Wednesday 29 January 2020

'Mickey was the reason I got into politics' -- Reynolds


HE was, in many ways, the quintessential Irish county councillor.

Although he was appointed to the Senate as a personal gesture by the then Taoiseach Albert Reynolds, the late Michael 'Mickey' Doherty never really harboured such lofty ambitions as a place in national politics.

At heart he was a simple, decent man, dedicated to public service and, as he said himself at his retirement in the year 2000: "I asked for nothing, and I got nothing."

As a Fianna Fail member of Longford County Council and the Midland Health Board, Mr Doherty certainly enjoyed the convivial atmosphere that surrounded what was then a full-time unpaid job.

While they might hurl insults like "go on ye blow-in" at each other while in the council chamber, it was a different story when the councillors adjourned for a drink to Kelly's Pub or The Longford Arms.

Then it was time for stories and banter, and Mickey Doherty, who claimed his only education was "two summonses for not going to school", would regale the company about his time with McAlpine, working on the roads of England, or a litany of stories both personal or political.

He loved meeting people, and as a confirmed bachelor, he had all the time in the world to discuss the affairs of state. Whether it was at home in Kiernan's Cross or on Main Street, Longford, when you met Mickey Doherty time seemed to stand still.

And there was always an anecdote, a new story that would ensure that you left with a spring in your step.

"I would never have been in politics but for Mickey Doherty, and this is true, I wouldn't be here only for him," said Albert Reynolds at the time of Mr Doherty's retirement.

It was the likes of Mr Doherty who spotted the 'coming man' and supported him, knowing that he had something special, which in Mr Reynolds's case, brought him all too briefly to the highest office in the land.

Sean Duignan, the great raconteur and Mr Reynolds's press secretary, loved telling how a throwaway remark by Mr Doherty led to the devaluation of the Irish pound.

Like all good stories there is an element of farce to the anecdote, but as Mr Duignan told it, it was hilarious and illuminating.

It happened on the day of the election count in 1992. Strange as it may seem, Ireland was also in the throes of a currency crisis as speculators attacked the punt in the hope of making speculative and, as it happens, spectacular gains.

Mr Doherty was manning the election headquarters in Longford and the Taoiseach, who had caused the election over his spat with Dessie O'Malley, had retired to his then home, Mount Carmel, and gone to bed.

As the Fianna Fail seats tumbled and deadlines drew near, the reporters from the "national press" clamoured for a word with Mr Reynolds. Unable to tell them that the Taoiseach was sleeping it off, Mickey blustered, telling the hacks that Mr Reynolds was chairing an emergency cabinet meeting on the currency crisis.

When the news hit the wire services, the Irish currency plunged -- as did the German deutschmark.

"Jaysus Mickey you've taken two effing pfennings off the mark," said someone, which was apparently true.

In recognition, Mr Reynolds, who returned to power in the FF/Labour coalition, appointed Mr Doherty to the Senate.

Mickey Doherty died in Longford last Wednesday and was buried in Aughaboy Cemetery on Friday.

Sunday Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News