He gets up at four o’clock in the morning and cranks up his digger and then gets to work as an agricultural contractor; in North Galway and Roscommon he is considered one of the best.
Several hours later he returns home, heads for the shower, dons the suit, has a bit of breakfast – and then Mick Fitzmaurice heads for Dail Eireann because that is where the public want him to be.
The straight-talking Glinsk man and turf cutting campaigner has become the darling of the national media and they simply cannot get enough of him.
It is simply to do with the fact that he speaks clearly and simply and yet what he says resonates with nearly everyone in rural Ireland.
Mick Fitzmaurice is the sort of many who would much prefer to get down from the digger, head straight to Leinster House, speak his piece on behalf of his constituents and get back to the daily routine.
Unfortunately for him, politics in Ireland does not operate that way and it is a time-consuming career and there are often days in which he spends 20 hours doing both jobs.
He has a young family and, as he says himself, a wonderful and understanding wife.
Early last year the public got their first real taste of what Fitzmaurice was about. He declared his intention to run as an independent candidate for Galway County Council mainly on the basis of protecting the rural fabric of the county.
The closure of Garda stations, post offices, banks and various other services infuriated him. He wanted to have some influence in trying to ‘stop the rot’.
He had a huge team behind him and canvassed the Tuam Electoral Area intensely.
He received the third highest first preference and was elected on the first count having exceeded the quota by almost 800 votes.
His supporters were delirious but Fitzmaurice was more restrained and immediately afterwards spoke to the local media about his concern for rural Ireland and how services were being eroded.
At the same weekend Ming Flanagan from Castlerea was elected to the European Parliament and this prompted a bye-election in the old Roscommon-South Leitrim constituency. Fitzmaurice decided this was an opportunity to bring his views and concerns to a national stage.
He could not even vote for himself as he put his name forward and mounted a similar intense campaign.
But he captured the imagination of the mainly rural voter in this constituency.
He may not have topped the poll but he received a major first preference and it became apparent from an early stage that he was to receive an unprecedented transfer from the many independents in the field. They even loved him in Leitrim.
A year on in the Dail, his focus has not changed. He wants rural communities to be reinvigorated. He wants life brought back to villages that are suffering. He wants the elderly to feel safe in their own homes.
“First of all I want to consolidate what we have in rural Ireland and then I want to take what we have closed and use them to our benefit,” he told The Connacht Tribune.
He added: “We cannot stop banks from moving out of towns and villages but at least we can encourage credit unions to replace them and provide a more extensive range of services”.
Fitzmaurice would love for his Independent Alliance to be part of the next Government.
“If I cannot implement change for the benefit of rural communities, then what is the point of me being there”.
He hopes that they can win ten or twelve seats and then maybe they could prop up a Fine Gael/Labour coalition.
But it is abundantly clear he is not there for the money and just has rural Ireland at heart.
Now he will be standing in the new Roscommon-Galway constituency where he can actually vote for himself – and at the moment he is the only Galway candidate standing in this part of the constituency which has 20,000 potential votes.
Exploring the merits of moving into the west
Broadcaster Mary Kennedy has an abiding image of those early mornings when she’d set out from Dublin at the crack of dawn to begin work on another day’s filming down the country with Nationwide.
“I always liked to go in the morning rather than stay there the night before – so I’d be on the road early. And from the moment I’d hit Newland’s Cross, all I’d see was a line of traffic of people trying to make it from home to their workplace in Dublin,” she says.
These were people whose day began before dawn to get their bleary-eyed kids ready to drop at a childminder along the way, so they could be on time for work – and then race home to hopefully see those same kids before they went to sleep.
But if the pandemic had a positive, it was the realisation that work was something you did, not a place you went to. As a result, many people finally grasped the nettle, moving out of the city and sometimes even taking their work with them.
Which is why Mary – busier than ever since her supposed retirement from RTÉ – is presenting a new television series called Moving West, focusing on those individuals and families who have, as the title, suggests, relocated to the West.
One of the programmes comes from Galway, where Mary met with Stewart Forrest, who relocated with his family from South Africa to Oughterard, and Carol Ho, a Hong Kong native who has also settled in Galway.
The TG4 series also stops off in Sligo, Mayo, Kerry, Clare, Roscommon and Leitrim.
Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie
Community’s tribute to one of their own – saving final cut of turf after his passing
A local community responded in force to the death of one of their own – a man who had given so much of his life for the good of the parish – by paying one last practical tribute to him last week.
They lifted and footed his turf.
John Geraghty – or Gero as he was known – lived for Gaelic football and he’d filled every role imaginable with the St Brendan’s GAA Club since he came to live in Newbridge in 1983.
He’d cut the turf before he died last Tuesday week, but there it lay, until his old GAA friends organised a bunch of guys – made up of the football team, friends and neighbours – to meet in the bog last Wednesday evening to lift and foot/clamp John’s turf.
“Upwards of 50 fellas from the community showed up,” said St Brendan’s chairman Gerry Kilcommins.
Which was just as well, because, as Gerry acknowledged, John – himself a two-time chairman of the club in the past – had a lot of turf cut!
“It took up an area around three-quarters of the size of a standard football pitch,” he said.
Not that this proved a problem, given the enthusiasm with which they rolled up their sleeves for their old friend.
They started at 7.30pm and had it done at 7.55pm – that’s just 25 minutes from start to finish.
Read the full, heartwarming story – and the St Brendan’s GAA Club appreciation for John Geraghty – in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie
Liver donor dad would do it all again in a heartbeat
It is nearly two years since Paddy Browne gave his daughter Sadhbh part of his liver to save her life. And just ahead of Father’s Day, he reflects on how he would do it all over again in a heartbeat, without a single moment’s hesitation.
After an initial testing time in the first six weeks when they beat a path to the intensive care unit after the operation in St King’s Hospital in London, Sadhbh has never looked back.
“She’s thrived and thrived and thrived. She skips out to school every day. She loves the normal fun and devilment in the yard. She’s now six and started football with Mountbellew Moylough GAA, she loves baking, she’s a voracious reader – she’ll read the whole time out loud while we drive up to Crumlin [Children’s Hospital].”
But it could have all been so different.
Sadhbh from Mountbellew was diagnosed with Biliary Atresia shortly after she was born. She quickly underwent major surgery to drain bile from her liver. It worked well until she reached three years old when an infection caused severe liver damage and she was placed on the liver transplant list.
She was on a long list of medication to manage the consequences of advanced liver disease. While she lived a full life, she would tire very easily.
Paddy was undergoing the rigorous process to be accepted as a living donor when one of the tests ruled him unsuitable. His brother Michael stepped forward and was deemed a good match.
Then, further tests revealed that Paddy was in fact eligible for the operation and the previous result disregarded as a false positive.
Read the full, uplifting story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie
Organ Donor Cards can be obtained by phoning the Irish Kidney Association on 01 6205306 or Free text the word DONOR to 50050. You can also visit the website www.ika.ie/get-a-donor-card or download a free ‘digital organ donor card’ APP to your phone.