Letters of a Successful TD – Theatre Review

Although written in the mid 1960s, the John B. Keane book of the same title as the play that is currently in the Gaiety Theatre could be written this very day.  

Despite all that is currently going on in government buildings – for real political watchers there is only one theatre to be in, and one story to enjoy, and that is the play, ‘Letters of a Successful TD’. The two hander stars Mary McEvoy and Jon Kenny of D’Unbelievables.

Mary McEvoy is a great actress, from her 17 years as Biddy on TV’s ‘Glenroe’ to her theatre touring over the past 17 years. However Jon Kenny, as Tull McAdoo TD, was quite a revelation here, because while comedy was to the forefront of his many performances here, he also showed that he could work on emotion and drama, writes David Flynn.

The two actors portray about 10 characters each, and the play is actually based on two of John B’s books, ‘The Letters of a Successful TD and ‘An Irish Minister of State’. It was adapted by the two actors and Michael Scott.

It is bizarre how nothing has changed in politics since the 60s, when Keane wrote his books.

Elections and re-elections are featured throughout the interesting story. The play talked about stuff like a TD buying land knowing that the land is up for development and making sure it is not in the TDs name. The dreaded ‘Independent’ name is uttered from start to finish. Also there is the creation of Ministers portfolios to please a candidate, and the adding of a candidate in a constituency to make life difficult for an older TD.

However standing outside the comedy, the play also shows the hard life experienced by a TD, where many sacrifices have to be made, not least of which is family life.

Lighting was well handled when needed and key lights were spot on for both Mary and Jon.

It’s well worth a look either in the Gaiety Theatre before it ends its run on February 18th, or later on, when it comes down the country. It’s a constant laugh throughout, thanks in no small measure to McEvoy and Kenny.

It’s not said which of the political parties Tull McAdoo is a member of, but for all political watchers ‘Letters of a Successful TD’ is a must.






Death of Former Roscommon TD – Joan Burke

A constant poll topping TD who made her mark on Roscommon politics died over the weekend in Dublin at the age of 88 years.

Fondly called ‘Mrs. Joan Burke’ when she stood for a bye-election in 1964, which followed the untimely death of her husband, Deputy Jimmy Burke.   Roscommon folk, particularly in her own Fine Gael party, continued calling her ‘Mrs. Joan Burke’, when talking publicly about the four times Dail winner.

A Cork native, and a nurse by profession, Joan Burke was a widow at 36 with two children under five years of age, when she was asked by Fine Gael to contest the 1964 by-election. She topped the poll and continued doing so for the subsequent, 1969, 1973, and 1977 elections. Her success at the latter election was no mean feat, writes David Flynn, because the government of Fine Gael and Labour got a pasting at the polls, similar to recent elections, and Fianna Fail got an extra 20 seat overall majority.

She suffered an accident in 1976, and reluctantly went for the 1977 General Election, but retired from politics before the 1981 election.

Mary Flynn, who lives in Athlone was a friend and neighbour of Joan Burke’s in her native Tulsk.  Mary was a member of the traditional music, McHale family from Tulsk, and was sister of the late champion tin whistle player, Tom McHale.

“She was a lady, and the friendship I had with Joan grew out of my father’s friendship with Jimmy Burke, and Joan was a guest at my wedding in 1967,” said Mary. “It’s very sad to hear of her death, and may she rest in peace.”

Boxer – All Going Well For Budget

The Independent Alliance is going well, but for a few hitches and buts according to Deputy Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran. The group have recently signed up Catherine Halloran, former journalist with the Star newspaper as their new Press Officer, and they recently had a ‘wobble will he or won’t he resign,’ with their Minister for training and skills, John Halligan, over Waterford Hospital. In the end, he didn’t.

Boxer Moran from Athlone, is the Deputy Whip of the government, and is set to take up the Ministry for OPW next May, if the government gets that far.

“As Deputy Whip of the government, I have to bring our lads in line, and some of the lads were in opposition for a long time, and are now in government, and Fine Gael have to realise how the Independent Alliance operates, and the general media also have to realise that things can’t be just guillotined through the Dail,” said Boxer, in an interview with irishsmokefill.

He said that he didn’t see any problems in relation to the budget.

“All is going according to plan,” he said. “We’ve got to think of everyone, rural Ireland, helping the pensioners and Fianna Fail are dreaming, but we have to be mindful that when we give an increase, someone else suffers.”

Fianna Fail had been pushing for a €5 increase per week for pensioners.

Boxer said he is hopeful that something can be done for farm assistance, in relation to CAP, for the small farmer, writes David Flynn.

“Also the sheep farmer, there has never been any grant for the sheep farmer,” said Boxer, who further said that he and Independent Alliance Minister Sean Canny have had a number of meetings with Ministers Michael Noonan and Paschal Donohue. “We have to bargain for our lads (Independent Alliance).”

Boxer said that going from local to national politics over the past year has been tough going, but he’s learning all the time and it’s day and night work.


Government Will Last – Harry McGee Talks to irishsmokefill

Political Correspondent of the Irish Times, Harry McGee has said that the current government is working relatively well, and will last longer than some have anticipated.

Harry McGee said in an interview this week with irishsmokefill that the government arrangement of Fine Gael, Independents, and the loose support of Fianna Fail, is very interesting, and unusual and has obviously led to uncertainty on whether it could last.

“It is unprecedented in an Irish context, where the major party has only a third of all seats, and neither of the larger parties (Fine Gael and Fianna Fail) were amenable to going into government together,” he said.

However, Harry McGee does believe that Taoiseach Enda Kenny was serious in the coalition offer he made to Fianna Fail, but that Fianna Fail was of the opinion that it was not in their interest to do so.

“So they went for another way, where Fianna Fail remained in opposition but gave support, and Fine Gael with the Independents made up 58, which was the magical number, where if Fianna Fail abstain, that will outrank all the other opposition combined,” he said. “The experiment has worked relatively well, and will last longer than some anticipated.”

In actual fact, the government has reached the number 59, because of the support of Independent Michael Lowry, who is not part of any alliance.

Harry McGee said that Enda Kenny will also last longer than was believed, and maybe for up to another year, writes David Flynn.

“He could last for maybe even another budget too, but not another election,” he said. “As sure as night follows day as soon as succession happens in Fine Gael, an election will happen shortly after that. They are all on watch; just in case it happens sooner.”

The Irish Times Political Correspondent also said that the budget will pass, and that there will be little pieces for everyone in there.

“Nobody will be getting any huge spoils, and there will be no hostages to fortune, and when they get over that, they will then have a period of relative stability,” said Harry McGee.


Jadotville Soldiers Finally Vindicated By Government

John Gorman
John Gorman

The story of ‘A Company’ of the 4th Western Brigade of the Army, who served in Jadotville in the Belgian Congo in 1961, has finally come to an honest and dignified conclusion, albeit 56 years later. Their company commander was Comdt. Pat Quinlan,

‘A’ company, which had been based in Custume Barracks, Athlone arrived in 1961, to a very tense and uncertain time in the town of Elizabethville in the Belgian Congo in Africa.

Pat Quinlan and the company were sent about 70 miles away to Jadotville. Their equipment, other than rifles was 2nd World War stuff, and they had no great means of transport.

A five day battle in Jadotville ensued between the Belgian Katangans and the Irish, who were only there as peacekeepers. The Irish men of Jadotville got no help from their United Nations masters, so were left to their own devices. The battle took place on the ground and in the air.

Agreements were drawn up, and there was to be joint patrols between the Irish and the Katangans. The Irish were in the open and they had nowhere to take cover.

Quinlan had been told that he would have to surrender. Most of ‘A’ company thought that they had actually won the battle, because there was up to 400 Katangans and Belgians killed, and five Irish wounded.

The Irish soldiers were taken as prisoners, and held in an old hotel in Jadotville, and then a prison camp was got ready in the nearby town of Kolwezi, and there they remained for six weeks, writes David Flynn. Finally they were released, due to a prisoner exchange agreement.

When the group returned home to Ireland they were ignored and branded as cowards, but one of the Jadotville soldiers, John Gorman took on an amazing campaign for vindication.

“People suffered in silence for 44 years, and I kept in touch with the Irish soldiers who were in Jadotville, and searched for those who were no longer living in Ireland,” said John, in an interview with this writer in 2010. “I felt we were wronged and treated as cowards because of the surrender, but we were not, and I set out to prove it. I had a mission to do for those men, and I’m proud now that I did that.”

John worked on getting vindication for many decades, and carried out his workings mostly alone, and discreetly. He got information from all of the Jadotville men, and built up a huge dossier on the incident. While it took many decades, John’s campaign for vindication of the Jadotville soldiers bore fruit in December 2004.

Earlier that year, the incident, which had been largely forgotten, was featured in an RTE radio programme, produced by Tom Maguire.

Here is the link to that programme:



After the documentary aired, the matter was brought up for discussion at the March 2004 meeting of Athlone Town Council.

The incident was brought up by Cllr. Austin Berry who called on the council to write to the Minister for Defence and the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces, to request them to establish a plan to honour the members of the Army who served in Jadotville under extraordinary conditions in September 1961.

“Many of these men were from Custume Barracks in Athlone,” said Berry, at the meeting. “No army or soldier would like to surrender, but these men technically did not surrender. They were suffering from extraordinary conditions, and had endured five days of skirmishes.”

Cllr. Berry said that many of these men had passed on, but some were still alive.

Nicky McFadden and Austin Berry
Nicky McFadden and Austin Berry

Cllr. Nicky McFadden said she heard the original radio programme which was presented by Tom Maguire. She too supported the motion, as did all the other councillors.

Austin Berry, who was an Independent councillor died in 2014, the same year as Nicky McFadden, who had been a Fine Gael Dail Deputy at the time of her death.

In 2005, the then Minister for Defence, Willie O’Dea contacted a national newspaper about the men of Jadotville being vindicated and getting recognition and about a memorial being erected in Custume Barracks honouring the men of ‘A’ company, and John Gorman was the first to be notified of this, before the Minister went to the newspaper.

“A few months before that, I had met with the Minister in the Dept of Defence in Dublin, and he had wanted to hear both sides of the story, and he contacted me to hear our side, and after 44 years, it took two retired corporals to bring the Jadotville siege to a closure,” said John laughing, in the 2010 interview.  “I was a corporal in the army and Minister O’Dea was one time a corporal in the Reserve Forces.”

However despite the relief, there was sadness attached to the vindication, because so many of John’s comrades had passed away.

There was seven Roscommon soldiers involved in the 1961 Siege of Jadotville, and they along with their 149 other colleagues finally got recognition for their bravery and valour at a ceremony on Sept. 17th, 2016 at Custume Barracks, Athlone. Sadly most of the soldiers had passed away by this time.

The men, who were of ‘A’ Company in Custume Barracks, were awarded a unit citation, which recognised the courageous action of the soldiers.

The political gathering included the junior Minister for Defence, Paul Kehoe, Mayor John Dolan of Athlone, and the four Longford Westmeath deputies, Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran, Willie Penrose, Robert Troy and Peter Burke. Also present were Senators Frank Feighan and Gabrielle McFadden.

Also representing Athlone Municipal District were: Cllr. Tom Farrell, Cllr, Frankie Keena, Cllr. Ailish McManus, Cllr. Michael O’Brien and Cllr. Aengus O’Rourke.

“I’m delighted to be here today to see the great men being honoured, and the extraordinary work they have done being recognised and commemorated, and I think as a state we need to be more mature and remember the sacrifices and the vocation of these people who gave great service,” said Roscommon’s Senator Feighan.

The Fine Gael senator commented on the former, Sgt. George Tiernan, from Boyle, who was a member of the Jadotville soldiers.

“George was a great friend of mine in Boyle Celtic, and I ran a double decker bus to Germany during Euro 88, and we were there for two weeks and we slept upstairs, and cooked downstairs,” said Senator Feighan. “He brought his army experience with him, to show that we were fed and the bus was cleaned to army regulations. We had great fun with him, and sadly he passed away a few years ago.”

Frank Feighan
Frank Feighan

The Roscommon Jadotville soldiers were as follows, Donal Madley, Daniel Regan, Christopher Roche, James Taheny, George Tiernan, Sean Tiernan and Michael Tighe.

Athlone’s Cllr. Aengus O’Rourke said there was a great sense of pride on the day in Custume Barracks.

Cllr. Aengus O'Rourke
Cllr. Aengus O’Rourke

“The survivors sat in front of us, some in wheelchairs, on sticks, in frames, and some were hale and hearty, and for them not to have received recognition until now, I felt somehow ashamed, but it didn’t feature at all in school when I was growing up,” said the Fianna Fail politician. “We had 156 people on peacekeeping missions, representing our town, our state, and the Defence Forces abroad, and thank God they made it home safe, which was a miracle. I was so proud, and definitely it gave me a very warm feeling.”

Cllr. O’Rourke said it was an amazing day for Athlone, and was long overdue, and deserving and justified.

“All families were bursting with pride, with sons and daughters, in-laws, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, it was wonderful to see,” said the Fianna Fail politician.




Boxer Nominated FF Rival for Seanad

Cllr. Aengus O'Rourke
Cllr. Aengus O’Rourke

Athlone’s Cllr. Aengus O’Rourke had two chances to get to Seanad Eireann this year.  The Fianna Fail councillor ran in the Seanad Election on the Industrial and Commercial panel, and was defeated, and he was also under consideration to be one of the Taoiseach’s eleven nominees to the Seanad – courtesy of Deputy Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran!

Cllr. O’Rourke was defeated on both occasions and he and Deputy Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran confirmed to irishsmokefill that he lobbied for Cllr. O’Rourke to become a Senator.

“When I was going for election, there was a lot of talk about the Seanad, and who was going to make it and Aengus made contact with me, and I promised him three votes, my own, Cllr. Ailish McManus’s and Cllr. Michael O’Brien’s, and I knew Michael wanted to support Aengus anyway,” said Boxer, who is a member of the Independent Alliance. “We delivered our three votes but Aengus didn’t make it, and after that there was talk about the Taoiseach’s nominees, and I rang up Aengus, because the Independent Alliance had no nominees in the midlands, and we met up and had a chat, and I said that I would put his name forward.”

Boxer said he thought it was unfair that Fianna Fail hadn’t run O’Rourke in the General Election, and it was a similar situation to what happened to him, when he was in Fianna Fail.

Boxer left Fianna Fail in 2011 to run as in an Independent in the General Election that year.  Cllr. O’Rourke is the son of former Fianna Fail Minister and Deputy Leader, Mary O’Rourke.

Deputy Kevin 'Boxer Moran, Deputy Shane Ross and Cllr. Michael O'Brien
Deputy Kevin ‘Boxer Moran, Deputy Shane Ross and Cllr. Michael O’Brien

“I said I would do my best to fight for him, and my colleagues in the Independent Alliance was shocked that I was doing it but I was thinking if we got an extra person elected for Athlone, we would have more say around the table,” said Boxer. “Fianna Fail is supporting the government and I am a partner in that government, and the Taoiseach was narrowing down his list, but what we didn’t know was that a deal with Fianna Fail and Fine Gael was already done and FF got three, and what surprised me, was that their leader, Micheal Martin didn’t pick Aengus.”

Boxer said that when he put his O’Rourke nomination to the Taoiseach; the Taoiseach replied that this was “definitely new politics,”.

Cllr. O’Rourke also confirmed that he talked with Boxer about getting a Taoiseach’s nomination to the Seanad, writes David Flynn.

“This emerged several weeks after my own race and Boxer phoned me about putting the nomination to the Taoiseach, and we discussed it on a number of occasions and what may surprise some people is that myself and Boxer have more in common than most,” said the Fianna Fail councillor. “We are the same age, went to the same school, and I suppose I got to know him a bit better when the Local Authority condensed to smaller number, and there were few of us wearing the Athlone shirt in Mullingar. We worked together, and his constituency office is on the same street as my own, and we are political colleagues and have never crossed swords except at election times.

“I didn’t know what Enda would make of the nomination, but it’s all water under the bridge now, and it didn’t happen, but I’m grateful to Boxer,” said Cllr. O’Rourke



FF/FG Alliance Elects John Dolan as New Mayor of Athlone

Cllr. Tom Farrell and Mayor John Dolan
Cllr. Tom Farrell and Mayor John Dolan

The Fianna Fail/Fine Gael alliance in Athlone today elected long time Fine Gael councillor John Dolan as the Mayor of Athlone for 2016/17.

John Dolan, who is a farmer from Fardrum, and lives in Ballinahowen village was first co-opted to Westmeath County Council in 2007, following Nicky McFadden (RIP) leaving to become a member of Seanad Eireann. He lost the council seat in the 2009 Local Elections, but was co-opted back in September 2012, following Joe Whelan stepping down from the council. Cllr. Dolan was re-elected to the County Council and Athlone Municipal District in the 2014 Local Elections.

Stepping down as Mayor of Athlone for 2015/16 was Cllr. Tom Farrell, who got a consolation prize by being elected Deputy Mayor for the coming year.

Cllr. Dolan’s first citizen position was proposed by Fianna Fail’s Cllr. Frankie Keena, and the seconder was the other Fianna Fail member on the council, Cllr. Aengus O’Rourke.

There are three other members of the municipal district, one Sinn Fein and two Independents and they didn’t put up a challenger to Cllr. Dolan, and all welcomed the new first citizen.

As said, Cllr. Farrell was elected Deputy Mayor, after also being proposed by FF’s Cllr. O’Rourke, and seconded by FF’s Cllr. Keena.

Fianna Fail and Fine Gael have been running the seven member alliance of the Athlone Municipal district since the 2014 Local Elections, writes David Flynn. Cllr. Keena and Cllr. Farrell have both being Mayors of Athlone, and Cllr. Aengus O’Rourke (FF) will be Mayor next year.

1916 Heroes Honoured With Naming of New Irish Roads

Five roads have been named in honour of five leaders of the 1916 Rising by Athlone Municipal District council. 

The five roads are in the centre of Athlone town and are named after Rising leaders, Ceannt, MacDiarmada, Clarke, MacDonagh, and Plunkett.

It was based on a proposal of Cllr. Paul Hogan of Sinn Fein, who also asked for a small ceremony to be held in Athlone to mark the naming of the roads.

Fine Gael’s Cllr. John Dolan asked for the council to contact aaroutefinder or other such bodies about having the roads named online on their maps.

Battle To Be A TD – Campaign At Endgame

Athlone Candidates talks to irishmokefill.com

The bookies and polling companies naturally are unable to definitively call the election for Athlone, Co. Westmeath. As said in the previous article, the town will get one of the four Longford/Westmeath seats. On a great day, ‘the town’ could achieve more than one, but it won’t be less than one.

The three favourites of the pollsters for the South Westmeath are Sinn Fein’s Cllr. Paul Hogan, Fine Gael Deputy Gabrielle McFadden and Independent Alliance member Cllr. Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran. Each are natives of Athlone, and have a combination of 36 years of experience representing the town at a political level. The trio exclusively talk to irishsmokefill about their experiences of the campaign trail, as they reach the last lap of the journey.   The candidates own direct quotes to David Flynn are used in the blog post.

The other Athlone candidates are: Stephanie Healy (DDI), Donal Jackson (Ind), Noel McKervey Catholic Democrats (National Party) and Dom Parker (AAA-PBP).

Cllr. Paul Hogan

“I’ve spent a huge amount of hours at this stage, and have knocked on 20,000 doors, in Longford and Westmeath, and got a massive response,

“The first week was not good weather-wise, and we were canvassing in snow and hail, but last week was nice, and we have only a handful of canvass cards left,

“It was a huge campaign, and we were probably the only party talking with people, and not just knocking on doors and just putting in leaflets,

“I hope it’ll come to NO. 1 votes, and I was brought in for tea, for chats, and got a good response on doors, and it was a short campaign mainly concentrating on towns and villages,

“I am very lucky with the team I have, who are more or less the same team with me for last 12 years, and they are hugely committed people, who don’t leave a stone unturned. They were people who were tired, but made sure every door was knocked. I’m very lucky,

“My family have been superb from Day 1, particularly my mother and father who are out there on every campaign knocking on every door,

“There was one funny moment where we got locked into a house, whereas you’d hear of some people getting locked out……

“I’m looking forward to the challenge ahead, and have risen to all challenges put to me,

“At the back of it all, I’m a humble hard working politician,

“There are huge issues out there, and I believe I have the skills to write legislation,

“I want to have strong constituency services and see that people are adequately represented and that we get our fair share in Longford/Westmeath,

“I think it will be very tight, a long count, and I know the co-ordination of tallymen is under way, and we are preparing ourselves for a possible recount because it will be very tight on the day,

“I’ll be delighted with any seat,

“Like a football match, you can have all the training you like, but you need a bounce of luck, so I hope I have that,

“I got a few messages that said that I have got a few postal votes, No. 1.”

Cllr. Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran

“It has been tough, and I was late starter compared to anyone else, and there was a lot of pressure on myself and my team, but I’ve said to everyone, that if they are not tired come Friday, we have not done enough,

“I have over 100 of a team working for me, and we are in a race against time, and it’s all about getting the name of the Alliance out there, and working together as a partnership with Brian Fagan and James Morgan, and working to get one of us elected. It’s hard going, and it’s tough going, and weather has been very poor to us. I’m used to the rain though and have worked in the rain, so I know what it’s like.

“I’m long enough and bold enough to know; it’s about getting new faces, and having a new voice and a new face in the Dail,

“There are some people who only go to funerals, and don’t make contributions to Dail debates, which is something I want to change, and so does the Alliance,

“I’m a different breed of a politician, I’m streetwise, but some dirt is after being thrown at me as regards my education, but I’m a businessman and I’ve interacted with CEOs of companies and I’m 17 years in politics and have been influential, and have a work-rate, and I’m not saying that because of the floods, because long before the floods I was delivering on the doorsteps,

“Believe me in the Dail, I will make a huge difference to the people of Longford/Westmeath. If you come down the motorway, you pass Kinnegad, and come to Moate, and you see all the small towns that were neglected by the government. There has been no investment, no money and not enough infrastructure,

“We have a constituency divide and we are doing something no political party has done, and we selling the brand of the alliance, because the people of Mullingar and Longford has to know Boxer Moran,

“I won’t count my chickens but if I get elected, I want to do what the people want, and I want to make a difference.”

Deputy Gabrielle McFadden

“Things are good, and everybody’s lovely, and I’ve been having a great time, and met a lot of people I haven’t met before,

“It’s still current for me, because I had the by-election 20 months ago, and I’m particularly enjoying the rural canvass. I love putting on the boots, and going up into farmyards, chatting with them all,

“I’m a complete and utter townie, and up to the by-election I preferred an urban canvass, but now I have totally enjoyed the rural,

“A lot of the time people mention Nicky, and many people say we are very different but we have a lot of similarities,

“The joke in the office is, someone will say you go with Gab and keep her moving, because I do talk too much to people, and some would say, she’s not as bad as Nicky, because Nicky would go in for tea as well,

“It was really cold and dry this week, but last week was quite miserable and wet,

“I don’t do kissing babies,

“I saw loads of dogs, and I love dogs and am very brave,

“I saw no giving out and no rudeness, and everyone is really lovely. I feel very close but I’m optimistic. I don’t think negative, and feel I am the best option.

“My wonderful husband and family, my aunt, and niece and nephew and my cousins from Coosan, were out canvassing with me. All my in-laws were down from Dublin, and we had a huge canvass, and some nights we had huge teams out, with lots of young people and some nights we had 12 or 14 teams out.

“Madeline Taylor Quinn was up here a couple of times, and a friend of mine Cllr. Laura McGonigle from Cork and Minister Charlie Flanagan was here, and I’m blessed with a wonderful team.

“I’m happy tired right now, and have worked really hard over the past two and half years, and I have put in a really good campaign. I haven’t done anything wrong, and what will be will be.”


Battle of Athlone Looms

The stage is set for the biggest battle of Athlone since Sgt. Custume defended the bridge in 1691. Three local people will be fighting to be the TD for the town after the General Election, which is on February 26th.

Deputy Gabrielle McFadden, Cllr. Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran and Cllr. Paul Hogan will be vying for the last seat in the Longford/Westmeath constituency, according to many political commentators including irishsmokefill, writes David Flynn.

It is considered that the three sitting deputies, Robert Troy, James Bannon and Willie Penrose will be returned, although it is the opinion of irishsmokefill that Penrose won’t have an easy re-entry to the Dail. The Labour TD was a poll-topper in 2011, with 11,406 votes but when the Longford/Westmeath by-election came in 2014, his Labour counterpart; Denis Leonard only achieved 3,290 votes.

However irishsmokefill believes Deputy Willie Penrose will buck the Labour nationwide trend and be elected, but obviously his vote will drop by more than a couple of thousand. The Penrose success or loss will be a barometer for the Labour vote nationwide. Basically if he loses, they are all gone!! And that’s not going to happen.

McFadden, Moran and Hogan are all natives of Athlone, and they need to have strong base votes, before they achieve the prize of returning as Dail Deputies.

Moran (Boxer) was elected as a Fianna Fail councillor in 1999, in fact to both Westmeath and Athlone councils on his first outing. His vote was small at the time, but it grew, to him coming only second to the popular Fine Gael politician Nicky McFadden at the two council elections of 2004. By the time of the 2009 elections, Nicky had become a member of Seanad Eireann, and Boxer was the poll-topper. Along the way, in 2006, he challenged the formidable Mary O’Rourke for the nomination for Election 07, and was beaten by a mere 10 votes.

When the Fianna Fail disaster election of 2011 came along, O’Rourke went forward again, and Boxer left the party to go as an Independent, gaining a credible 3,707 first preferences.  He remained Independent and when the councils changed in 2014, Boxer gained a massive 2,897 votes in the Athlone Municpal district election, almost doubling the vote of the second councillor elected.

Also in the meantime, Nicky McFadden suffered a terrible illness and sadly died in March 2014, and a by-election was held on May 23rd.

Her sister Gabrielle McFadden, who had been an Athlone town and Westmeath county councillor since 2009, was elected to the Dail. Gabrielle had got 12,365 first preferences, and won the contest easily. However a credible performance was achieved by Sinn Fein’s Cllr. Paul Hogan with 7,548 votes, which was a third of the by-election quota.

Hogan was first elected to Athlone town council in June 2004, and was re-elected in 2009. He represented Sinn Fein in the 2007 election. He was unsuccessful then and in the 2011 General Election but because his vote has almost doubled on each occasion, he can’t be ignored.

paddypower.com has been consistently putting McFadden in the lead, and Boxer second and Hogan third – all for the last seat. But that is too simplistic.

McFadden will have to suffer due to the continuous dropping of Fine Gael percentage, and the same with Hogan. However she has the history of her family vote – her sister Nicky was the highest vote catcher in the history of Athlone Town Council/UDC.   Hogan’s vote has always been more Independent of Sinn Fein in his own native town, which any candidate would like to their name.

The Independent percentage is increasing – but will that elect Boxer?   Boxer’s local vote is immense, but can it continue once the votes outside of South Westmeath are counted? Being part of the Shane Ross/Michael Fitzmaurice Independent Alliance won’t hurt his vote. He has popularity, and if popularity transfers (pardon the pun) into votes, he will take the seat.

Lots of questions, the one guaranteed answer is………Athlone will have a TD come February 26th/27th…….not every town among the forty constituencies can boast such certainty.