Two local and wonderfully motivated young men have come to my attention over the past couple of years. They’re both emerging, brightly coloured with opinions to match, through their involvement in politics.
I’m sure I’ll see their names on ballot papers some day soon and my No.1 vote and the anguish that goes with it will be torn between them.
On those ballot papers of the future they will appear in the following order: Flynn, Paddy, O’Mahony, Art.
They stood shoulder-to-shoulder in Croke Park last Monday as representatives of their school, St. Patrick’s Boys’ Secondary School, on their mission with friends to collect the Tricolour – which will fly over their school during Easter.
I met them during the week as they broke bread together at lunchtime in Mrs. Nelligan’s with schoolmates.
As they’re both only in their teens it may seem foolish to set them in party colours just yet. However, these boys are far down the party road by now and the political dye would appear to be well and truly cast in both their cases.
I saw and observed them at the recent General Election count and their demeanours differed so greatly. They differed in line with the fortunes of those they followed with all the political passion they could muster. Paddy Flynn was in political heaven as the day unfolded and every opening box threw up only good news for the Healy Raes.
Art O’Mahony wore Jimmy Deenihan’s faltering political career as a personal hurt and he couldn’t hide his disappointment all day long. For both of them it was their first time experiencing the mechanics of an election with the bonnet up.
And, in fairness to them, it’s about the only aspect of the business in which they lacked experience. On the who and the why and the where of politics they have cutting edge up.
I thought I’d ‘let the hare sit’ – Desmond O’Malley 1985 – for a couple of weeks and ask the two friends to reflect on their differing General Election 2016 experiences. And they did it with gusto and here they are. We’ll start with Paddy Flynn’s analysis of what he encountered:
My First Election
By Paddy Flynn, Healy Rae Supporter.
General Election 2016 was the first real time for me to finally get to see the heart of what Irish politics is all about, Getting Elected!
I have always had keen interest in politics; my Great Grandfather Mick Pierce was Captain of the Ballyheigue Anti-Treaty Brigade during the Civil War and a proud Fianna Fáil supporter all his life. He visited Éamonn De Valera on many occasions, attended Fianna Fáil meetings and even met Dev when he was President at Áras an Uachtaráin.
Then my great grandmother, Nellie Pierce had a first cousin, Batt O’Connor, or Uncle Batt as my grandmother and her brother and sisters affectionately remember him by, represented Dublin County in the third Dáil onwards.
He was on the pro-treaty side and was in Cumann na nGaedheal and later a Fine Gael T.D until his death.
Batt was an Irish Volunteer and he joined on the same night as De Valera and was jailed along with the brave men of 1916 despite being in Brosna visiting his family on the week of the Easter Rising. He was also the best friend of Michael Collins especially after Harry Boland fell out with Collins and went on the Anti-Treaty side.
My father’s side had political influence in the past too, my great grand uncle was Paddy Burke and he was on the Anti-Treaty side during the Civil War and the story goes that he was the 10th member of what should have been the ‘Ballyseedy 10’ the great tragedy where eight men lost lives after nine captured Anti-Treaty soldiers were tied to a landmine in retaliation for attacks by their side in Knocknagoshel.
Irish Republican Movement in the USA
Paddy Burke was saved by intervention of a priest the night before, I am told, and he later went to California to help set up the Irish Republican movement in the U.S.A.
So I have no shortage of political links in my family history but then again we all have a very colourful political lineage because politics in Ireland has always been a huge part of everybody’s life and, of course, I carry on the tradition and relish the fact that I got to see first-hand the general election this year and if I may say it was a spectacular sight.
I was so pleased that people took a stand and voted and that is what it’s all about for if the boys of 1916 hadn’t done the same thing we would be still oppressed by a foreign crown today.
Who did I support during this election? I won’t deny it I’m old Fianna Fáil in my beliefs and I am a keen supporter of the Healy Raes. I think Michael and Danny Healy Rae are brilliant men and they get the job done.
Healy Raes the Best Workers
One must take careful consideration in whom to support and for me the Healy Raes are the best workers in Kerry. I’d even go as far to say they are the best thing the people of Kerry have ever got since the creation of the game of Gaelic Football.
Of course the election this year was tense and unpredictable I was rooting for Michael Healy Rae for a long time as I went with him for a week of work experience and had the pleasure of shadowing the man in Dáil Éireann and was really was amazed by his energy, ideas and ability.
Election 2016 was exciting early on and I was shocked like most when Tom Fleming pulled out of the race the day after I had only been speaking to him at the Castleisland Chamber Alliance meeting with the candidates and TD’s.
Shocked and Grieved
While I and many felt shocked and grieved at the loss of Tom Fleming, a long serving politician in our parish, the Healy Raes were working like clockwork and examining the situation and what the event meant to their campaign.
That’s when, days later, the county was bombarded with new headlines minutes before the entry day to run in the General Election and Danny Healy Rae entered the race to the surprise of everyone.
I was shocked and outright delighted. Never in my wildest dreams could I have ever imagined such a bold and brilliant move and by God was I rooting for them to make history and both get in.
I made sure to let the people know who I wanted to see get elected and both in my locality and on social media I was vocal in why I wanted people to support the Healy Raes and that was my way of supporting them.
Major Parties – Tactical Errors
It was wonderful to see the Healy Raes during the election canvassing and to get photos with them and show them my support.
For me the Healy Raes waged their election campaign like it should be done and I think they carried out one of the best election campaigns the country has ever seen.
Politics in Ireland has always been local and I completely call out the major parties in their tactical error in forgetting that.
You have to canvas, you have to bring the army out and show the people that you are fighting. Politics all through the decades has been dominated by public relations and by continuously making the people feel that those running for Dáil are listening to them and that they care.
The Healy Raes have this way of campaigning to perfection and of course this is the reason why along with their track record and hard work that they topped election results and came first and second respectively.
One Set of Canvassers
I couldn’t be more delighted for them, they really deserved it. They used every minute of every day up until the vote to visit each and every voter in the county. Even my grandmother a woman who has voted in every election since she was eligible to vote received only one set of canvassers to her door, the Healy Raes.
I think the T.D’s or T.D wannabes missed the boat when it came to canvassing to every door and speaking to every voter. In my mind this is more crucial in getting votes than the words preached and probably the very reason Renua for example didn’t earn a single seat.
But no fear for we have ‘Raenua’ now.
The count was a bustling hub in the Killarney Sports and Leisure Centre. You had people from every side and every area coming out to support different candidates and to see the results of the General Election.
It was a wonderful event and a great place to debate about politics with people and to have intelligent conversation about the election and the state of the country.
I was very glad to have been there to see the Healy Raes elected and I think above all this election proved that the people spoke and the people wanted the Healy Raes.
As for the country the election was historic. Labour went from its biggest number of 37 seats in the 2011 down to seven its smallest amount of seats and Arthur Spring lost his seat.
Sinn Féin did extremely well for a party that had only one seat in 1997 it now has 23 seats and Martin Ferris was re-elected.
Fianna Fáil has redeemed itself, and although still not the biggest party like it was for over 75 years up until 2011, it did very well to earn 44 seats and John Brassil was elected to the Dáil.
Fine Gael like Labour was visibly punished by the voters and the election did not go as planned. They lost 26 seats including that of the seat of Jimmy Deenihan a terrible blow to Fine Gael’s presence in The Kingdom.
Brendan Griffin did manage to successfully retain his seat for Fine Gael though.
Overall I am very pleased with the results and, of course, most glad that the two Healy Raes made history and both got elected.
Michael Healy Rae received the highest number of votes in the country – which was a specular achievement.
Their parade after the election was also a joyous sight and a very kind gesture from the Kilgarvan clan to show their appreciation to their voters.
Their appearance on the Late Late was also a brilliant night for the county and it was great to see them show Ryan Tubridy and the viewers how politically competent they are.
Wave of Change
This election shows the wave of change that has spread across our nation. Coalitions are now extremely common in the Irish Government and Fianna Fáíl and Fine Gael as parties have both changed dramatically in the last 25 years. As for a Government this time round, well honestly, I can’t say what will happen. Fianna Fáíl and Fine Gael forming a government would be historic on the centenary of 1916.
But I believe this would likely decimate one of the coalition partners after the term would end. As for Fianna Fáíl and Sinn Fein along with a few Independents it seems that is the only alternative. Is this the outcome?
I would say not but this is the dark road we are going down and much like the rest of Europe the huge divides among voters – which I would consider worse than the Civil War divides – is leading to a very fragmented Dáil.
People are Making a Stand
I believe a re-election will likely have to be called much like in 1927 to allow Fianna Fáil most likely to gain more seats and form their own government.
We have gone from an era of Fianna Fáíl running the Government on their own or Fine Gael and Labour in a coalition to keep them out and now we have a very divided Dáil where many parties have a voice and coalitions are the only means to create a new Government.
What the future holds is unknown. Yet, one thing is for sure, the people are making a stand maybe not a clear one but people are exercising their right to vote and their right to use democracy for change.
I, for one, look forward to see what that brings. Who knows maybe I’ll have the chance to run for Government myself someday.
For now I trust our elected representatives and the Healy Raes to look out for things here in Kerry and I hope for a prosperous future for us all.
The People Have Spoken
By Art O’Mahony, Chairman, Kerry Young Fine Gael
The 1916 Easter Rising was the catalyst for the foundation of the Irish state, as we know it today. One hundred years later it is perhaps fitting that we saw a revolution in polling stations nationwide. Evidently, not alone has civil war politics met its waterloo, but ultimately the system of governing, as we know it is in existential crisis.
The electorate exercised its right to vote in dramatic fashion, and Dáil Éireann now hosts representatives with hugely contrasting ideologies. Undoubtedly, Election 2016 has left us with more questions than answers.
Uncharted Political Waters
Ireland is currently in uncharted political waters and it is absolutely scandalous that political entities are already ignoring their mandate and refusing to co-operate in government formation.
No obvious structure for a government exists and therefore this is a time for inclusive and responsible innovation in Leinster House. T
here is potential in this unprecedented result, f members are willing to put the country before themselves and cement a stable body to prevent our recovery from derailing.
My own view is that Fianna Fáil will be more comfortable supporting a Fine Gael minority government rather than entering a ‘Grand Coalition’ in order to sustain its obvious growth.
If this happens, speaking as a member of Fine Gael, I believe that the Programme for Government’s inclusiveness should be without borders. Other than simply Fianna Fáil, seek the advice of the Social Democrats on health, the Green Party on climate change and so on in order the broaden the base of government support and decentralise power.
More importantly, write a co-operative contingency plan that clearly states how the support would deal with unforeseeable economic difficulties. This would prevent Fianna Fáil pulling the legs from under Fine Gael as it were.
Regardless of what political ideologies we may possess, there is common ground among us all. Primarily, we do not want to jeopardise our political stability by tackling another election within a year.
We cannot afford to lacerate this hard fought recovery by reintroducing the economic three card trick while oil prices, exchange rates and credit access suits us. Responsible governing must continue.