Tuesday 23 July 2019

Anchor who predicted election result more accurately than RTÉ computer

Obituary Ted Nealon

Ted Nealon pictured with Taoiseach Brian Cowen at the official launch of
Ted Nealon pictured with Taoiseach Brian Cowen at the official launch of "Tales from the Dail Bar". Photo: Mark Maxwell.

Ted Nealon, who has died at the age of 84, was a distinguished journalist and current affairs broadcaster who made a successful transition into politics.

Nealon was also well known as the founder and editor of Nealon's Guide to the Dáil and Seanad, which became an indispensable bible for those interested in Irish politics in the pre-internet age. There were well-thumbed copies in every newsroom and party headquarters in the country.

He came into his own on election night broadcasts through the 1970s and 1980s when his profound knowledge of the nuances of constituency politics made him a valued pundit.

On the night of the 1973 general election, won by Fine Gael leader Liam Cosgrave, his prediction of the final result proved to be more accurate than those of the new-fangled RTÉ computer. He won a Jacob's Award for his coverage of that election.

Just after the 1982 election, when Charles Haughey regained power, he predicted that the country would have to go to the polls again within a year. After just eight months, another general election was called.

Nealon, who played inter-county football for his native Sligo, cut his teeth in print journalism and was editor of The Sunday Review, which closed in 1963.

He became a reporter and presenter with RTÉ's 7 Days, and was part of a heavyweight team that included Brian Farrell, Bill O'Herlihy and John O'Donoghue. The programme brought a new cutting edge to current affairs broadcasting and was less deferential towards politicians.

Nealon became Government Press Secretary in 1976 under Liam Cosgrave, and was press officer of Fine Gael after the party's defeat in the 1977 election.

He became part of a group of media-savvy party workers known as the "12 apostles", who helped to revive the party's fortunes under the leadership of Garret FitzGerald.

He was elected as a TD for Sligo/Leitrim from 1981 until he retired in 1997 and served as a junior minister in Fine Gael/Labour coalition governments.

He served as a Minister of State in the Department of Agriculture, in the Department of the Taoiseach (with responsibility for Arts), and in the Department of Posts and Telegraphs.

He is survived by his wife Jo, his son Fergal and daughter Louise.

Irish Independent

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