by Pat Brosnan

The Race for President

During the past couple of weeks the race to be elected President of Ireland has become something of a joke. Every Tom, Dick and Harry who have ever made a name for himself or herself in any context of life around the country during past decades is being proposed and the media has had something of a field day in expounding the suitability or otherwise of the various proposed candidates. So far there have been only a handful of serious candidates. , one of these being Galway’s Michael D Higgins  who has years of political experience behind him as a Dail Deputy and a Minister as well as having all the essential attributes that would make for a suitable President. Another serious contender was David Norris until a begrudger, or group of begrudgers pulled the carpet from under him, because he made certain moves to get a friend of his off the hook in Israel and perhaps the greatest alleged “crime” of all was because he was alleged to have done so on official Seanad note paper. We all remember , too when a couple of more decent Dail deputies Trevor Sergeant of the Green Party and Bobby Molloy of the Progressive Democrats both lost their post in Government because they too made certain representations on behalf of constituents to which the reigning authorities at the time took exception. But to get back to the Presidential campaign some of the proposals for candidates that have been coming up are absolutely ridiculous. Gay Byrne wisely pulled out of the race because he knew that in spite of his talents and record as an RTE television presenter of a popular programme this would not qualify him , particularly at age 77 to become President of Ireland , even if he was elected, which of itself would still be open to question.  Now one of the latest candidates that is being proposed is the well-known and popular GAA and Greyhound racing sports commentator is of course Micheal O Muircheartaigh, who is, of course, a native of West Kerry and a fluent Irish speaker and promoter of Gaelic culture. And as we all know was a super broadcaster on radio and television. Yet in spite of all these qualities it is doubtful that at 80 he would be able to live up to the onerous task which would be required of the President.  Nothing personal to Michel, of course, but he and other senior citizens from 75 – 85 are simply too old for the position. It would need a young, energetic, ambitious and dedicated person to fill the role and to emulate the achievements of the 2 former Presidents – Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese – would certainly be a difficult act to follow. The bottom line is that the Aras is not a suitable place for a sean duine no matter how talented or experienced he/she might have been in another context. The last time around one of the candidates – Derek Nally had a go, but he possibly took it for granted that his experience as a former Garda and later as an organiser for a Victims Support Group might qualify him to become the President. Unfortunately his support in the contest turned out to be rather poor among the electorate and he finished at the bottom of the heap behind the 4 other contenders who were all women candidates and were all young and in their prime. This goes to prove that in exercising their democratic franchise the Irish voters are no longer partial to supporting senior citizens when it comes to electing a President. We all know that in the past some venerable old men were either elected or appointed irrespective of their age, people such as Douglas Hyde, Eamonn DeValera, Sean T Kelly and others. People never asked in those days whether or not they were capable of doing the job or representing the people of the country in the way that they ought to be represented. During the past 14 years Mary McAleese together with her husband Martin have done a great job for Ireland. It will be difficult to replace them, irrespective of who is elected. In the meantime, we will most likely hear of many other potential candidates.


Fleadh for Derry

By all accounts there is growing demand to have Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann held in Derry in 2013, two years from now. Apparently the First Minister of the Northern Assembly Martin McGuinness have written to Senator Labhras O’ Murchu, Ardstiurthor of Comhaltas asking him to make a strong case to have the Fleadh fixed for Derry during the 2013City of Culture Year.  This would certainly be a wonderful gesture by the Comhaltas Organisation and would be recognition of the way that attitudes have been slowly changing in the North since the Democratic Unionists and Sinn Fein came to form the Government together with another few from the minority parties. It is remarkable how well these parties on both sides of the ancient political divide have got on together considering all the failed attempts by the so-called moderate parties to form a Government that could get the widespread support like that of which has been generated by the DUP and Sinn Fein. It is in cultural organisations, such as Comhaltas that the greatest co-operation and unity of purpose can be achieved by the divided communities of the North. But, even as far back as the late 70’s and 80’s when the war in the North was at its height many Protestants used to attend Fleadh Cheiol na h-Eireann.  We remember well John Kennedy from Antrim taking part each year in the newly-composed ballad competition and even winning it on a few occasions.  John was a Protestant and by all accounts at one time used to play with an Orange Band but that never turned him off competing in Comhaltas. A good friend of my own , who visited us in Knocknagorna , on numerous occasions All-Ireland whistling champion John O’Connell from Portglenone used to know John Kennedy well and often spoke highly of him. Now, John O’ Connell who as well as being a champion whistler himself also used to teach whistling techniques to young Comhaltas members in Antrim. Sadly, John O’Connell died back in the 80’s the year after he had won the Senior All-Ireland Whistling Competition. His niece Linda O’Connell, who was a lilting champion, in Ulster also visited us a few times with John. Linda afterwards trained and qualified as a nurse and is now married in Belfast and has a couple of children. She called on us a few years ago on a day visit with her little eldest girl. All these lovely memories have been revived of Ulster people who became my friends during mu working life, both in this country and in England. Also during my time in Comhaltas by the news that the All- Ireland Fleadh Cheoil may well be held in Derry in 2 years time. We hope  the Comhaltas Organisation will seriously consider the proposal because as well as its economic benefit to Derry City it would also be a recognition of the new and welcome more peaceful situation that has evolved in the North during the recent past.


Jack Duggan on Radio

On Saturday night Willie O’Regan’s special guest on West Limerick Radio Programme was Jack Duggan of Sugar Hill. Jack gave a very interesting run down on his life from the time he finished National School in Cratloe in his early teens and went to work with farmers in different parts of the country. Later he immigrated to England and worked in Sheffield. After returning home he was employed by Forestry Company. Since his retirement he still produces his own turf, some of which he still cuts with a slean. Jack was a member of a large family and his account of growing up in Sugar Hill and the characters he knew there is certainly the stuff of legend. Very appropriately Jack sang “The wild Colonial Boy” a song made famous by the late Connie Foley of Tralee. “There was a wild colonial boy, Jack Duggan was his name”. Well done to Jack and also to presenter Willie O’Regan for a very pleasant hours listening.



West Limerick Set Dancing Club will hold a Céilí at the Railway Bar, Abbeyfeale on this Friday. Music by Domhnall de Barra and all are welcome.