Former journalist and politician Ted Nealon dies aged 84

Tributes paid to the founder and editor of ‘Nealon’s Guide to the Dáil and Seanad’

Ted Nealon won a Jacob’s Award for the accuracy of his predictions in the 1973 general election. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Ted Nealon won a Jacob’s Award for the accuracy of his predictions in the 1973 general election. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Tue, Jan 28, 2014, 21:25

The former journalist, broadcaster and politician Ted Nealon had died at the age of 84.

A native of Sligo, Mr Nealon had a varied career in journalism before entering public life.

He began his career in national journalism with the Irish Press group and subsequently moved to the Sunday Review, published by the Irish Times, where he was appointed editor.

After the closure of the newspaper in the late 1960s he went to RTE and worked with the current affairs programme Seven Days.

His performance on the night of the general election count in 1973, when his predictions about the allocation of seats proved more reliable than a computer, won him a Jacob’s Award.

He was appointed as Government Press secretary to the Fine Gael Labour coalition in 1976 and after the 1977 election defeat was press officer for Fine Gael.

He was elected to the Dail in his native Sligo Leitrim constituency in 1981 and held his seat at every subsequent general election until he retired from politics in 1997.

Mr Nealon was appointed as Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach in February 1983 with responsibility for Arts and Culture.

In 1973 he published the first Nealon’s Guide to the Dail and Seanad. He edited the publication after every election from then until 1997.

The pioneering publication recorded the election results in every constituency and contained a short biography of every TD and senator. The Irish Times took over publication of the Guide in 2002.

Mr Nealon played gaelic football for Sligo and also played professional rugby league in Lancashire in the early 1950s.

He is survived by his wife Jo, his son Fergal and daughter Louise.

Former taoiseach and leader of Fine Gael John Bruton said he was sorry to hear of the death of Mr Nealon, who he described as a talented press spokesman for the party.

“Acting as spokesman for a party, especially when it is in opposition, is one of the most stressful and thankless jobs in politics. In this and every other capacity, he was both good humoured and incisive, both generous and honest,” Mr Bruton said.

Current Sligo Fine Gael TD and Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise and Employment John Perry said he had learned of Mr Nealon’s death with “a sense of sadness and loss.”

He said that Mr Nealon had been a true legend of politics in Sligo and at national level.

“He was a truly inspirational figure, whose opinion was highly respected and revered, across the political divide. A highly capable, intelligent and eloquently spoken politician, of the utmost integrity and good standing, he founded and was the editor of Nealon’s Guide to the Dáil and Seanad which was published after every general election and was indeed regarded as the “bible” of political statistics and facts.”

Former Irish Times editor Geraldine Kennedy said: “I was very sorry to hear of the death of Ted Nealon. He was one of the very few journalists to succeed in politics. Ted Nealon’s big innovation was the preparation and publication of Nealon’s Guide to the Dáil and Seanad after every general election since 1973.

“It was a great honour for me personally, as political editor of The Irish Times, that Ted bequeathed this newspaper jointly with his publishers, Gill and Macmillan, with the rights to continue its production in the future. It is the most valuable and authoritative reference book for parliamentarians, journalists, students and all of those people interested in the fine detail of elections and referendums,” she added.