Friday 18 October 2019

Nation loses 'one of its greatest public servants' with passing of Seán Calleary

Seán Calleary (centre) with his son Dara (right) and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin
Seán Calleary (centre) with his son Dara (right) and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

"Ireland has lost one of its greatest public servants," Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said after the death of former minister Seán Calleary (86) yesterday.

Tributes poured in for the long-serving TD - father of the party's current deputy leader Dara Calleary - who was described by former Taoiseach Enda Kenny as a "fearless defender" of Mayo.

Mr Calleary was also praised for his "stellar sporting life" in both rugby and GAA.

He won election to the Dáil on seven occasions and had an unbroken stint as TD for Mayo between 1973 and 1992.

Mr Calleary was a government minister for eight of those years.

Mr Martin said: "He served with distinction and honour in the 1980s and early 1990s as Minister of State in the Departments of Labour and Public Service, Industry and Commerce and then Foreign Affairs."

Former minister Sean Calleary in his political heyday
Former minister Sean Calleary in his political heyday

He also spoke warmly of Mr Calleary's involvement in sport.

"A fine sportsman and sports administrator, Seán played junior football with Mayo, and also donned the colours of Galwegians and Connacht."

Mr Martin noted that Mr Calleary had played rugby under an assumed name due to the long-lifted ban on GAA members playing "foreign" sports.

Mr Calleary later served as a Mayo GAA selector and was also president of the Connacht branch of the IRFU.

"He was particularly pleased to be inducted into the Mayo Sports Star Hall of Fame in 2014," Mr Martin added.

He said: "Seán was proud of all of his children's achievements, and of course he took great pride in his son Dara being elected to serve the people of Mayo."

Dara Calleary was appointed Fianna Fáil deputy leader earlier this year.

Mr Martin said: "During his life, Seán made an enormous contribution to his county, his region and his country. He will be greatly missed."

He extended his sympathies to Mr Calleary's wife Doris, his sons Conal, John and Dara, and his daughter Síofra.


Fine Gael's Enda Kenny was a constituency rival of Mr Calleary's for many years.

The former Taoiseach said: "Seán was a fearless defender of Ballina and Mayo.

"As an engineer, he brought the quality of strategic thinking to his politics, particularly in respect of the development of the west.

"As a young deputy, Seán Calleary often gave me advice on particular political difficulties that arose from time to time," Mr Kenny added.

He also highlighted Mr Calleary's sporting career, adding: "Ballina has lost one of its finest sons."

Mr Kenny passed on his "deepest sympathies" to the Calleary family.

Fianna Fáil Mayo TD Lisa Chambers said that Mr Calleary was "such a warm, genuine man and had a kind word for everybody".

She said he had been a "strong" figure within Fianna Fáil in Mayo even after his retirement from politics and he was "held in high esteem by all who knew him".

Fine Gael Rural Development Minister Michael Ring also extended his condolences to the Calleary family, saying he served the people of Mayo and Ireland very well.

Mr Calleary was a former president of Ballina Rugby Football Club.

Its spokesman Michael Gallagher said there was a "shroud of sadness" over the club's ground, Heffernan Park.

He said Mr Calleary had a "stellar sporting life" and a "proud political career".

Mr Gallagher added: "Seán never lost his love for sport and was in Heffernan Park just a few months ago when Taoiseach Leo Varadkar visited." He extended the condolences of club members to Mr Calleary's family.

Irish Independent

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