FF By-Election Candidate Calls For Martin Resignation

Pictured in Roscommon during the by-election.  Cllr. Ivan Connaughton and Deputy Micheal Martin.
Pictured in Roscommon during the by-election. Cllr. Ivan Connaughton and Deputy Micheal Martin.

In this week’s Roscommon People newspaper, Fianna Fail by-election candidate, Cllr. Ivan Connaughton calls for the resignation of his party leader, Deputy Micheal Martin.

Connaughton was pipped at the post at the Roscommon/South Leitrim election in October. While he topped the poll with 22% of the vote, he was beaten by the transfer friendly, Independent, Michael Fitzmaurice who was supported by Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan MEP. The by-election was called because of Ming leaving the Dail when he won a seat in the European parliament.

Cllr. Connaughton originally ran for FF in the 2011 General Elections, and was unsuccessful, although he was elected to the county council for South Roscommon last May.

On the Roscommon People’s twitter page, they reveal that they have an exclusive interview with Connaughton where he calls for Micheal Martin’s resignation. Two other tweets from the paper reveal quotes from Connaughton, which seem to display frustration.

The 31 years old Athleague based politician said that he will not run for the Dail again unless Micheal Martin is replaced as FF leader. He also said that he “was left offering nothing on Roscommon County Hospital,” during the by-election.

Three opinion polls this weekend shows little change in the fortunes of Fianna Fail. They were 17% at the 2011 General Elections, and the latest polls put them between 18-19%.



Ivan Connaughton calls on Micheal Martin to resign as FF leader in an exclusive interview with Paul Healy in The People on Monday

I was left offering the people nothing on Ros Co Hospital,” -Ivan Connaughton slams FF HQ exclusive interview on Roes People out Monday morning.

Ivan Connaughton says that he will not run for the Dail again unless Michael Martin is replaced as FF leader in the People on Monday

Galway Senator Happy For Reform Alliance to Become a Party

Senator Fidelma Healy-Eames
Senator Fidelma Healy-Eames

Reform Alliance member, Senator Fidelma Healy-Eames would be happy for the group to become a political party. She was one of five members, including Lucinda Creighton who left Fine Gael last year over the abortion issue.

“We are a grouping, there to ask questions, to shake up the power, and are looking for accountability, with different views, and we want political reform, and openness in how things are done,” she said. “We want to see people are served better, and we have a real role, in that sense.”

The Galway senator told irishsmokefill, that neither she nor any of the others have any regrets about the decision that they made last year.

“We all have a right to our own conscience and I worked hard with the Taoiseach to have a free vote, which was not forthcoming, and how unwise that was of the Taoiseach,” said the Senator. “Politics is not static; it’s all the time moving on.”

She said that with the Seanad election, the government will be in the minority in the Seanad.

“It’s going to make the Seanad an exciting chamber of debate, where every vote will be fought for,” she said. “There is a future in Reform Alliance, whether it will always be called that or not. I would be happy if it became a party, and have no difficulty with that. The group is evolving, and is a broad church.”

She said they want accountability in politics and are not for stroke politics, and she would like to see a mass movement and mass offering, of left and right.

“It’s wrong to be classed as party of the left or the right, because that construct has failed,” said Senator Healy-Eames.

‘’Fianna Fail are struggling and fortunate enough to have survived,” – Noel Whelan talks to irishsmokefill

Irish Times columnist and author, Noel Whelan made the above comment last week to irishsmokefill, days before the latest opinion poll result, which put FF at 20 percent, down 5 points from the previous MRBI poll.

‘’Fianna Fail are fortunate to have survived the predictions of many, myself included, and the difficulty they have is there is still so much public anger and volatility out there, that anything can happen in Irish politics,’’ said Whelan.  ‘’They are now other alternatives like Sinn Fein, and space for a possible new political party, but I’m not sure if Reform Alliance have positioned themselves well to be a new party, but we’ll have to wait and see.’’

He said that Fianna Fail hasn’t gone away, but has to be more robust in its opposition and show what new vision it has, and what its priority is.

‘’They have to show what will happen for the next five years, and to talk more and focus more on the future,’’ he said.  ‘‘Fianna Fail should be about recognising where their policies are, and what does a recovered Ireland look like.’’

Noel Whelan is one of the editors, along with Mary O’Rourke and Brian Murphy of the new book, ‘Brian Lenihan – In Calm and Crisis’ published by Irish Academic Press.


‘’Politics in Ireland is in an uncertain place, and not necessarily in a good space,’’ – Drennan talks to irishsmokefill

Political commentator and author, John Drennan made the above comment to irishsmokefill last week, and said that there has been some changes in each of the four main parties.

‘’Fianna Fail have not been trusted, and have not appeared to have learned from how they operated in the past, and Fine Gael have learned too well from how Fianna Fail have operated in the past, and are mimicking them in how they operated,’’ said Drennan, who writes for the Sunday Independent.  ‘’Labour are maybe recovering, and probably the best in governing the country, and not the best in getting the support of citizens.  Sinn Fein are much more polite nowadays and are a coming party.’’

However the commentator said he doesn’t believe Sinn Fein will be in government next time, nor does he believe Fine Gael and Fianna Fail will make a coalition.

‘’Sinn Fein won’t be in government next time, and a coalition between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail will be like a merger between Celtic and Rangers, two alpha males in the one room,’’ said Drennan.

John Drennan calls his new book, ‘Paddy Machiavelli: How to Get Ahead in Irish Politics’, a masterclass if you want to become Taoiseach.

‘’It shows what strokes to pull, and what virtues you need, and it’s not all downbeat, and there is case examples, like Enda and Bertie, the most cute and cunning of them all, and Haughey,’’ he said.

John Drennan’s new book, ‘Paddy Machiavelli: How to Get Ahead in Irish Politics’ is published by Gill and McMillan and in bookshops now.


‘’A Plea For the Written Word’’ at Lenihan Book Launch

Editors of the new Brian Lenihan book - Noel Whelan, Mary O'Rourke and Brian Murphy
Editors of the new Brian Lenihan book – Noel Whelan, Mary O’Rourke and Brian Murphy

Mary O’Rourke made what she called ‘’a plea for the written word’’ at the launch of a new book about her late nephew, Brian Lenihan, in the National Library last week.

The book, ‘Brian Lenihan: In Calm and Crisis’ features twenty essays about the late Minister for Finance. Included in the book is an essay about the early days of the subject’s life growing up in Athlone. Brian Lenihan was born in Athlone, and the family left to live in Dublin when he was twelve years old.

‘’There is such wonderful writing in the book, and I dip into it all the time,’’ said Mary O’Rourke.   ‘’I would like to make a plea for the written word, because there are great publishers who keep on publishing, and marvellous brave booksellers, male and female all over the place and I salute every one of them.’’

The former politician said that while people talk of taking their kindles on holiday, she prefers a book in its original form.

‘’A book is shiny and lovely, and the promise of the written word is enormous and it should be encouraged, and people should buy books and newspapers in their local shops,’’ she said. ‘’There is a delight in buying an unopened newspaper, and seeing the skill that went into making that newspaper. Please do buy books and newspapers and be encouraged to buy them.

The new Brian Lenihan book was launched at the National Library, Dublin by RTE broadcaster John Bowman. The former presenter of ‘Questions and Answers’ talked about the death of Brian Lenihan at a young age, and included it with a mention of the death of his own son, Jonathan Philbin Bowman, at age thirty two years.

‘’The book is exceptional and interesting and about a remarkable politician, and I knew him mainly through broadcasting, but he was always a politician with great courtesy,’’ said John Bowman. ‘’My own son died far too young, and I now find that Brian who lived years longer than Jonathan – was also far too young. It’s a great credit to him that so many people are here tonight.’’

Bowman said that the contributions in the book are authored alphabetically, and he highlighted the story of Brian Lenihan’s boyhood in Athlone,

‘’What one would have given to see a book of this quality about figures like Noel Browne or Sean McEntee,’’ he said.

The proceeds of the new book are going to the Irish Cancer Society.

“No Stone Unturned” in SF By-Election Bid

Deputy Pearse Doherty, Cllr. Martin Kenny and Cllr. Paul Hogan
Deputy Pearse Doherty, Cllr. Martin Kenny and Cllr. Paul Hogan

Sinn Fein’s Director of Elections for the Roscommon/South Leitrim by-election, Deputy Pearse Doherty has vowed that the party will leave no stone unturned in their quest to win the Dail seat.

“We have a TD in waiting, with Martin Kenny, and there’s no doubt about that, and I look forward to the day he comes into the Dail,” said Deputy Doherty at the Sinn Fein convention, which was held in the Abbey Hotel, Roscommon on Monday night.  “I intend to ensure that we will the election, and it’s about throwing everything we have at it, and leaving no stone unturned.”

There was just one candidate for the convention, Cllr. Martin Kenny from Ballinamore, Co. Leitrim.  Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams, attended the convention along with Matt Carthy MEP and another TD, Michael Colreavey from Sligo/Leitrim.  Westmeath was represented by Cllr. Paul Hogan and several of his local party members.

“I’ve no doubt we will take a seat, we have the best candidate, and look at the interest shown by our leadership in being here,” said Roscommon’s Cllr. Michael Mulligan.  “Gerry Adams left a meeting in Belfast to be here.”

Much talk was made by the speakers of a 1917 Roscommon by-election when a Sinn Fein candidate, Count George Plunkett won the seat.  That was the year before Sinn Fein had their breakthrough election, winning 73 seats.

“This people of Roscommon, and South Leitrim can’t wait two years for change, this is our opportunity, and by-elections can change people’s lives and Martin Kenny is an outstanding public representative who has shown that he can deliver for the people of Leitrim,” said Matt Carthy MEP.

A long time councillor in Leitrim, Martin Kenny, has ran for the constituency twice before, gaining 4,637 first preference votes at the last General Election.

Gerry Adams had a hugely positive message for the gathering by saying that it’s crucially important that everybody has it in their heads that the party could win the seat.

“If we don’t think we can win it, one thing is for certain, we won’t win it, and this seat is winnable,” said the Sinn Fein President.

He commented on Donegal unexpectedly winning the match, to the laughter of the gathering.

“Nobody saw Frank Maguire die, the poor man, and out of that came a by-election and the election of Bobby Sands, which is one of the moments that presented to us at that time,” said Adams.

Frank Maguire was a native of Athlone town, and went on to become a Nationalist MP in Fermanagh/South Tyrone.  He died suddenly in 1981, leading to the by-election success of hunger striker Bobby Sands, who also died shortly after his election.   He was succeeded by his election agent Owen Carron, who won the subsequent by-election.

Interestingly Carron was at the Roscommon/South Leitrim convention, and seconded the Kenny nomination, after he was proposed by Cllr. Michael Mulligan.

The by-election is expected to take place on Friday, October 10th.

FF Leader Visits Roscommon/South Leitrim Ahead of By-Election

Cllr. Orla Leyden, Cllr. Ivan Connaughton, Deputy Michael Martin, FF Leader, Senator Terry Leyden and former Roscommon Mayor Martin Connaughton (father of Ivan)
Cllr. Orla Leyden, Cllr. Ivan Connaughton, Deputy Michael Martin, FF Leader, Senator Terry Leyden and former Roscommon Mayor Martin Connaughton (father of Ivan)

The Roscommon/South Leitrim by-election is believed to be taking place on October 10th next, and the first party candidate out of the traps was Fianna Fail’s Cllr. Ivan Connaughton at the end of July.  Last week, he and his party colleagues were assisted in the campaign by their leader Deputy Micheal Martin, who visited the constituency. 

Speaking to irishsmokefill, while on the canvass, Deputy Martin said that the party is putting in a significant effort early on with Ivan Connaughton’s canvass.

“I’m struck here by the strength of our councillors on the ground, and I’m thrilled with the interaction our councillors have with communities on the ground,” said the FF leader.

He said that while the party has to build up the ground again in Dublin, with the Dublin South West by-election, the party doesn’t have a seat in Roscommon, and are not taking anything for granted.

Political punters believe the Roscommon/South Leitrim by-election is Fianna Fail’s to lose.

“We didn’t win a seat in Roscommon at the last General Election, so we are fighting to win a seat, and we have a young and energetic candidate here, who is out with councillors who are held in high esteem,” said Deputy Martin.

When asked about what the government should do with the extra €971 million tax-take, the Fianna Fail leader said that first of all the government should so something about school guidance counsellors.  He also said that medical cards should be a priority, and they have to stop taking discretionary medical cards.

About the heightened tension in Golan Heights and the involvement of Irish troops there, Deputy Martin said the Minister for Defence needs to speak to the Dail or at least give clarity as to their understanding of the situation.

“Risks are now there as regards the safety and security of our troops, which is our No. 1 priority, but I think the fact that the mandate has changed means we have to give urgent consideration to our participation in any new mandate,” said the Fianna Fail leader.  “In terms of any new mission going out to replace the existing mission, we need to be very clear as to what the objectives are, and to make sure that the UN has sufficiently equipped and resourced the mission, that’s very important.”

He said the FF spokesperson on defence, Sean O’Fearghail, has been in touch with the Minister, and that they would like to also get greater clarity from the UN, in terms of the new situation that has emerged.

“It is much different now from what was agreed, and it was a Chapter 6 mission, does it become a Chapter 7 one, which is the difference between peacekeeping and peace enforcement, and these are big issues here which we can’t shirk and we can’t ignore,” said Deputy Martin.

Cllr. Connaughton, is a native of Athleague and represents the Athlone Municipal area of Roscommon County Council.  He ran unsuccessfully in the 2011 General Election for Roscommon/South Leitrim, and got 4,070 first preference votes.  He was first elected to the council in May 2014.  The by-election was caused by Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan winning a seat to the European Parliament, and thereby resigning his Dail seat.

FG Choose Maura Hopkins for “Difficult” Roscommon By-Election


Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Cllr. Maura Hopkins
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Cllr. Maura Hopkins

Taoiseach, Enda Kenny and other Oireachtas members were in Co. Roscommon last week to witness one of their newest Fine Gael councillors becoming the party’s by-election candidate for Roscommon/South Leitrim.

30 years old, Cllr. Maura Hopkins became the party’s choice, when the two other candidates, Sean Finan, and former councillor Michael McGreal pulled out of the race on the night, thereby ensuring no vote was needed.

Ballaghadereen based Cllr. Hopkins previously worked as an Occupational Therapist in St. James Hospital, Dublin before returning to Roscommon to fight the recent Local Elections, where she became one of the county’s three FG councillors.

Fine Gael got 10 councillors elected in the 2009 elections, but two defected, following the government’s decision to close Roscommon’s Accident and Emergency unit in 2011.  Cllr. Hopkins was newly elected in 2014, alongside Cllr. Michael Creighton and Athlone’s Cllr. John Naughten.

“This is a by-election we can very much win, and it’s a great privilege to be the candidate and I’m very proud to fly the FG flag, but we do need to work together as a team in this campaign and the crowd here is hugely encouraging,” said Cllr. Hopkins, to the gathering, at the Percy French Hotel, Strokestown.  “We have a very strong team in Roscommon/South Leitrim, and I will be giving all of my energy to it.”

She acknowledged the Taoiseach opening the Ballaghadereen bypass road earlier that day.

“I’m a young person, ambitious for our future, and my parents instilled in me, an ethos of hard work, and honesty,” she said.  “I started to create a life and home in Dublin, but I came home to Co. Roscommon to run for the council, and to represent our constituency.  Too many young people have been forced to leave with no options, which are a direct legacy of Fianna Fail’s recklessness in government.”

She told two anecdotes about spending time recently with former Roscommon TD, Joan Burke, who represented Fine Gael in Dail Eireann between 1964 and 1981, and about her grandmother’s first cousin being the late Monsignor James Horan of Knock.

“I spent time with Joan Burke last week, and she spoke about the strong support she received, and I am reminded of Joan’s message, which was ‘teamwork is the key to success,” said Cllr. Hopkins.   “My grandmother’s first cousin, Monsignor James Horan was a man with a vision of positivity, who saw how Knock Airport would develop.”

Taoiseach, Enda Kenny said that the Minister Michael Ring, who also chaired the convention in Strokestown would be the Director of Elections for the by-election.

“Ring will be outside your house at 6.15 in the morning wondering why you weren’t canvassing,” said the Taoiseach to laughter from the gathering.  “We’ll have an office in Roscommon, and everyone will have an equal part to canvass.”

Speaking directly to Cllr. Hopkins, the Taoiseach said that Maura has personality, and is professional and articulate.

“You have understanding, and are exactly the type of candidate that politics needs, and you speak for a different generation that you understand better than others,” said the Taoiseach.  “Let candidates be judged on their merits, and we are going to win this by-election because the people will see that we have the best candidate for the future.  I heard you at the FG Ard Fheis, and I said, there is a candidate with a future who believes in herself and what she says.”

The Roscommon/South Leitrim and Dublin South West by-elections are believed to take place on Friday, October 10th.

“History Will Forgive No Politician Who Will Damage The Peace Process,” – Albert Reynolds 1932 – 2014

When he appeared in Athlone in 2001 the former Taoiseach talked about his role in the Northern Ireland peace process.

“On the peace process I set out on a journey for justice. That was the underlying criteria. And I wanted to see a fair deal for people of both traditions and we could do it without violence. It was to put in place an alternative to the conflict. To put in place a new approach that could reach the same goals. For 30 years we had non-stop violence, and I remember the day I took over, we had some of the worst murders.

“I know Northern Ireland politics was always a graveyard for Irish politicians, just as it was for British politicians but I always believed that we should send out a different marketing message from Ireland that Ireland was not a place of war, bombs and bullets. That kind of image could never attract more people to come here,” said the former Taoiseach.

Speaking to this writer about a crisis, which was then (2001) happening in the Northern Ireland Peace Process, Mr. Reynolds said: “History will forgive no politician who will damage the Peace Process.”







Death of A Popular Athlone First Citizen

Austin Berry RIP

The death of Austin Berry at the end of July brought an end to a political life, which had been previously immersed in the Defence Forces, and Irish traditional music and culture.

He was first elected to Athlone Urban District Council in 1999, when he was 69 years old.  He had an illustrious career behind him as an army sergeant, and an All-Ireland prizewinning musician.

Austin was an Independent politician, and had previously run in the 1991 Local Elections for Westmeath County Council, and the 1994 Athlone Urban District council elections.  He was unsuccessful on both occasions, but in 1994 he was credited with helping other Independents to get elected, while doing a good performance himself.

IN 1999, Austin won the eighth seat on the nine person Athlone Urban District council.  Also elected for the first time, to the council was Nicky McFadden, who died tragically earlier this year.  Nicky topped the poll on that occasion, while Austin was elected just ahead of Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran, who was also elected for the first time.

In the following years, Austin brought up many Athlone issues including health issues for the town, road safety and house repairs.  In 2001, the council was renamed Athlone Town Council. At that time, Fianna Fail had control of the council with five members.  Fine Gael had two, and there was one other Independent, Breffni Rowan, along with Austin.

Austin worked tirelessly throughout those years, and endured personal tragedy, suffering the death of his son, Paddy in a road accident, and his wife Maureen of illness.

When the Local Election of 2004 came up, the tide had changed slightly, and Fianna Fail had started to fall down in the polls.  However there was also an increase in support for Fine Gael, Labour and Sinn Fein, but the Independent support also reached high figures.  Breffni Rowan didn’t go for re-election, so Austin was the only sitting Independent running.  However the competition remained high around him.

Following the first count, Austin’s first preference vote went up slightly, but he also got massive transfers from candidates who lost out, and surplus votes from those who were elected early. Again he came in eighth out of nine councillors. The new councillors were Sinn Fein’s Paul Hogan, and Labour’s Ray Lennon. Fianna Fail’s Frankie Keena surprised everyone by dropping votes, and losing out on Athlone Town Council, although he was elected onto Westmeath County Council on the same day.

The final result was Fianna Fail (4), Fine Gael (2), Labour (1), Sinn Fein (1), and Austin was the only Independent elected. It was apparent that Fianna Fail would find it hard to make up the five required to have an alliance which would give them Mayor.   Within days of the council forming, Fine Gael said that they wouldn’t be part of an alliance with Sinn Fein, which ruled out those three working together for an agreement for Mayor. Or did it?

On the night of the first new council meeting, Austin was proposed for Mayor of Athlone, as was a Fianna Fail candidate. The four FF members voted for their party member, while the Fine Gael, Labour and Sinn Fein members joined Austin in a vote for himself for Mayor.

So therefore he became, surprisingly to some, Mayor of Athlone (2004-2005). He was 74 years old. He did the town proud in the role of Mayor, and appeared on television, radio and in the print media regularly promoting the town, and its business.  Following his Mayoral year, he returned to council work, and took on many local issues.

In 2009, after much consideration, Austin decided not to contest the Local Elections of that year, despite the Independent vote remaining high in opinion polls. He decided that he was ready to retire from politics, considering he had now reached 79 years.

He remained active in public life, releasing an album of mouthorgan music, and writing his autobiography, ‘Stepping Back in Time’. The autobiography was launched by former Minister for Education, Mary O’Rourke at a ceremony in 2012, and it is continuing to sell well in local bookshops.

Sadly, illness took over his life in the early part of this year, and Austin passed away surrounded by his loving family on Monday, July 28th.  He was 83 years old.

Ar Dheis De Go Raibh Anam Dilis