I, too, welcome Elaine, Marion and Angela to the House. I regard today as a celebration of Sam McAughtry's life. I was a Senator at the same time as Sam and I remember well the first time I met him. Looking at a photograph of Sam published in a newspaper the other day, his smile stands out. He had a great, big smile which seemed to be there all the time. I got to know him very well and I remember telling him I had northern connections.
I told him that my mother came from the banks of Lough Neagh in County Armagh and my father came from the poor land of Attical located outside Kilkeel in County Down. This is the land to which the native Irish had to move when the Ulster Plantation took place in the early 1600s. Sam and I talked about this on that day and he said it was interesting to know. He said that his background was such that he would not have had the opportunity to know, on normal terms, people like my grandfather who came from the banks of Lough Neagh or my other grandfather who came from Attical.
I told Sam the following story, which he loved to repeat, about meeting Sir Richard Needham who will not mind my telling this story. He was a British Minister when Margaret Thatcher was in power and I met him at a function in the British Embassy. At the beginning of the meal we addressed each other formally as Senator and Sir or Minister. Towards the end of the meal we addressed each other as Feargal and Richard and I said to him I could not figure out his accent. He responded by saying that he was from Northern Ireland with what I thought, as I said to Sam, a rather swanky Northern accent. I could never claim that Sam had a swanky accent. I asked Richard where he came from and he said Northern Ireland. I responded by informing him that my people came from Northern Ireland. I persisted and asked him whereabouts and he just said County Down. He was not giving anything away. Eventually I said that my father came from County Down, my mother came from County Armagh and asked him again where he came from. He replied with the words "south County Down." Sam roared laughing at the reticence of Richard Needham to say exactly where he was from. In the end I got it out of Richard that he was from Kilkeel. I said to him we may be related because my grandfather came from Attical, from the poor land outside of Kilkeel. He said: "No, no. My good man, you probably owe me rent." Sam loved the story and loved to tell it.
Richard Needham was not born with the Needham name and was originally Lord Kilmorey. He dispensed with the title in order to go for the British House of Commons. He recalled that when he was being put to bed, and then heir to the title of Lord Kilmorey, his nanny would say to him: "You go to sleep now, young Richard, or long Fenians from Attical might come down and take you away."
The reason I have told my story is because Sam loved it so much and was interested in hearing about different sectors of society. As Senator Moran and others have said, he was involved in many things aimed at creating peace and getting the different factions in Ireland together. He worked so hard towards that aim. He showed great commitment in everything he did and spoke about in this Chamber. He forged links and was one of the people who established the peace train. There was great division among so many people in the North. The people from the banks of Lough Neagh and Attical, on the side of the Mourne Mountains, would have had no connection with where he came from in Tigers Bay and he would not have had any connection with them either.
Sam had a wonderful ability as a storyteller. He left school at 14 years of age and became a civil servant after some time spent in the Royal Air Force. Then he published his books at quite a late stage in his life compared with others. He was a prolific writer and wrote many stories and books.
The Seanad was a richer place because Sam brought his humour and good sense to it. I remember his first speech, which Senator Mooney quoted. Sam had insightful views but was able to convey them with humour to the extent that we made sure we were present to hear him. We could also listen to him regularly on his radio programme called "Sunday Miscellany" because he made as many as 200 broadcasts. He had a wonderful Northern accent and displayed a wonderful sparkle of joy and humour. He managed to demonstrate here, more than anything else, his hatred for sectarianism and a belief that we, in Ireland, could be one people, which he worded so well. As Senator Mooney said, he expressed his pride at being a member of the United Kingdom but was also proud to be Irish as well. He was able to put that in words, be committed and accept an invitation to become a Senator. Later he was elected as Senator due to a by-election.
I wish to say to his three daughters here today that these tributes are a celebration of his life. Those of us who knew him celebrate his life. We wish to say how proud we were to have known him. He added to this House and he focused our attention on non-sectarianism of which he was so proud. He did so much, not just with the peace train but in everything else he did. I wish his daughters to have those memories of him and I wish us to have those memories of him.
I express my appreciation to the Cathaoirleach for giving us the opportunity to have this session here today and to remind us all and put on record our memories of such a great man.