'ENORMOUS CONTRIBUTION' The late Seán Calleary
Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin has led the tributes following the passing of former Mayo East TD and Junior Miniser, Seán Calleary saying ‘Ireland has lost one of its greatest public servants’.
A Fianna Fáil TD for 19 years, Seán Calleary passed away in his home in The Quay, Ballina yesterday morning (Monday) aged 86 years. He represented the old Mayo East constituency from 1973 to 1992 and also served three terms as a Junior Minister in the Department of Public Service from 1979 to 1981; at the Department of Trade, Commerce and Tourism in 1982; and at the Department of Foreign Affairs from 1987 to 1992. Commenting on that long career, Micheál Martin said Seán Calleary was unfailing in his dedication to his county and country.
“Seán served his county of Mayo as a TD for 19 years, and served as a government minister for eight years. He served with distinction and honour in the 1980s and early 1990s as Minister of State in the Departments of Labour and Public Service, Industry and Commerce and then Foreign Affairs.
“During his life, Seán made an enormous contribution to his county, his region and his country. He will be greatly missed. My thoughts and sympathies, and those of the entire Fianna Fáil organisation, go out to his wife, Doris, his sons, Conal, John and Dara, and his daughter, Síofra, at this sad time,” he said.
A native of Killala, Seán Calleary was also a gifted and accomplished sportsman, playing a number of codes, including rugby, which he played under an assumed name due to a GAA rule at the time, which banned members from playing ‘foreign’ games.
He represented his native Killala at Gaelic football and won a Sligo senior championship medal with Easkey in 1966. He was inducted into the Easkey GAA Hall of Fame in 2017, while he played inter-county football for Mayo at junior level and served as a senior selector.
He played rugby for Galwegians and Connacht and served as President of Connacht Branch in 2006/07. He also excelled at hurling and soccer representing University College Galway in all four codes at Varsity level.
Calleary was also a member of Mayo County Council from 1967 to 1987 and served on the Ballina Urban District Council from 1981 to 1987, serving as mayor on two occasions, 1983 and 1985.
Current Mayo County Councillor for the Ballina Municipal District Annie May Reape, who worked as his constituency secretary for many years, described Seán as a gentleman who was well liked across the political sphere.
“I was only 19 when I first went to work for Seán as his secretary, and I was very lucky to have him as my boss and mentor. He was a gentleman, and while he was an astute politician he was very likeable and got on with people in all parties across the board. It is evident by the messages of sympathy since news of his death broke,” she said.
“I learned a lot from him but the most thing I took from him was his ability to deal with people and his patience. You would get all types of people coming into the office, and he never got annoyed with anyone. He was patience personified. That much has stuck with me to this day.”
When he was elected as a TD in 1973, Seán followed in the footsteps of his father, Phelim, who was a TD for Mayo North from 1952 to 1969, and in 2007 his son Dara became the third Calleary to be elected a Mayo TD.
Cllr Reape said one of his proudest moments was in the Count Centre in 2007 when Dara was elected as a TD and he was also delighted when he became a Junior Minister in 2009. She said he continued to have a keen interest in politics long after his retirement, and he insisted in voting in the last referendum despite being ill.
Gerry McGuinness, the Chairperson of the Mayo Fianna Fáil CDC, echoed his party leader’s sentiments when he said the ‘entire county has lost a dedicated servant’.
“His quiet demeanour on and off the political field belied a sharp and curious brain that retained facts and brought them back at will whatever the discussion, and made Seán a pleasure to chat to on any topic. He was always to be found deep in conversation, giving his viewpoint on the issues of the day.
“It’s fitting to remember Seán for what he was, a gentleman, as he was considered across the political divide to be, willing to talk to anyone on an issue and show the greatest respect to all, even those he disagreed with.
“His continued contribution to the Fianna Fáil party in the constituency after his retirement was invaluable and was rewarded when he saw his son Dara elected to represent Mayo in Dail Eireann,” he said.
‘One of the greats’
Current Minister for Justice, Charlie Flanagan was among the national politicians to take to social media to express his sadness and condolences with the Calleary family – as did former Mayo and Ballina GAA player, David Brady. In a statement, Ballina Rugby Club said the club was deeply saddened, adding that ‘one of the greats has left us’.
“Seán and his family have been and will always be an integral part of our club and there is a shroud of sadness over Heffernan Park today,” the statement read.
Former Taoiseach Enda Kenny and current front-bench Minister Michael Ring also released statements yesterday paying tribute to Mr Calleary.
Seán Calleary is survived by his wife, Doris (nee Brogan); daughter, Siofra; sons, John, Conall and Dara; grandchildren; son-in-law and daughters-in-law; and wider family.
Seán Calleary will be reposing at McGowan's Funeral Home, Ballina on Wednesday evening from 5pm until 8pm.
His funeral Mass will take place at St Muredach’s Cathedral, Ballina, at 12.30pm, with burial afterwards in Leigue Cemetery. May he rest in peace.