I welcome Mrs Bríd Dolan and her 22 family members who have come to the Chamber to acknowledge and pay tribute to a great Irishman and a great friend, Séamus Dolan. It is with great sadness that I pay tribute to Séamus, who was the oldest retired Member of the Oireachtas. Séamus, who sadly passed away last August, was older than the State itself. He survived the Civil War at home and two world wars that changed the world. He lived through the inter-continental destruction of the first half of the 20th century and the economic war with Britain that left an indelible mark on his generation.
Séamus was born in 1914 and received a scholarship to attend Coláiste Caoimhín in Glasnevin from the local national school and from there he went on to train in St. Patrick's College, Drumcondra, qualifying as a primary teacher in 1936. He taught in Belturbet for six years and then in Killygorman for 45 years.
Séamus was a great Irishman who was very proud of his country, its history and its language. As a fluent Irish speaker, he took every opportunity to promote the language and its use. He passed his love for Irish tradition and culture on to his family. Irish was the first language spoken in the Dolan household. I heard Séamus speaking on the telephone during the later years of life. It gave him a great lift to speak to his children in New York, who have been enormously successful, and in other parts of the world. He promoted the language and culture at every opportunity and was very involved in the running of feiseanna, particularly in Belturbet.
Séamus was very interested in local history and was fond of recounting stories, particularly of local history in County Cavan and local folklore. He was a great supporter of the GAA and was actively involved in two professional organisations, namely, the INTO and the Irish Farmers Association.
Although he was only 12 years old when the Fianna Fáil Party was founded, Séamus was a lifelong member of the party, having served it in every forum to which he was elected. From his early years he was very interested in public life and became a member of Cavan County Council in 1950, where he remained until 1986, and held a place on many of the local authority statutory committees, including the VEC. As a member of County Cavan Vocational Education Committee, he was a strong advocate of expanding educational opportunities and a strong supporter of third level education, in particular.
We are all aware of Séamus's commitment to tourism, particularly its potential in the area he consistently highlighted, County Cavan. We all remember him promoting the development of the Ballinamore-Ballyconnell Canal long before it was seen as a realistic project.
Séamus was proud to have been elected to Dáil Éireann in 1961 as a Deputy for the Cavan constituency in which he served until 1965. He went on to serve the people of Cavan and Ireland as a Senator from 1965 until 1982, but his greatest honour was still to come. In 1977 he was elected Cathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann, a role he performed with great dignity and pride until 1981. During this time he represented Ireland with great distinction at many international conferences and in many parliaments. He attended the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe before the establishment of the European Parliament. He was chairman of cross-Border committees in the 1960s when such bodies were not as plentiful as they are today.
Following his retirement from public life, Séamus remained active in promoting the Irish language, its culture and history. He remained active on behalf of Fianna Fáil and worked in successive general election campaigns when the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Deputy Brendan Smith; the former Minister, Deputy Rory O'Hanlon, and others benefited from his commitment and dedication.
Séamus was truly a great Irishman. He was very proud of his country, its history and language. On my own behalf and that of the Fianna Fáil Party and all Members of Seanad Éireann, I extend our deepest sympathy and heart-felt wishes to his wife, Bríd, who was by his side many a time in this House and whom we all had the experience of meeting at election time, particularly during Seanad elections. She was as good a canvasser as any I have ever met in my time running for election to Seanad Éireann. Séamus and I fought an election on the one panel and, of course, won on that occasion.
It is lovely to see Bríd here today with her family, Bríd Óg, Anne, Séamus Óg, Sinéad, Aodh, Ruarí, Shane and Turloch, as well as extended family members and friends of Séamus. Go ndéanfaidh Dia trócaire ar a anam.