Tuesday, 13 October 2009
Death of Member: Expressions of Sympathy
My first duty today is a sad one. In accordance with Standing Order 151, I must announce to the House the death of our esteemed colleague, Senator Peter Callanan. His sudden and untimely death has shocked and saddened everyone. He was a Member of the House from 1997. As a nominee of the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society Limited, he successfully contested three Seanad elections on the Agricultural Panel. He entered politics formally in 1979 when he was elected as a member of Cork County Council. He served the people of County Cork with great commitment, pride and dedication. He was well regarded in his community and his knowledge of issues pertaining to agriculture was greatly valued by his Seanad colleagues. He made a huge contribution to Irish political life and the Houses of the Oireachtas as a Senator. He will be sadly missed by his many friends in all groups and parties in the Oireachtas. I extend my sincere sympathy to his wife, Sheila; his sons, Gerard, Liam, David and Denis, and his two daughters, Deirdre and Fionnuala, on their sad loss.
I call the party and group leaders to express their sympathies. Other Senators will have an opportunity to contribute when formal tributes are paid to the late Senator Callanan.
As Leader of the Seanad, it is with a heavy heart that I say a few short words about the sad passing of a friend and colleague, Senator Peter Callanan. I had great admiration for Peter. He was a wonderful person, a highly intelligent Member of Seanad Éireann and a truly excellent public servant. He was an astute and capable individual who was interested in getting things done.
Born in Castlefreke, west of Clonakilty, he lived and farmed for all his married life in Ballymountain, Innishannon. He was married to Sheila Harrington and had four sons, Gerard, Liam, David and Denis, and two daughters, Deirdre and Fionnuala.
From the time he was elected to Cork County Council first in 1979, Peter served the people of County Cork with tremendous dedication and commitment. He was re-elected in 1985, 1991 and 1999 and every election until 2004 when he was forced to step down under the dual mandate rule preventing Members of the Oireachtas from serving on local councils. He was well regarded throughout his local community for his hard work, enthusiasm and warm personality. The pipe and his smile were his trade marks. He was a life member of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association and proudly wore his pin.
Peter was elected to Seanad Éireann first in 1997 on the Agricultural Panel and subsequently re-elected in 2002 and 2007. As a three time Member of the Seanad, he was a strong champion of farmers' rights and used his membership of joint committees to raise matters of concern in regard to agriculture, food and fisheries. He was also an excellent orator and commanded attention whenever he spoke. He was often involved in protracted discussions on matters close to his heart, both in the Seanad Chamber and at Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meetings. He was not afraid to be controversial or take an unpopular stance when he believed strongly it was 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 an extremely able 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 people of his community, his native County Cork and rural Ireland in general. He was an honourable man and a loyal public servant at local and national level for more than 30 years. An immensely popular man, I know his loss will be widely felt among his friends and colleagues.
We, on this side of the House, acknowledge Peter as a great Fianna Fáil servant. He was a staunch defender of the party, of which he was so proud, and a great upholder of its traditional values. We will all miss him.
On a personal note, I was privileged to serve as Leader of Seanad Éireann during his tenure as a Senator. Along with the Cathaoirleach and on behalf of the House, I extend my deepest sympathy to his wife Sheila, his four sons Gerard, Liam, David and Denis, and his two daughters Deirdre and Fionnuala, and his family and friends in his community. Go ndéanfaidh Dia trócaire ar a anam.
It was with great regret and sadness that I learned of the sudden death of our colleague, Peter Callanan, on Sunday evening. Peter, the man with the pipe, as we all knew him, will be fondly remembered by all who knew him. Peter served on a local authority. Like myself, he entered local politics in 1979 and served up to the end of the dual mandate in 2004. To his wife, Sheila, and family, I extend my sincere sympathy and that of my Fine Gael colleagues in the House.
I also extend my condolences to the Fianna Fáil Members on the Government side of the House who, in a short period of time, have lost two colleagues who were wonderful Members of this House and whom we respected. Peter did not speak too often in this House but when he did, he spoke with clarity, elegance and passion, especially on his main interests of agriculture and supporting small farm families.
Peter certainly was a great defender of the dignity of this House and the institutions of the State. He would be one of the first to stand up today and also express our condolences to the Chief of Staff, the Air Corps and the families of the two pilots who died so tragically in Galway yesterday. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.
I join the Cathaoirleach and the Leader in expressing sympathy with Senator Callanan's family, his many friends in Cork and further afield and, as Senator Cummins stated, with the members of the Fianna Fáil Party in the House who have lost another one of their close colleagues and friends here.
I endorse what has been said about Senator Callanan. I found him to be a most courteous and agreeable man. It puts matters in perspective for me, and I said this to Senator Corrigan on the way in, that I had a conversation with Senator Callanan last week in the anteroom when we were speculating, musing and wondering about when there would and would not be votes in the House. I always found him to be a most engaging, friendly and courteous man.
He spent 30 years in public service which was, as the Cathaoirleach pointed out, most expert public service on behalf of the people he represented in County Cork, first as a councillor and then in this House. He is a considerable loss, principally to his wife Sheila, to the members of his family, to his friends and to his party. On behalf of the Labour Party, I express my deepest sympathies with his family and friends on his sad loss.
On behalf of the Independent benches, I wish to be associated with the words that have been offered by the previous speakers. There will be another day when we can have a more formal tribute to Senator Callanan, but as of now, we should note that he was a man with politics in his bloodstream and Fianna Fáil in the marrow of his bones. He died in office in the way that he would have wanted. He was here up to the last - he was present in the House for the last vote on Thursday - and he did his duty doing what he loved.
I liked the way that he outfoxed his party leadership by managing to get re-elected in the past two elections despite their best efforts. We will miss the twinkle in his eye and the dry west Cork wit he brought with him.
To his wife, his family and his party, we on the Independent benches say ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam. We will go into more detail on another day about his contribution.
On behalf of the Green Party, I express my extreme regret at the sudden passing of Senator Peter Callanan. As a relatively new Senator - I have been in the Seanad for a little over two years - I remember that Senator Callanan was one of the first to extend the hand of friendship to me. Other Senators have mentioned that he always had a twinkle in his eye and a dry or witty remark to make about the business of the House. I will miss his presence in the Seanad, as will his colleagues. He made a valuable contribution in the time I have been here. I express my condolences to his family. He will be missed by all his colleagues in Seanad Éireann.