Seanad Éireann - Volume 171 - 06 March, 2003

Death of Former Member: Expressions of Sympathy.

  Ms O'Rourke: I wish to extend sympathy to the family of the esteemed former Senator, Séamus de Brún, who has passed away. As well as being a Senator, the late Mr. de Brún was a former teacher, trustee and president of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann. He was born in Cornamona in Connemara, County Galway, on 1 October 1911, although he later moved to County Roscommon. He was nominated by the then Taoiseach, Mr. Lynch, to the Seanad in August 1977 and was re-elected to the Upper House on the Cultural and Educational Panel in 1982 and 1983. I served with Mr. de Brún in this House for approximately six months in 1982.

  Mr. de Brún was an inspirational figure. The de Brún family has a strong record in relation to cultural and social matters and a great interest in education. Séamus de Brún came from an educational background, of course. His wife Bríd and his three children, Máirín, Tadhg and Finian, were imbued with the best Irish traditions. The de Brún family showed a great interest in the wider use of our traditions and culture by all the people. They were keen that everybody should be instructed and informed about such matters. Sadly, Bríd Bean de Brún died in a tragic car accident in July 1998 while on her way to a meeting of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann. It could be said that she died in service, because she was as dedicated as her husband to the traditions of this country. Her death had a tremendously sad effect on Séamus and his family. I am sure it is in order for me to mention that Senator Ó Murchú gave an excellent panegyric at her funeral. It was a fine statement.

  Those of us from the midlands will be most aware of Séamus de Brún's achievements. I should make clear that he was a national figure, however, as a result of his service to Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann and the fact that he was such an amiable man. When I think of Séamus, I recall his various cultural activities and his impish sense of humour, which he portrayed on many occasions. If one made a political comment to [1450]him, he would reply, after a moment's thought, with an apt and impish remark. He was a fine Senator. He did not contest the 1987 Seanad election, as he had given great service and wished to pursue other causes close to him.

  On behalf of the House, I express sympathy to his three children, Máirín, Tadhg and Finian, as well as his wider family. The cultural, social and educational community in Ireland will greatly mourn his passing. The educational community in County Roscommon, including that county's VEC, will miss his commitment to issues of learning. On this sad occasion, I know all parties will express their sympathy on the death of Séamus de Brún, who lived to a good and ripe age. He gave great service to this House and to the nation.

  Mr. B. Hayes: This sad occasion represents the second time this week that the House has mourned the death of a former colleague. On this occasion I refer to the distinguished former Seanadóir, Séamus de Brún. I did not know Séamus de Brún, but my colleagues have told me that he was a formidable Senator and that he treated the affairs of the House with the utmost seriousness. As the Leader said, he was an educationalist, in the truest sense of the word, for many years. It is with great sadness, therefore, that I wish to be associated with the remarks of the Leader. I would like, on behalf of the Fine Gael Party in the Seanad, to express my sympathy to the Fianna Fáil Party and to Mr. de Brún's three children.

  It is a tremendous achievement for someone who has not contested a Dáil election to be elected to the Seanad. In a sense, the 43 Senators who are elected by county councillors come from political parties. It was a great achievement for Séamus de Brún to be elected in his own right as an educationalist and as someone of standing within a party. His commitment was recognised in 1977 by the Fianna Fáil Party, and specifically the former Taoiseach, Mr. Lynch, when Mr. de Brún was appointed as one of his nominees. As the Leader said, he was elected to the House in the early 1980s on the Cultural and Educational Panel, a panel from which I had the great honour of being elected at the most recent Seanad election.

  Séamus de Brún's lifetime commitment to Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann was also mentioned by the Leader. When I worked on a report on music education in Irish schools, as a member of the Joint Committee on Education and Science in the previous Oireachtas, I was struck by the marvellous voluntary contribution of Comhaltas throughout the country. It is clear that Mr. de Brún was in the vanguard of that movement. He made a huge contribution to the preservation of the heritage, music and language of the Irish people. It is right that we honour him today. As the Leader said, I understand he was for many years a trustee of Raidió na Gaeltachta which provides a marvellous service for Irish speaking people.

[1451]  To his three children and the Fianna Fáil Party we express our sympathy on this sad occasion.

  Mr. Ross: I join the expressions of sympathy to the family of Séamus de Brún, his party and friends and relations. Like Senator O'Rourke, I was honoured to sit in this House with him for several years. I reflect on the fact that he was one of those Senators who ran counter to the criticisms some of us make of this House. He was elected from the Cultural and Educational Panel and may have sprung from political roots but his contributions on cultural and educational matters were surpassed by no one. He stood as one of those beacons who countered criticism of this House. His contributions were valuable, knowledgable and erudite. He was selective about the matters on which he spoke but that does not mean he did not know about other matters. It meant that he only spoke on matters about which he felt he was elected to speak and about which he could make a contribution. His contributions were absolutely priceless, quite invaluable and an education to the rest of us. We should be grateful for what he did in this House.

  As Senator Brian Hayes said, he was particularly committed to this House, as is evidenced by the fact that he never tried to get out of it. That is a serious commitment. He did not come here to use the Seanad as a platform for the Dáil or as a defeated Dáil candidate, as many of us have done. He came because he felt he had a contribution to make and he made a great contribution. I wish we had more people like him. He will stand out in historical terms for that pinnacle of achievement, which is the best thing that can happen in this House.

  He was a good friend to many of us when he was here. He crossed the political divide. He was one of those people to whom one could speak and not be aware of his party label. That is not meant to be pejorative. He judged things on their merit and spoke his mind. He was reasonably apolitical to the extent that he did not get involved in the hand-to-hand combat as some of us might do.

  I express my sympathy to his family, particularly Tadhg de Brún, whom many of us know from RTE. May he rest in peace.

  Mr. Ryan: Níor labhras Béarla ariamh le Séamus de Brún a fhad is a bhíomar sa Tigh seo le chéile go ceann sé bhliain, nó níos mó. Pé uair a labhramar le chéile, agus ba mhinic sin, ba i nGaelainn a labhramar. Ba dhuine é, mar adúirt an Seanadóir Ross, a chuaigh i bhfeidhm ar gach éinne. Cé go raibh a fhios againn go léir na préamhacha polaitíochta a bhí aige agus cé go raibh sé dílis dóibh, bhí a fhios againn go léir nár tharraing sé an pholaitíocht isteach in áiteanna nach raibh oiriúnach di agus gur thuig sé go raibh rudaí ann sa saol go raibh suim againn go léir iontu. Bhí an-shuim agam féin agus ag an iar-Sheanadóir i gcónaí in amhránaíocht ar an sean nós. Sin, mar [1452]a deirtear sa Bhéarla, minority taste, má bhí ceann ann ariamh, cé go bhfuil sé ag leathnú faoi láthair. B'shin rud a tharraing le chéile sinn, é sin agus an Ghaelainn agus an ceol.

  Nuair adúirt an Ceannaire go raibh sé imithe as an Teach le 15 bhí sé deacair a thuiscint go raibh sé imithe chomh fada san. Bhí tionchar chomh mór san aige orainn agus ormsa, gur cheapas go raibh sé anseo i bhfad níos congaraí don am seo. Duine é a raibh aithne agus meas agam air. Ba mhinic nár aontaíomar lena chéile ach níor thiteamar amach ariamh, ar cheist pholaitíochta nó aon rud eile.

  Tá fíor bhrón orm go bhfuil sé imithe uainn. Ar mo shon féin agus ar son Pháirtí an Lucht Oibre guím solas na bhFlaitheas air agus déanaim comh-bhrón lena chlann.

  Mr. Minihan: I join previous speakers and, on behalf of the Progressive Democrats, extend my sympathy to the family of the late Senator Séamus de Brún. I note that the Taoiseach appointed him to the Seanad in 1977 and that our own party leader, the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Harney, was appointed on the same day. Previous speakers have referred to the different roads taken by politicians who come to this House. The record of the House shows that his contribution both to the public and cultural life of the country is something of which to be proud. It is commendable to provide service for the political, community or cultural life of one's people and share one's talents with them, mainly on a voluntary basis. We should all be thankful for his love of the Irish language and everything traditionally Irish. If people like him do not continue to promote and support our own culture, there is a danger that we will lose the fine qualities our nation possesses. For this he should be saluted. He expressed his views and ideas in this House at a time when membership of the Seanad was largely voluntary. This was an extension of his commitment to Irish social, cultural and political life. I extend the sympathy of the Progressive Democrats to his family and the Fianna Fáil party.

  Mr. Leyden: As a fellow Roscommon man, I extend my deepest sympathy to the de Brún family, Máirín, Tadhg and Finín, on the death of Séamus de Brún. Séamus was an extraordinary man who lived in Castlerea. He taught and was a member of the board of management of the vocational school in Ballaghadereen and later a member of the vocational education committee. He also served as director of elections for Fianna Fáil in 1977 when Deputy Seán Doherty and I entered Dáil Éireann. We all owe him a debt of gratitude for his tremendous work.

  Mr. B. Hayes: He had a hard job separating the two of them.

[1453]

  Mr. Leyden: It was a baptism of fire for Séamus. He was a very conscientious secretary of the comhairle dáilcheantair, an important position. He had a tremendous ability to take minutes and was a conciliatory voice in the region, which was needed at times in the constituency of Roscommon.

  In 1998 he suffered a tragic loss when his beloved wife, Bríd, died. Anyone who knew them both saw that they were together in every sense. They were both wonderful Irish speakers, spoke bilingually at times and inspirational to anyone who knew them. I am delighted his work for Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann is being continued in the Seanad by Labhrás Ó Murchú. He was enormously proud of his work for Comhaltas and led a group to Libya in 1976. He had a broad vision.

  I discovered today that he and I share the same birthday, under the sign of Libra. He was a balanced man. His death is a tremendous loss. He lived a fulfilled life and did wonderful work. He made an enormous contribution to Irish life. We extend our deepest sympathy to his lovely family. We will miss him in Roscommon, where he lived for so many years.

  Labhrás Ó Murchú: Ó bheith ag éisteacht anseo inniu is léir go bhfuil fear mór an chultúir Ghaelaigh imithe ar shlí na fírinne, fear mácánta, uasal agus díograsach. Bhí sé de phribhléid agamsa é a bheith mar chara agam le breis agus 30 bliain. Más féidir rud a rá faoi Shéamas de Brún seachas aon rud eile, is féidir a rá go raibh uaisleacht aige. Bhí sé i gcónaí ag iarraidh cairdeas a chothú i measc daoine ach, chomh maith leis sin, chaith sé a shaol ag saothrú an chultúir.

  Mar a luaigh an Ceannaire, maraíodh Bríd, a bhean céile, roinnt bhliain ó shin. Bhí mé ag feitheamh thuas i mBéal an Átha ag an am nuair a tháinig an scéal gur maraíodh í ar an mbóthar. Ó shin i leith bhí Séamus uaigneach agus brónach ach, mar sin féin, lean sé ar aghaidh leis an obair go dtí an lá deireannach. Bhí sé ag cruinniú linn sa chomhaltas timpeall trí seachtain ó shin agus cé go raibh sé ina nóchaidí ag an am bhí sé chomh bríomhar agus chomh beomhar agus a bhí ariamh maidir leis an obair sin.

  Fuair sé trí ghradam ina shaol. Fuair se gradam an Oireachtais, gradam an Phiarsaigh agus gradam an chomhaltais. Bhí se mar uachtarán ar an gcomhaltas agus go dtí lá a bháis bhí sé mar iontaobhaí ar an gcomhaltas freisin. Bhí sé ar choiste an Oireachtais, chaith sé tréimhse ar chomhairle Raidió na Gaeltachta agus, ar ndóigh, chaith sé tréimhse sa Seanad.

  Go dtí an nóiméad deireannach níor chaill sé ariamh an dóchas a bhí aige maidir leis an nGaeilge. Ba scoláire é den scoth. Tá roinnt mhaith scríbhinní aige agus tá eolaire ar an nGaeilge scríofa aige. Bhí sé ina mhuinteoir Gaeilge agus is minic a chas mé le scoláirí a thug sár-chreidiúint do Shéamas go raibh grá acu féin don nGaeilge.

[1454]  Is mian liom mo chomhbhrón a chur in iúil do Mháirín, do Thadhg, d'Fhinín agus do mhuintir de Brún ar fad. Is féidir linn a rá nach mbeidh a leithéid arís ann. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

  An Cathaoirleach: I also wish to be associated with expressions of sympathy to the family of Séamus de Brún and with the tributes which have been paid to him. I was elected to Seanad Éireann in the year Séamus was appointed and I served with him in four or five Seanaid. He served as assistant Whip. I remember one occasion when he got a list of the names of Members who were to contribute to a debate and a certain Senator wanted him to change the order of speakers and to put his name above others. Séamus was having none of this and he made sure Members spoke in the correct order.

  He was conscientious and a great Irishman. He once told me the only language spoken in his house was Irish. I nGaeilge amháin a labhair Séamus, a bhean agus a gclann ina dtigh féin. He was a great Irishman and a great nationalist. I convey my sympathy to the de Brún family.

  Members rose.