To pay tribute to the late Senator Peter Callanan I call the Leader, to be followed by the group leaders.
Death of Former Member: Expressions of Sympathy
With a deep sense of sadness I rise to pay tribute on the passing of a friend and colleague, former Senator Peter Callanan. Peter was someone for whom I had great respect and admiration. He was a highly intelligent and articulate Member of Seanad Éireann and was a truly excellent public representative. He was a hardworking and capable individual who was interested in getting on with things and having things done. Born in Castlefreke, west of Clonakilty, he lived and farmed all his married life in Ballymountain, Innishannon. He married Sheila Harrington and the couple had four sons, Gerard, Liam, David and Denis and two daughters, Deirdre and Fionnuala. From his first election to Cork County Council in 1979 Peter served the people of Cork with tremendous dedication, perseverance and commitment. He was re-elected at every local election until 2004 when he had to step down under the dual mandate rule which prevents Members of the Oireachtas serving on local authorities. He was well regarded throughout his local community for his hard work, enthusiasm and warm personality. The pipe and his smile were his trademarks, with the pioneer pin he proudly wore all his life. He will be remembered for his unwavering courtesy and old-fashioned good manners which he displayed to those who met him. He treated everyone with equal respect and consideration. It was his courtesy and respectful manner that endeared him to all who knew him.
Peter was elected to Seanad Éireann in 1997 on the Agricultural Panel and subsequently re-elected in 2002. However, his greatest electoral performance in was the 2007 Seanad election, following the reduction in the number of seats on the Fianna Fáil side in the previous local elections.
As a Member of Seanad Éireann on three occasions, Peter was a strong champion of farmers' rights and used his membership of the joint committees to raise matters of concern, particularly relating to agriculture, food and fisheries. He was an excellent orator and commanded attention whenever he spoke. He was often involved in heated discussions on matters close to his heart, both in the Seanad Chamber and at parliamentary party meetings. He was an extremely shrewd and astute politician who worked resolutely on behalf of the people he served. His contribution, both in public and behind the scenes, helped to raise awareness of many agricultural issues. His only aim was to make life better for the members of his community, particularly in Cork and rural Ireland in general. He was not afraid to be controversial or take an unpopular stand if he believed it to be the right thing to do. Once he got his teeth into an issue, he was not a man to let go until he had taken it to the highest possible level.
Peter was very honourable and a loyal public servant who served at local and national level for more than 30 years. He was immensely popular. I know his loss will be widely felt among his friends and colleagues. We on his side of the House knew him to be a great servant of Fianna Fáil, the party of which he was so proud. He was a staunch defender and a great upholder of the traditional values of Fianna Fáil and will be sorely missed.
On a personal note, I was privileged to have served as Leader of Seanad Éireann during Peter's tenure as a Senator. I owe him a great deal of gratitude for the loyalty he showed and service he provided me as Leader of the House. As an old friend said to me: "People who are near and dear never die."
I extend my deepest sympathy, as Leader of Seanad Éireann and leader of Fianna Fáil Party in this House, to his wife, Sheila; his four sons, Gerald, Liam, David and Denis; his two daughters, Deirdre and Fionnuala, and extended family and friends who have come here in large numbers all the way from Cork, France and other places. They are with us today to pay tribute to this great Irish man, a great parliamentarian, father and husband. Go ndéana Dia trócaire ar a anam.
I, too, offer my condolences to Patrick and John, Sheila and family, and all of Peter's friends not only from Inishannon but from across west Cork and the rest of the country. For a youngish Fine Gaeler, I would have described Peter as old-style Fianna Fáil. He was decent, very fair and always good company from the first day I met him in the House. His family is well aware that I would have known a great deal about Peter on my election to the House. My mum had great regard for him. Peter grew up in Kilkern in Castlefreke. Sheila grew up in Galley Head. The light from the same lighthouse shone into my bedroom when I was growing up in west Cork all those years ago. Therefore, we know more than enough, as the saying goes, about Peter and his family. He was a really decent individual, for whom my family had great respect.
There were only a few years in age between Peter and my late father and they grew up only a few miles apart. Many of the characteristics and personal traits to be found in Peter were also to be found in my dad. During the few years I knew Peter in the House I found him to be great company. He was a solid individual who had a wicked sense of humour. Certainly politics never got in the way of personal friendships that he developed during the yeas. He will be sorely missed in the House.
Peter was very amused when I told him the oldest piece of political memorabilia I had was an election poster dating from 1981 with a picture of Charlie Haughey on the front and Joe Walsh and Peter Callanan, MCC, as the names of the candidates running in the election. His response was: "What went wrong with me after that?" I was given the poster by a member of my mum's family who, as everybody knows, were very strong supporters of Peter Callanan, Joe Walsh and Fianna Fáil in west Cork.
I miss Peter. He was a great guy. He is missed by Members on both sides of the House of every political persuasion. I offer my condolences to all members of his family. I know they have suffered a huge loss.
The House is all the poorer for the absence of the late Peter Callanan whom I got to know when he came here for the first time because he asked to see me. However, he was disappointed. I had been speaking about a farmers' issue on behalf of consumers and might have degraded farmers a little more than I had intended. Peter took me to the Members' bar — although he was a pioneer — and made sure I knew his views, but he did it in such a manner that we became good friends to the extent that he was disappointed once again when he discovered that I had travelled to Cork with my wife and not met him. I told him my wife suffered from a very severe illness called golf and that we had gone to play golf in Kinsale and stayed in Inchydoney. He said I could not have got there without passing through Inishannon, unless I had got lost along the way. l told him that I had missed him, but he insisted that if I ever travelled down again I would not miss him.
Peter was very proud of his locality. He was also very proud to be be a Member of this House. He was very proud of the work he had done for his locality, region and Fianna Fáil. There was no time when he was not willing to argue the case forcefully and strongly, but he always did so with wonderful humour. He was the sort of man one looked forward to bumping into in the corridors of the Houses because he always had a smile on his face. Even though he felt very strongly about an issue, he argued the point with good humour and passion.
When we talked about children, Peter talked about the fact that he had one more child. He was very proud of his four boys and two girls. It is such a pleasure to have so many of them present today. He talked about how they had travelled the world, how much they had seen and how home was always home because Sheila had made it so.
The week before Christmas 12 months ago Peter told me he was due to go into hospital Christmas week for a procedure. I was concerned about him and when I telephoned a few days later, he was back home after having had the procedure. Sheila answered the telephone and was obviously delighted that he had come out of the local hospital with a smile on his face.
Peter was the sort of man one loved to meet. He would be very proud of what is happening here today. An American short story writer, O. Henry, wrote a story about an older lady. The invitation to her funeral had been issued and all of her friends who had not seen her for many years came to her home only for her to meet them at the front door. They thought it was her funeral, but she said she would not miss it for anything because she wanted to hear what they would say about her. It is a lovely story which reminds me of Peter because I am sure he is looking down on us. I am sure also that he is looking at his friends and family and smiling to himself. He is smiling at the thought of the stories that will be told here today.
The wonderful tribute paid to him at his funeral in Innishannon by Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú brought tears to our eyes, but it also brought smiles to our faces because he knew Peter so well. He expressed pride in Peter, as many of us wished to do. Peter Callanan joined this House, was re-elected and re-elected again. He was a committed participant in the work of this House. We were very proud of him. He was very proud of being a Member of this House, but he was even more proud of being a member of the family that he and Sheila developed.
Looking down on us today, I am sure he misses this place, but I am also sure that he is in a better place. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.
I join with others who have spoken in remembering Senator Peter Callanan, a most valued colleague in this House. I remember him with great affection, as a party leader and as an ordinary Member coming in here for the first time three years ago. He was most welcoming, most interested in our backgrounds and solicitous for our welfare. He had a great sense of humour and was an interesting man to have chat with about the vagaries of what goes on in the corridors of power. I enjoyed his company on the few occasions when I had an opportunity to chat with him.
Others have pointed out that he gave considerable service to the people of his locality and the people of County Cork from 1979, when he went into local politics. I am sure he will be remembered for many years because of that. His loss has been felt most by his family, and it is very moving to see so many of them here today for these tributes. I assure them Peter is remembered here with great affection, but also as somebody who contributed hugely to the work of this House, and whose loss is very strongly felt.
I was not aware that he hailed originally from Castlefreke in County Cork. I do not have any connections with that area, but I know it having been there a few times in recent years. It is a most beautiful part of the country and I am sure that he treasured his connections with that place.
I join with other colleagues in expressing my sadness and the sympathies of the Labour Party to his family on his untimely death last year, and to the leader of the House and to Members of the Fianna Fáil Party on their loss.
I first became aware of Peter Callanan as a long-standing member of Cork County Council, many years before I became involved in public life, when I used to read his name and see his photograph in what was then known as theCork Examiner. When I was subsequently elected to Cork City Council, there would have been joint meetings of the city and county council. While Peter Callanan represented and celebrated much of what was rural life and sought to retain that, Innishannon itself is only 14 miles outside of Cork city. He protected a rural community with a fast burgeoning suburban area on its doorstep.
It was an area in which we had a strong common cause. He was a man with an independent mind and he was particularly concerned about a proposal for hundreds of houses to be built in his local area, something that never came to pass. While the temptation is to go along with a proposal for houses that leads to development and jobs, he had a sense that this proposal would irreversibly change the character of the area and the community in which he lived. He also had a good sense of its geography, as the proposed development was in a flood plain. Given the subsequent incidents of flooding along the River Bandon, which also flows through Innishannon, he seemed to have a better sense of that than many people with degrees in engineering, planning or public administration.
He believed in who he was, where he lived, what he acquired and a sense of courage and confidence that comes from living such a life. To have done so with such good humour meant that he was well thought of by those who interacted with him in public life, be they members of all political parties or members of the public with whom he had such great affinity. It is only right and fitting that we in this House should mark that career, especially in its latter stages when he was re-elected twice at an age when many of us are often considering whether we should still be involved in public life. That he continued to be a Member of this House with such verve, enthusiasm and pride exemplified a quality of public life to which many of us should aspire. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.
Almost every Member of the House has contacted me to express a wish to pay tribute to Peter, but time is moving on. I have started with Munster people, and Cork people in particular.
I will start by quoting the great and famous poet, Thackeray, to commemorate Peter's passing:
We are atoms that float down the river of years,
On our way to the ultimate sea,
And life with its changes, its tears and its joys,
Brings its changes to you and to me.
But as these fast fleeting years go by,
We lose sight of each other at last,
But remember, Peter, that you and I,
We are friends in the far reaching past.
I stand here today to celebrate Peter's life out of joy rather than sadness and to acknowledge his great contribution. He was a family man first and foremost and I extend my sympathies to his wife Sheila, his sons Gerard, Liam, David and Denis, his daughters Deirdre and Fionnuala, his brothers John and Paddy and his 18 grandchildren. The greatest epitaph to Senator Callanan is the fact that all his family are here today with us to pay tribute to him and celebrate his life.
Peter came from the parish of Ardfield. He played football in his younger days with a club called St. James's. He was keenly involved with the old NFA, which was subsequently the IFA. His nominating body to the Senate was ICOS. He was a spokesman on agriculture in this House and a close confidant of the then Minister for Agriculture and Food, the former Deputy Joe Walsh. He was a household name in the town of Bandon. Peter was first elected to Cork County Council in 1979 and he increased his vote every time he stood for the council after that, and got close to 3,500 first preferences at one stage.
Apart from being a great family man, he was a dedicated Christian and a great believer in Padre Pio. The oration given by Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú at the church in Innishannon on the day of his funeral does much greater justice to his life than anything I can say here today. He loved his pipe. He was a life-long member of the Pioneer Association. Many people might not know that he was a very capable dancer. Somebody referred to him in the church in Innishannon as "Tippy Toes". For a big man, he was very light on his feet. We should remember the fond things about Peter.
I met him for the first time in 1969 as a garsún at a convention in Cork South-West. I got to know him better at the first European elections in 1974. I met him in Schull at a Comhairle Cheantar meeting and we became friends. There were times when Peter was with Joe Walsh during elections in that side of the constituency, but we never fell out over it. When the election was over, we were always friends and always had a chat.
He was elected here in 1997 on his second attempt. He lost out in 1993 by a fraction of a vote on the agricultural panel.
Peter came to me some months later, having signed up for his salary here and told me he had received a letter telling him he needed a PPS number and asked me what it was. I said that surely he had a PPS number. He told me that he struggled in farming all his life and had never paid tax. He said that if anything he was owed money for raising a family on a mountainy farm in west Cork. At first I thought he was joking, but he did not have a PPS number until he came here. He was very annoyed that having been elected to Seanad Éireann he was dragged into the tax net.
I was elected chairman of Cork County Council on 13 July 1989 and Peter Callanan was very ill at the time. Peter was in the Mercy Hospital and could not attend a party meeting held a few days prior to 13 July. He attended on 13 July to vote and he was elected vice chairman. Some years later he told me he had been on his uppers at the time and fighting for his life — he was seriously ill — but that because he was vice chairman he had to attend functions that I could not attend in Ireland and abroad, which gave him great impetus to go forward. He was brilliant at it.
Peter will be remembered for how he contributed in a quiet way. He had a great knowledge of agriculture, rural life and issues such as rural planning and he fought for them. Peter would wander quietly around the streets of Bandon, perhaps calling up to the convent for a cup of tea and attending the local church. That was how he held his clinics. I do not think Peter held a formal clinic in the Munster Arms or in Innishannon. He moved among the people and that was reflected in the fantastic vote he received. Peter eventually entered the Seanad in 1997 and was re-elected in 2002. As the Leader stated, his greatest political battle was to get re-elected from a very strong field in the election of 2007. That campaign was extremely difficult for all of us who went through it but Peter had an uncanny knack of getting votes. It was like the flying column in west Cork in the old days — and Peter was very republican — as he poked out votes in most unusual places. I did an intense canvass, not for the first time as I did the Seanad trail three times, and Peter rang me on an almost daily basis. On one occasion, halfway through the campaign, I told him that I had good news as I thought he would be elected. He told me he was very worried so I explained that I had been with X, Y and Z in the previous week and that I could not understand how he was picking up votes. These votes were not all Fianna Fáil votes as we know from how the votes panned out. He achieved this against the grain and this is a proud moment.
I feel no sorrow today; the sorrow is behind me. I feel joy for what Peter Callanan gave us as a person, a county councillor and a Senator. I have no doubt he is smiling down on us doing the spadework while he is relaxed, smoking a pipe with a wry smile in his eye. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.
I want to be associated with the tributes paid to the late great Peter Callanan. I got to know Peter quite well during my first Seanad campaign in 2002. Everywhere I went, Peter seemed to be there before me and I had to wait outside the door for quite a length of time on some occasions. I got to know him particularly well during the 2002 to 2007 Seanad and became very close to him during this Seanad, as I am Whip. Peter and I had many meetings at which he made apologies for not being able to attend but he was always available when he could be.
I express my deep sympathy to his wife Sheila and to his family, of which he was very proud. No matter when you were summoned to his office, the door would be locked and for some reason there was a smell of smoke although it is banned in the building. Invariably, every conversation would end up with him speaking about one member of his family or another. He was very proud of his family and I am delighted to see them here today. I know they miss him terribly. We in this House also miss him for his good wit and good humour. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.
Gabhaim comhbhrón le baintreach Peter Callanan, Sheila agus a chlann as ucht a bháis. Bhí mé an-chairdiúil leis le fada an lá. I express my sincere sympathy to the Callanan family: Peter's wife, Sheila; his brothers John and Patrick; his sons Gerard, Liam, David and Denis; his daughters Deirdre and Fionnuala; and his extended family. I had many things in common with Peter as we both entered public life in 1979 when he was elected to Cork County Council and I was elected to Westmeath County Council and Mullingar Town Council, and we were both elected to the Seanad in 1997.
Peter had many unique qualities and one that stands out was something to which Senator Wilson referred. When you entered his office the television would be turned up high and Peter would be on the nebuliser. After a few minutes he would take it off, stand up and say he had to go for medicine, which meant he was going out to smoke his pipe. He was a phenomenal vote getter. In 1999 he received well in excess of 3,400 votes, which was a huge mandate for anyone to receive.
Peter Callanan had many strong aspects to his character including, as has been referred to, his dedication to his wife and family. There is no question but that they were always on the tip of his tongue. He also had a great love of farming and Senator Quinn referred to the earwigging he received from Peter after making a certain comment. Peter was very defensive about the farming community but at the same time he was positive about its shortcomings because he was a very fair man.
When Peter said, "come here, I want you" in his best west Cork accent and with an impish smile you could be sure he had a scéal to tell. He would tell it and then ask you what you thought. If you responded, he would tell you that was not quite how he took it, so you never knew what he was thinking in such circumstances.
Peter was a Whip's dream. Every morning, when the bell rang to call the House together, the usual arrivals were Peter Callanan, Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú, our recently departed friend, Kieran Phelan and Senator Larry Butler. Peter and Kieran would sit side by side and joke and I hope they are joking today and thinking of us all down here. Peter was a phenomenal orator and had a great command of the English language. He had great delivery and there was great content in what he had to say.
I knew much about Peter's health because on many occasions he came to me about it, not that I was a doctor but from my previous occupation he thought I knew a little. Quite often, when he contacted me by phone he told me that he did not think he would make the game today or next week, which meant he was in hospital. Nevertheless, he carried his illness with great dignity and fortitude. At the end, he would phone to say he did not think he could make it for the Order of Business but that he was here if he was really needed.
Much has been said about Peter and to say it now would be to repeat it. This House is all the poorer for his passing, as is public life. The big losers are public life, all of us in the House and his wife and family whom he loved dearly. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.
Senator O'Donovan commented on the flying column. I will call Members of the agricultural panel who probably want to contribute.
Like other Senators, I join in the tributes to our late friend and colleague, Peter Callanan. We shared certain things in common, not least the fact we were both elected to our respective county councils on the same day. As Senator Glynn said, I remember subsequently looking up some of the votes which people received and saw the huge support Peter received and continued to receive throughout his time there. That was a testament to his popularity and hard work in the area.
Subsequently, I got to know Peter while attending conferences, where he was always an articulate and intelligent contributor, but more so when we ended up on the same panel in the 1997 Seanad election. It is fair to say he was a formidable competitor. When I listened to Senator O'Donovan reminding us of the comments at mass that he was referred to as "Tippy Toes" because of his dancing skills, it would be fair to say that for those of us in his slipstream going to councillors — Peter had been there before us — the councillors we were visiting were as impressed with him as his dancing partners were with his dancing abilities. All his dancing partners were women.
In 2005 Senator Norris tabled the Civil Partnership Bill. I was the spokesperson on justice. Suffice to say, Peter was not at all impressed when he felt we might support the Bill. He came to me and subsequently it was agreed that we would leave it to rest on the Order Paper and that there would no vote one way or the other. I and some of my colleagues will miss him and his contributions to that debate in the next month or so.
As anyone who visited him knew, Peter was a man who had great pride in his family, as every Member here has testified. He also had great loyalty to his party and locality. Anybody who visited him could not but come away with an awareness of his breadth of knowledge on the history of the area, his republican ethos and his strong family and Christian values. In many ways he was an example to us and tá mé cinnte go bhfuil sé i measc na n-aingeal agus na naomh ar neamh.
I rise to join with colleagues in paying tribute to the late Senator Peter Callanan. I knew him before I became a Member of the Dáil or of this House and I always had long conversations with him. His knowledge of agriculture, especially tillage, was phenomenal. He excelled in it and contributed widely to that debate. When I became a Member of the Dáil I was on the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, on which he served. I was the Whip and he was a pleasure to work with. His contributions were many and varied. He took on all the vested interests which appeared before the committee and if they thought they were going to have an easy time at the expense of the farming community by the time they were leaving they knew a lot different.
Any time he passed through my native village of Knock he always called. He was never in a hurry. My wife Kathleen also enjoyed his company. He regaled us with stories of what went on down in Cork and what was going on. Kathleen and I knew city hall better than he knew it himself. He told us of the different people he had to go to meet and how he had to spend a day in it. It is a massive building. One could see he was working for the people and that they respected him for it. One could see why he got such a vote in the local elections.
I knew about his dancing prowess because a man from Union Hall — we have a lot of friends in west Cork — and I were talking about Peter one night. He asked if I knew Peter was a great dancer. I looked at him because Peter would not strike one as a great dancer as he had a fair amount of weight on him. He said he would turn on a sixpence. The next time I met him I accosted him with that. He said, "Who the hell told you that?". That was Peter. He was great company, a great Member of this House and a good companion. To his wife Sheila, his family, Gerard, Liam, David, Denis, Deirdre and Fionnuala, and his brother and sisters, I offer my sincere sympathy. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.
I join in the many tributes which have been paid to the late Peter Callanan. To his wife Sheila, his four sons and two daughters and other members of his family I offer my sincere sympathy. Peter had great qualities. First, he was a great farmer. I do not want to repeat too much of what has been said, but he had a wonderful knowledge of farming and other matters far beyond farming. Peter was a very fluid speaker. He could always stand up in the Seanad and at the agriculture debates in Agriculture House and was to the fore putting forward the farmers' point of view and standing by it.
Everybody is telling little jokes about Peter, but I have no serious jokes to tell, other than he and I being on the Agricultural Panel. Like Senators Ellis and Carty we were spinning yarns. Peter was getting votes from one councillor and I was getting votes from another. That was all good fun. Peter and I were great friends and always enjoyed meeting in this House, on the Seanad campaign, conferences and other places.
It is very strange. The year 1979 must have been wonderful for newcomers to the councils. I was elected in 1979 to Monaghan County Council as well. Peter Callanan, God rest him, was elected that year. Peter Callanan was a great friend to us all and once again to his wife Sheila and his family I offer my sincere sympathy. May he rest in peace.
Time is moving on and a number of Members wish to contribute. I ask them to be as brief as possible.
Is mian liom ár gcomhbhrón agus ár mbród a chur in iúl do mhuintir Callanan. Níl aon amhras ach go bhfuil fear mór croíúil uasal misniúil imithe uainn. Tá taithí againn go léir go pearsanta gur sheas sé an fód nuair a bhí géarghá leis agus gur thug sé an deashampla. Ba dhuine é a raibh prionsabal i gcónaí i gceist aige in aon chomhrá nó aon díospóireacht sa Teach seo agus sin ceann de na cúiseanna go raibh mise chomh mórálach as an Chorcaíoch sin.
I am pleased that this opportunity has arisen to give us the time to pay tribute to a very special gentleman. I am pleased that Sheila and all the Callanan family are here to hear those tributes. It is not necessary because they will be well aware of the great respect which Peter had in his native Cork. One need only look at the huge crowds which turned up to his funeral, which by its very nature had to be sad. However, I do not think anyone left without being aware of how lucky we were to have a man of that calibre as a colleague in this House.
A number of speakers referred to his agricultural background. There is no doubt that Peter was of the soil. The land was everything for him in so far as identity was concerned and he took advantage of every opportunity to ensure those who loved and cultivated the land were well represented.
I had the opportunity to deliver an oration at his funeral. I made a point on that day which has been running through my mind ever since. In many ways, Peter Callanan was an antidote to the negative and contrived image which is sometimes used to describe public representatives. We all feel personally hurt and, often, helpless when we see the profession being denigrated. However, Peter Callanan never felt helpless or vulnerable.
Like others, I was summoned to his office on numerous occasions to discuss issues that had arisen in the House or were reported in the newspaper. In debating these issues, he was always anxious to be clear on where he stood and to ascertain my views. The cut and thrust of debate must be maintained wherever one serves in a public capacity because the exercise of democracy requires it by its very nature. At the same time, however, we hope and pray we do not deliberately offend others when we express our views. I ask my colleagues to think about the contributions that Peter Callanan made in this House. In every way, he epitomised these qualities. I never saw him deliberately personalise an issue to the point where he became insulting. He expressed his views with a strength which came from his background.
One word which has not yet been used to describe Peter Callanan is "republican". He was republican to the core. He believed in everything we stand for in terms of building our own Republic, controlling our own destiny and ensuring the defence of our sovereignty. These issues made up 90% of the discussions I had with Peter Callanan. They were not peripheral to Peter; they were the basis for everything he believed this nation and State stand for.
I hope and pray that Sheila and the rest of the Callanan family will understand that Peter was held in the highest esteem by his colleagues in this House, the Dáil and the local authorities for one special reason, namely, what he said, he believed, and what he believed, he said. What more can we ask of any man?
I sat near him for more than ten years and can genuinely say he was an iconic figure in every sense of the word. I would like to think that Sheila and all the family will have happy memories of and good friends in this House. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam uasal.
I did not work with Peter in this House for as long as previous speakers but I had the pleasure of knowing him when I was a county councillor and he was a Seanad candidate. For all that he was a Cork man, which he could not help, he was extremely popular in County Kerry. Along with Joe Walsh, he was a great friend of my late cousin and former Deputy and Senator, Kit Ahern.
Our offices shared a corridor and shortly after I arrived he entered my office to tell me he was still learning even though he was in his third term in the Seanad. He offered to cut my learning short by guiding me through the system. He acted as my mentor for my first couple of months in the House and, after three or four months, he looked me in the eye and asked me how I was getting on. When I told him I was getting on fairly well, he said that, as my mentor, he would tell me if he saw me going wrong or off the rails. That was a wake up call at a time when I was perhaps celebrating too much my late arrival to the Seanad.
Peter was also a desperate rogue. I met several members of his family and I do not think he left it after him. He used to visit the smoking area of the Members' bar. He was a lifelong pioneer but some of us drank stuff that did not contain caffeine. He did not need alcohol because there was a twinkle in his eye when he spun his yarns about the old times. He was a great man and I miss him. It must be a proud day for his family to hear the wonderful tributes from Senators who knew him much better than I. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.
I wish to be associated with the many tributes being paid to Peter Callanan. Peter was elected in 1997 and, for his first several months in the Seanad, shared an office with me and the late Tony Kett. This experience consolidated my friendship with Peter. Whenever I had a problem, I would go to Peter because he had a way of assessing situations and judging characters. As I found out on numerous occasions, he was never wrong.
Peter loved his family. I used to get a weekly commentary about one or other member of his family and whatever the issue, I would hear about it. I got to know Sheila and the rest of the family very well.
I greatly admired Peter's community spirit. He loved his area and being involved in local issues. He was able to raise these issues on a national stage because of his intimate knowledge of agriculture and the land. He did not need to read the books because he was able to assess the situation from the ground. He took a practical approach to what I felt were real politics. This ability was demonstrated by the votes he won as a county councillor. He would never have lost that seat if he had been allowed to keep a dual mandate.
He was very popular in his own area. That says it all about politics. His was the kind of old school Fianna Fáil politics that I love and miss. He will always be in my heart and he loved being in this House. Even when he was ill, he would nonetheless make the journey to Leinster House. We do not often find the likes of Peter anymore. I miss him terribly and will always remember him as a good politician and a loyal friend. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.
I ask to be associated with the vote of sympathy to Sheila and the rest of the Callanan family on the death of Peter Callanan. Peter occupied the office across the corridor from mine. As we all know, he had the windows of his office sealed shut either to keep out the cold or to keep in the smoke. He was a perfect gentleman although he would not put a tooth in it when he told us whether he agreed with the comments we made in the House. People appreciated that. To his wife and family, I extend my sympathy.
While this is a difficult occasion for Senators on all sides, I hope, as many speakers have stated, it will bring some comfort to Sheila and the extended family of the late Peter Callanan. I am in a unique position, having known Peter since I was elected as a young man to the committee of 15 of the Fianna Fáil Party national executive when he was the constituency delegate from Cork South-West. I find myself back in the Seanad as a result of a by-election which was caused by Peter's death. I now sit on the panel on which he sat. Therefore, I have mixed feelings today as we pay genuine and deserved tributes to Peter in the presence of his extended family.
Many Members had certain things in common with Peter. My wife, like Peter's, is called Sheila and comes from west Cork, from where Peter came. We often talked about this. I was always told to clear my diary for the first week in August to attend the regatta in Castletownbere. I used to take the opportunity of our visit to the regatta to meet Peter in Bandon.
Senators are correct that Peter had a twinkle in his eye and an immense capacity to identify and cut through issues. He often conveyed great strength both inside and outside the House when speaking on issues about which he felt strongly.
I used to admire the timbre in Peter's voice. I told him on more than one occasion that if he had not had the calling of agriculture and the Seanad, he would have made a brilliant broadcaster because he commanded a presence when he rose to speak and his words were always full of substance.
I extend my deepest sympathies to Peter's family on their awful loss. The gap he leaves behind will never be filled, particularly for Sheila who knew him first and all his extended family. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.
I join Senators in paying tribute to the late Peter Callanan who was a great friend to me when I entered the House as a relatively young Senator in 2002. The first thing I learned about Peter was that he was not a member of any clique. We have all observed various cliques around the Houses during the years. The best tribute I can pay is one which previous speakers noted, namely, that Peter had a personal relationship with everybody and a kind word and good advice for everyone. He taught me how to listen by using both ears and one mouth proportionately when taking account of any situation.
I will not be repetitive and instead will simply extend to Sheila, Gerard, Liam, David, Denis, Deirdre and Fionnuala my sincerest and deepest sympathy. It was a pleasure to know Peter. As the Leader correctly stated, those who are near and dear shall never die. I will be forever grateful for some of the tricks of the trade Peter generously shared with me.
I was fortunate to have known the late Peter Callanan for 24 years. When I first arrived in the Innishannon area in 1986, I rang home and excitedly told my family I had met a local councillor. My father quickly responded that he had known Peter Callanan for much longer than I had and was good friends with him, although I believe he was waiting for me to make that call.
I was pleased to have known Peter as a good friend. While we admire many of those who speak in Irish in the House with a beautiful blas, cainteoirí Gaeilge líofa, not only was Peter fluent in agriculture but he was also fluent in politics. When he spoke on a subject politically and at one to one level, his words had an undertone, a modulation and an insight. Anyone listening to the conversation could pick up items of benefit to them. They were like jewels which Peter freely passed on.
Peter also passed on friendship freely, for which I was grateful. We often had a coffee and a chat and when I wanted to speak to him personally he was always available. I miss Peter and extend my sympathy to Sheila and all the Callanan family.
I got to know Peter in 1991 when he was canvassing with his son, Denis. I still remember him coming into my home, taking a seat and producing a pipe. He struck me as a person who was there to entertain me. He was not in any hurry and when my wife produced a cake, he had a large slice of it. When she told him the cake came from a previous canvasser — the person in question has also passed away since — Peter said it was lovely and asked if he could take some with him to give to someone else.
Peter was a man of great warmth who had a tremendous heart. He often said he loved his work in the Seanad and described it as his life. If he started to tell a story, one had to be prepared to listen for at least half an hour. He would talk about the hospitals he visited and what he told the doctors to look for when they could not find anything, and he was right. That was Peter.
Peter loved his native county and often spoke about it. He was also a man of tremendous faith who loved his family, about whom he often spoke, and people in general. He was a genuine person and once told me not to demean anyone. I would sum up his attitude by saying he never looked down on anybody. The only time he would look down on one was to help to pick one up. That is the type of person he was.
Peter loved the camaraderie and competitiveness in the House and made lasting friendships here. I will tell one funny story about him. One night he and Senator Francis O'Brien were in a local hostelry. Although Peter did not drink, he hung on and drank a lemonade or something similar. Senator O'Brien also hung on and I asked myself which of the two would stick out the evening the longest. Peter finally decided to go to bed, at which point Francis asked me if he could have the vote back.
One day, when Peter read a little poem which hangs in my office — I got it from a priest — he asked if he could have a copy. It reads something like this:
Green leaves may wither,
Fond hearts may die,
Friends may forget you,
But never will I.
When the Angelus bells are ringing
And calling me to pray,
I will always think of you,
Although I may be miles and miles away.
I hope Peter has that poem and expect he is probably reading it now. The best thing one can say about anybody can be put in three words. To sum up Peter, he was "a sound man". I extend my deepest sympathy to his family on their sad loss.
I, too, extend my sympathy to the family of Peter Callanan on his sad passing. As a Cork man and Kerry man, respectively, Peter and I had much rivalry and when Kerry inevitably beat Cork, he always had a kind word. I will always remember his ferocious handshake. Being greeted by him was like gripping iron. When Peter spoke about his illness, it was hard to imagine that a man with such a vice-like grip would pass on to the other side. Like my colleagues, I miss Peter. People will recognise the chair in which he always sat as they will have seen him seated here on television broadcasts. Today, Peter is smiling down on us as we speak fondly of him. He was one of life's true gentlemen.
I express my sympathy to Sheila, Peter's wife, and the other members of his family. Peter was a wonderful friend and made many friends in the House. He brought great honour to his family and the local authorities on which he served for a long time. He also showed great enthusiasm for his native County Cork.
Peter had the ideal job and regarded serving in the Seanad as an important means of doing things for his local area. He also served the farming community extremely well in this House. As previous speakers have verified this, I will not dwell on it. I express my sympathy to the Callanan family on their great loss.
I welcome the opportunity to say a few words about the late Peter Callanan, whom I knew for approximately 25 years of our shared political lives. I listened with interest to all the very genuine tributes that have been paid from all sides of the House. I thank the Chathaoirleach for giving me time for more than a few sentences, but If I had to sum up the character of Peter Callanan in one sentence, I would say his soul, be it mortal or political, was never for sale. He was a man of deep principle which, sadly, is very rare in political life. He often spoke to me about the difficulties he had in his own political party during the course of one Administration, the pressure under which he came and the attempts made to get him to change his mind from time to time. However, he always held firm because he was of such firm conviction and sincerity that he could not be purchased. I remember him very much for this.
We had numerous conversations during our time on Cork County Council, in particular its committee on agriculture and then during our times here together in Leinster House. Many speakers mentioned that he did not drink, yet for a man who did not drink he spent an extraordinary amount of time in the Dáil bar. When we had finished there, we would adjourn to the alternative Dáil bar, the former Power's Hotel. His interest in agriculture, rural and community affairs, and political life in the broadest sense always came to the fore. One would always have very interesting and charming conversations with Peter.
While Peter very much enjoyed his role a Member of the Oireachtas and contributed very deeply to the work of this House and the various committees on which he served, above all he loved being a county councillor. He was a premier league-supreme county councillor. Unfortunately, he was never chairman of Cork County Council; he was vice chairman on a number of occasions. However, he chaired council meetings and offered profound and advanced views on local authorities and how they should develop and grow. While I have very positive memories of his life and career here in the Oireachtas, above all I remark on his skill as a councillor and someone who had a genuine vision of how the local authorities could ensure Ireland and rural areas in particular would grow.
Peter persevered through enormous problems with illness. I recall as vividly as if it happened yesterday the day in the summer of 1989 when he opened the Mallow international folk festival. Some of his family members might have been with me on that day. At that stage he was very seriously ill. I walked from the venue of the opening ceremony to the Central Hotel in Mallow with him. While it must have been a distance of no more than 200 yards, it took us approximately an hour because the man was in extremely serious pain and suffering from grave illness. That night I thought I would never see him again. It is an extraordinary testimony to his courage, hope, belief and religious faith that not only did we see him again, but he also battled back and had the ultimate political achievement of winning a seat in this House. That is something from which we can all learn. No matter how high the fence or how long the odds, if a person believes and genuinely hopes, things can improve. Many inside and outside this House took great consolation from hearing stories about Peter overcoming his illness.
I have nothing but the happiest memories of Peter. May he rest in peace.
I join other speakers in extending my sympathy to Mrs. Callanan and the family. I had the pleasure of knowing the late Peter Callanan before I became a Member of this House. He was a very genuine, sincere and caring man who was full of humour and very fair. He had the great ability to put things very succinctly. There was many a day when I was giving the Government side a hard time and he would call me at the corner going out of the door and say: "Don't go too far the next day or you mightn't be here the day after; you might be suspended." There was many a cup of tea I had with him when he calmed me down on occasions when I got a little excited. He was very proud of his family and the role they played in his life. He was very proud of the involvement of his sons and daughter in Valley Rovers in playing hurling and camogie.
One of his lasting legacies to me was to convert me to buying a different model in car. We had the distinction of driving the same make of car, a Renault. On one of the last times I talked to him he said: "Would you ever change to the Laguna because you'll be killed some day, the way you drive." I will always be indebted to him for this. He was a man who had great faith. As someone who had been in a seminary, he could never understand how I had ever been ordained, given my performances here. He always left me with a great sense of religion. In one of my last discussions with him he said: "If we haven't got faith and we haven't got prayer, we've nothing."
I express my deepest sympathies to the Callanan family. Peter had a great smile. He was a rogue, but a nice one and a good Cork man.
I extend my sympathy to Mrs. Callanan and her family on the death of Peter. I met Peter on the very first day I came to this House. I came here in tremendous sadness after a very sad experience in my life. He was very sweet and decent to me. I will never forget him for as long as I live. I went on to tell him that my wedding reception had been in Innishannon which bound me to him forever. We also stayed in Buswell's Hotel where I would meet him every morning. He would always impart some wise word of wisdom to me. I miss him very much from this House and he will always be remembered fondly. God bless all his family.
I am glad to have the opportunity to reminisce about Peter. He had a tremendous impact on my formative years in this House. I became a Member eight years ago. Like Peter, I was elected on the Agricultural Panel and came from a very strong farming background. He represented a generation of Irish people who are becoming scarce. Two years ago my father who would have been approximately the same age as Peter passed away. Peter was a particular source of comfort to me afterwards and we had many discussions about it.
On several occasions he tried his best to get me off the cigarettes. A few moments ago I had to leave to meet a group outside and I found myself in the car park, which is where I often met Peter. Most Senators would meet him in the ante-room outside here or in the car park, where he would be smoking his pipe and he would have a word of wisdom. He used to look at me over the glasses and say, "Come here, young man, I want to have a chat with you about something." We exchanged many words in this House. He had a strong interest in tillage and, in particular, sugar beet production. When I was newly elected, the sugar factory in Carlow closed and Peter toed the Government line. I know that he believed in many of the sentiments I expressed in that argument.
I had the pleasure of meeting Peter during the last Seanad election campaign. From time to time we all meet on the road while travelling the country. I met Peter in Hayes Hotel on the square in Thurles, a famous place. We had dinner together in the middle of the day.
The Senator was nearly converted.
We discussed the upcoming Seanad election, in which we were on the same panel. In the most unusual of elections one does not really compete with individuals from other parties but with individuals within one's own party. Peter was worried, as we all are at election time. The next time I saw him was at the count with his daughter who I believe is in the Visitors Gallery. I cannot remember her name, but there was a sense of relief. Senator Bradford, Peter and I were elected after the one count as Nos. 7, 8 and 9. His family had a sense of satisfaction on his re-election. I also felt satisfaction on his election because I had followed the advice he had given to me and there was as good a scratch as any Fianna Fáil member had ever received from me. In a Seanad election every vote counts.
I am not surprised that Senators spoke about dancing because Peter was always light on his feet and tipped his toes as he went along. I remember having a deep discussion with him one day about ploughing. I have two older brothers who are farmers. My father and older brothers would never let me near a plough for fear I might do damage, but Peter decided to tell me about some of the intricacies. I am only sorry he did not tell me about some of the intricacies of dancing, as it might have been of more benefit to me. I could certainly do with some advice on the matter.
The Senator has time yet.
The year 1979 has been mentioned and it was a great one in many respects. In a way, I won an election, as I was born in that year, as my name suggests. I do not mean this in a partisan way, but Peter always struck me as the most Fine Gael of Fianna Fáil members.
He would not like to hear that.
I mean it in the nicest sense.
He was quieter than that.
I always felt I could have a conversation with Peter. I was deeply sorry to be out of the country when he passed away, but a month ago I attended the wedding in Clonakilty of two of my college friends. I had driven through Innishannon but decided to go back up the hill to the church. I parked my car, but as there was no one there, I did not really know where I was going. I went to the new part of the cemetery and found his grave. I had a little chat with him.
I extend sincere sympathy to Peter's wife, Sheila, and his children. I know he has siblings because there is a man in the front row of the Visitors Gallery who, as we say in south Kilkenny, has the head of him. I imagine it is Peter's brother. I extend sincere sympathy to all of them on Peter's passing.
I want to be associated with all of the warm, kind-hearted and well deserved tributes paid to the late Peter Callanan. Everything that has been said about him is true. We all felt close to him. I came into the House with him in 1997. He used to tell me about what happened at party headquarters and I probably had an affinity with him. We were always able to identify with one another on such matters. He certainly loved the land and everybody who earned their living from it. He was always a great champion of agricultural causes and the advancement of agriculture. We loved the glint in his eye, the roguery and all the yarns he told. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.
I would also like to be associated with the expressions of sympathy on the death of our great colleague, the late Peter Callanan. I was shocked to hear he had died, as I had tea with him on the Thursday before his death. I could not believe it. As has been described, he was a great character and, in ways, a rogue.
I wondered why the Cathaoirleach had asked Members on the Agricultural Panel to speak at the beginning, as Peter was always giving out, about Francie in particular——
He was well marked.
——whom he said had hardly left a vote for him. To be honest, he hardly left a vote for any of us.
Peter bore his illness with great strength. When I asked him how he was feeling, he replied that he had told his doctors to double the dose, as this would either kill or cure him. That was the way he operated. He was an inspiration to anybody with the same illness and full of encouragement.
I was a member of the same panel as Peter and we had the same nominating body in the Irish co-operative movement or ICOS. We used to trade secrets.
I will keep them to myself.
The Senator is a wise man.
Senator Phelan mentioned how he had had great chats with Peter in the car park. If one attended a conference, he could be found in the car park of the hotel.
He was like the chief attendant.
He would meet all councillors on the way in to the conference. I have no doubt that is one of the reasons he was so friendly with many councillors and got such a great number of votes.
As Senator Bradford noted, Peter was not afraid to speak out or take a different view than his party members. He was not afraid to put Ministers on the rack when they came into the House. At the same time, I have no doubt that he was a very good dancer because he definitely tip-toed around a number of issues with the greatest of ease. I extend sympathy to his wife, Sheila, and the members of his large family who are present.
As the Leas-Chathaoirleach, Senator Burke, mentioned and having listened to the contributions, it seems the Agricultural Panel is the premier league. I first met Peter in 1979 or 1980 on what was an unusual national committee, the sheep dipping committee.
A well-travelled committee.
It was. Senator Coghlan was probably a member too.
I missed that one.
I would like to be associated with the tributes paid to the late Peter Callanan who was a Member of this House from 1997. As a nominee of the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society, ICOS, he successfully contested three Seanad elections on the Agricultural Panel. He worked for many years as a member of Cork County Council, on which he served the people of Cork with great commitment and dedication and demonstrated his expertise and knowledge on issues relating to agriculture, which were also greatly valued by his colleagues in the Seanad.
Peter made a significant contribution to political life and the Houses of the Oireachtas in his role as a Senator. He was reliable, good humoured and totally committed to the Fianna Fáil Party and Seanad Éireann. He will be greatly missed by his many friends in the Oireachtas and his native county of Cork. He is particularly missed by his wife, Sheila; sons, Gerard, Liam, David and Denis, and daughters, Deirdre and Fionnuala, all of whom are with us today.