Many of the members of the House of Assembly (HOA) took a walk down memory lane during the 18 October continuation sitting as they shared stories of times and experiences with HOA Member Emeritus and former Ninth District Representative and Premier Hon. Ralph T. O’Neal as they debated a motion to have the Central Administration Complex named after the former legislator.
The motion was passed unanimously following the debate that spent time reminiscing as members on both the Government and Opposition side of the HOA aisle took turns sharing what they recalled about Hon. O’Neal as his wife Mrs. Edris O’Neal and daughter Abby O’Neal sat in earshot.
The regaling began with the moving of the Motion by Minister with responsibility for Works and Utilities Hon. Kye Rymer. In moving the Motion Hon. Rymer described the action as historic: “This is a proud moment for me being the mover of this Motion. What this does, it motivates me to get my team and all the stakeholders who are involved to get the administration complex fully functional, up and running. In that building he spent a lot of his life working for the people of this Territory.”
Meanwhile, the seconder of the Motion Minister for Health and Social Development Hon. Carvin Malone declared that the renaming was fitting: “I stand proudly to second, to lend my contribution and to say that history would recall that I would call him Sir Ralph Telford O’Neal … He is indeed a person who has given without the seeking in return.”
The Minister for Health reflected on the illustrious career of Hon. O’Neal and noted that the statesman has served at all levels of public service: “It is fitting that the central administration complex be named in his honour …he held every office.”
On the other hand, Leader of the Opposition Hon. Marlon Penn announced that he views the fact that he was able to serve in the HOA at the same time Hon. O’Neal did as a privilege. “That is a man that I grew to know … I would call it a privilege and a honor to have served with Hon. O’Neal in this House…As a member of the Public Accounts Committee I saw the way he conducted himself with first class integrity, performed his duties diligently. Even in the twilight of his political career he respected the House, respected the institution of the House. He was a true statesman,” Hon. Penn said.
In noting his support of the renaming Hon. Penn announced: “There is no reservation on my part in terms of ensuring that Hon. O’Neal is honoured, that he is recognized for the contributions that he has made not just to politics but to the entire Territory. His record of service is unmatched by any.” Additionally Hon. Penn noted that Hon. O’Neal’s record of service is even unmatched in the region.
Sixth District Representative, Hon. Alvera Maduro-Caines said that Hon. O’Neal provided much advice and guidance to her at the start of her legislative career: “I learnt a lot from him for the time we sat together. It is really a honor and a privilege for me to have served with him for those two terms. He is a dear friend and I value his opinion. A man full of wisdom, a man full of knowledge.”
In delivering one of the most in depth reflections of the night Premier and Minister for Finance, Hon. Andrew Fahie explained that he was fortunate to serve under Hon. O’Neal’s leadership on both the opposition and government. In fact, the Premier noted that he served six consecutive terms in the House of Assembly and four of those terms were spent on duty with Hon. O’Neal. “I came into politics in 1999 under his leadership. I was literally with him from mountain top to valley.”
Hon. Fahie, echoing Hon. Malone noted that Hon. O’Neal is a modest person who did not like fanfare during his tenure. “He hated recognition,” Hon. Fahie declared. Additionally, the Premier said that the talk of having the Administration Complex named after Hon. O’Neal was promised before but never materialized. “For years quite a number of persons have been talking about recognizing him in this fashion and every time I look nothing would happen. It would just be a talk and then it died off,” the Premier noted.
Reflecting fondly on his time with Hon. O’Neal in the House of Assembly Hon. Fahie said: “We had some good times in this House with Hon. O’Neal. Some people would tell you that he is sleeping, and I remember when I came in; I tested out a day in a meeting. I said something and when the meeting was finished he came forward. He started to repeat everything that happened and I said something contrary; and he said no that’s not what you said son – I was here and I listened to every word; and this is what you said. It was true. He was correct that it was so. I realized that day that he was not a fellow to play with, people think that he sitting down sleeping – wide awake…He was a walking encyclopedia,” Hon. Fahie added.
The Premier repeated that Hon. O’Neal did not like to publicize his good works and he noted that one of the accomplishments of the former Premier that people don’t remember is the establishment of the Bregado Flax Educational Center. “Every single student or young person that went Bregado Flax would say thank God that Ralph T. O’Neal did this bold move in getting that school there…”
Further Hon. Fahie said that Hon. O’Neal fought to have HLSCC program in VG and land for Iris O’Neal clinic. “He was the Chief Minister that got the four way highway done… “The blows he took for the four lane highway,” Hon. Fahie added.
In addition to all stating their agreement that the Central Administration Complex should be named after Hon. O’Neall almost all of the speakers spoke fondly of Hon. O’Neal’s family especially his wife. The legislators said that thanks should be also bestowed on the family for their support during Hon. O’Neal’s years of service.