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Kerry politics uncovered

New book will delve into the rich political history of Kerry, along with a few more unusual tales

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Anyone with even the most passing interest in Kerry politics would do well to pick up a fascinating new book that is to be officially launched later this week.

'A Century of Politics In The Kingdom' by Owen O'Shea and Gordon Revington will be launched at the county library in Tralee this Thursday evening.

The book tells tales ranging from scandals, punch-ups, election-campaign shenanigans and bitter inter-dynastic contests to the stories of the many ground-breaking politicians from Kerry who made their mark on the national stage and beyond.

Drawing on original research, newly published material from the political parties' archives and candid interviews, the book is being published to coincide with the centenary of the First Dáil.

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"From the first sitting of Dáil Éireann, when Piaras Béaslaí TD read its Democratic Programme, to Dan Kiely's Supreme Court challenge on how votes are counted in Ireland, and the role of several Kerry ministers in sensitive Anglo-Irish negotiations, Kerry politicians have been at the heart of matters nationally, both symbolic and significant," said co-author Owen O'Shea.

"Even if, as is continually attested, they have had to shout a little louder than many of their counterparts to have their priorities heard, Kerry politicians have indelibly influenced the course of Irish politics and left a lasting legacy in their home county," Owen added.

The book contains numerous remarkable stories ranging from a councillor who was unseated for plying voters with drink, to the north Kerry woman Jennifer Musa who became a politician in Pakistan.

Readers can also learn about the aristocrat who was invited to Buckingham Palace as a child and went on to become the first woman elected to Kerry County Council.

There's also the Kerry senator who received an apology from the BBC; the story of all of Kerry's female politicians; the tale of the councillor who took his own council to court and the notorious night gardaí were called to a meeting of a Fianna Fáil cumann in north Kerry.

Owen O'Shea, who hails from from Milltown, is the Communications Officer with Kerry County Council. He is a former Labour Party press officer and election candidate. He was a journalist with Kerry's Eye and Radio Kerry.

He is the author of Heirs to the Kingdom: Kerry's Political Dynasties (2011) and co-editor of Kerry 1916: Histories and Legacies of the Easter Rising (2016). Gordon Revington, from Tralee Kerry, is a journalist with Kerry's Eye who writes on Irish political history, rural affairs and sport.

He contributed to Kerry 1916: Histories and Legacies of the Easter Rising published in 2016.

The new book - which features the first ever definitive record of every Kerry Oireachtas member since 1919 - will be launched by former Tánaiste, Dick Spring at the County Library in Tralee on Thursday October 18 at 7pm. The book will be available from the middle of this week in all good bookshops, online, and from www.merrionpress.ie, as well as the launch on Thursday with for €19.99.

 

The following story is an extract from 'A Century Of Politics in The Kingdom'

'Fisticuffs at AGM of Moyvane FF Cumann' ran the front-page splash of The Kerryman on January 8 1972. Above the headline were two pictures by photographer, Xavier McAuliffe, of Fianna Fáil party members during a kerfuffle 'as tempers flare.' In a dramatic opening paragraph, Tony Meade reported that:

'The annual general meeting of Moyvane Fianna Fáil Cumann burst into fisticuffs on Tuesday night when Gardaí were called to restore peace between the rival factions. The melee, in which a man was kicked on the head, started after an exchange between Deputy Tom McEllistrim, who had taken the chair for the election of officers, and Mr Con O'Riordan, a Dublin-based teacher, who is an outspoken member of the cumann.'

The row began when reference was made to a party report on the inner workings of the Moyvane cumann. Following a previous annual general meeting, Cavan TD Paddy Smith had been engaged to investigate allegations that some members had been prevented from voting in the election of officers. At its 1972 gathering, all cumann officers were re-elected without challenge.

A verbal exchange over the operations of the cumann and who was entitled to vote at the meeting began and quickly escalated. At one point, Deputy Tom McEllistrim interjected and stated: 'I am the boss here and I am saying who will vote.'

Con O'Riordan read a letter from party general secretary, Tom Mullins, which instructed that some of those who had been denied a vote at the previous AGM should be allowed to 'participate freely' in the 1972 meeting. 'If I'm not in charge,' McEllistrim responded, 'there is not much point in my being here.' As the shouting continued, some members removed O'Riordan from the room and prevented him from re-entering.

Another member, Denis Holly 'was trying to make himself heard above the uproar, shouting that he had a democratic right to be heard by the meeting. He was then attacked by a number of others and was knocked down and kicked in the head. Blood streamed down his shirt.' Holly was taken to hospital.

Somebody had taken it upon themselves to give the local gardaí a heads-up that there might be trouble at the meeting because two officers were despatched to Moyvane prior to the meeting.

Two gardaí who were nearby, heard the commotion and saw people being pushed out of the hall.

Some sixty party members left the meeting and the election of officers continued.


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