Ar dtús báire, ar mo shon féin agus ar son Fhianna Fáil, déanaim comhbhrón le muintir Sheán Ardagh agus lena chlann uilig. B'fhear stuama, cneasta, gníomhach agus críochnúil é. Duine ciallmhar agus polaiteoir den scoth a bhí ann. Bhí sé dílis dá mhuintir féin agus d'oibrigh sé go dian dícheallach Domhnach is dálach ar son mhuintir a dhúiche féin. Bhí sé ar a shuaimhneas agus an-éifeachtach ar fad sa Pharlaimint, go háirithe i gcoistí na Dála, an Coiste Chuntais Phoiblí agus an Coiste um Dhlí agus Cheart agus Comhionannas ach go háirithe.
Seán Ardagh was one of the great gentlemen of Irish politics and one of the kindest people one could meet. I always appreciated his advice on a personal level but also his continual good nature. He was immensely hard working, courteous and committed. He was also enormously popular with his colleagues and, of course, his constituents. There is no greater testament to that popularity than the fact that every time he contested an election, he won that election. His first campaign was in 1985 when he ran in the local elections. He had to share the ticket on that occasion, I believe, with no less a celebrity than Sonny Knowles, who has recently passed away, and we extend our sympathies to his family also. Seán was the highest polling of the four Fianna Fáil candidates. He ran for Dáil Éireann on three occasions. Not only did he win every time but he also increased his vote on each occasion. At his final outing in 2007, he topped the poll and was elected on the first count.
He was a very fine and brilliant parliamentarian in the true sense of that word. In particular, he was a very eminent and solid chairperson of a number of Oireachtas committees. As a member of the Committee of Public Accounts, he established himself very firmly during the DIRT hearings in the late 1990s. Obviously, he was greatly aided by his own accountancy background in this endeavour but, for a first-time Deputy, he quickly acquired an authoritative reputation that would have been more in keeping with a more experienced Member of the House. After his re-election in 2002 and 2007, he chaired the Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights, which was always one of the busiest. Again, he carried out the role with aplomb. He really was a natural. He was rarely adversarial. He never prejudged an issue and was always open in his approach and dealings, and he maintained that during his tenure as Chair of the Committee on the Constitution during the 30th Dáil.
I have no doubt his equable temperament on political matters gave him great strength when he faced serious health issues during his time in the House. He was first diagnosed with cancer in his first term. He got past it that time only for it to re-occur again in 2010, when he was absent from the Dáil because of illness for a period of the year. He tackled his diagnosis with great dignity and inner strength and, of course, with the help of his close family. Before Seán passed away in 2016, he happily and proudly saw his daughter Catherine elected to Seanad Éireann and he took great pride in her achievement. He was a keen supporter of her campaigns and may well have enjoyed them more than his own. Indeed, when we knock on doors, as I do with Catherine from time to time in that constituency, Seán's name is always mentioned with the highest of esteem and affection.
One constant in his life throughout was Máire and for 45 years they were together. They were best friends, hand in glove, and she too was elected to public office. They were both very committed to public service and to politics. It is often a cliché at times like this but I believe Seán Ardagh was one of the true gentlemen of Irish politics. His decency, integrity and good nature were transparent at all times, qualities that are invaluable in political life. He always had good advice for people and he led by example. Seán did not seek the headlines but what he said mattered. Any time he spoke, he was listened to as people respected him greatly. If he did not have anything good to say about people, he did not say anything.
I again extend my deepest sympathies to all of Seán's family - his wife Máire, sons Rory and Charlie and, of course, Catherine. He is still very fondly remembered and sadly missed.
Aire, Teachta agus polaiteoir den scoth ab ea Seán Calleary. Bhí cúrsaí polaitíochta ina chlann ó thosach. Thuig sé tábhacht sheirbhís phoiblí. D'oibrigh sé go dian dícheallach Domhnach is dálach ar son mhuintir a dhúiche féin. Bhí suim faoi leith aige i gcúrsaí spóirt. B'fhéidir nach bhfuil sé seo ar eolas ag daoine, ach d'imir sé peil, sacar agus rugbaí. Peileadóir den scoth a bhí ann. Mar Aire dhein sé an-chuid, go háirithe nuair a bhí sé sa Roinn Gnóthaí Eachtracha i gceannas ar an rannóg le haghaidh tíortha atá fós ag forbairt san Afraic. Sheas sé go doimhin lena phrionsabail i gcónaí.
One of Ireland's greatest public servants and gentlemen, Seán Calleary served Mayo as a Deputy for 19 years, eight of these as a Government Minister. He discharged his duties with distinction and honour in the 1980s and early 1990s as Minister of State in the Departments of Labour, Public Service, Industry and Commerce and then Foreign Affairs. Politics was in the blood, of course. His father, Phelim, won a by-election when Seán was eight months old. However, he first came to prominence through a very ecumenical sporting ability. He played junior football with Mayo and he lined out for University College Galway and won the Sigerson Cup in 1955. However, he did not let it rest there.
In the same year he lined out for UCG in soccer and won the Collingwood Cup, the first ever victory for UCG and stopped University College Dublin, UCD, from winning an eighth in a row. He had a deep and lifelong love for rugby and his great performances for Galwegians helped the club to achieve a regional dominance. This was at a time when the Gaelic Athletic Association, GAA, did not allow members to play or even attend what were termed "foreign games". Seán, a member of the Mayo junior team, simply adopted the pseudonym, J. J. Kelly, also known as Jacko. As his celebrity as a player grew, a journalist said "I don't know if you have seen that Jacko Kelly but if you're half the player he is, you'll be very good." Following his playing career he performed leadership roles in Mayo GAA as selector and Connacht Rugby as president of the Connacht branch of the Irish Rugby and Football Union, IRFU. He was particularly pleased to be inducted into the Mayo sports star hall of fame in 2014.
His political career began with election in 1967 to the county council. This started an uninterrupted series of electoral successes, which stretched over the next 22 years, and he spent 19 years as a Member of the Dáil. He quickly made a name for himself in Leinster House as a decent and considerate man who drew great strength from the community he served. It was in his five years as Minister of State in the Department of Foreign Affairs that he made his biggest impact. His primary responsibility was overseas development aid but he played a much wider role and often stood in for his senior Minister, Brian Lenihan Snr, at major international meetings as well as in the Dáil. He presented the shamrock to the first President Bush standing in for the then Taoiseach, Charles Haughey, and for Brian Lenihan. He was the first Mayo man to present the shamrock in the White House through circumstance.
Ireland's strong international standing for its overseas development work is because of people like Seán Calleary who brought his engineering background to bear on the development of water solutions for many of the people in Africa. He may not have had the resources available to him then that subsequent economic growth provided but he demonstrated leadership and determination in policies that have benefitted millions of the world's poorest people. His greatest pride, of course, was in his family and his wife, Doris. At his funeral in Mayo last June, his son Dara told us he was "privileged to have a ringside seat at one of the world's greatest love stories, Seán and Doris. They were devoted to each other." He was proud of all his children's achievements and took great pride in Dara being elected to serve the people of Mayo in Dáil Éireann in 2007. He was ever available to give my good self advice on the fortunes of the party from 2011 on and the re-emergence and renewal of the party. His advice was always strongly given and with effect. On behalf of the party and on my own behalf, I extend our sympathies to his wife, Doris, to Dara, Conall, John, and his daughter Síofra. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a n-anamacha dílse.