart from Senator McGowan, I never had the privilege of serving in this House with the former Senator. I was aware of the great contribution he made at the time and I was privileged to meet him on the many occasions he came back to this House following his emigration to Australia. He was a great storyteller and great company. He was calm and understanding and he retained an interest in this House until he died. On behalf of the Independents, I express our regret at his passing.

Mr. Costello: On behalf of the Labour Party, I would like to be associated with the expressions of sympathy and the tributes paid to the late Micheál Prendergast, a long serving Senator. I express my sympathy to his wife, family and his colleagues in Fine Gael at the loss of a person who was evidently a major contributor to Irish life. Unfortunately, I did not know him but by repute he has left quite a legacy in the agricultural area and the livestock trade where he was a major contributor, in Dublin where his membership of the Dublin Port and Docks Board was a large part of his life for many years and also in the sporting arena. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

Mr. Dardis: On behalf of the Progressive Democrats, I join with the Leader and other Members of the House in expressing our sympathy to the wife and family of the late Senator Prendergast and to his colleagues in Fine Gael. I knew of Micheál Prendergast by reputation through his work in the Agricultural Institute and the Livestock Exporters' and Traders' Association. It is obvious he had a long and distinguished career and that he served his country and this House well. We mourn his passing.

[1144] An Cathaoirleach: I wish to be associated with the expressions of sympathy to the widow and family of the late Senator Prendergast and I ask Members to stand as a mark of respect.

Members rose in their places.