Well into his first year of office as President of the IFA, JOE HEALY talks to FRANCIS FARRAGHER about a new life, new challenges and a new beginning for the Association.
JOE Healy well remembers a December’s night, not long before the Christmas of 2015, as he made his way to a Galway IFA meeting in the Raheen Woods Hotel in Athenry.
It had been a turbulent few months for the IFA, following the resignation of the Chief Executive Pat Smyth, and a grassroots revolt over what many ordinary members felt was a golden circle at the top of the organisation.
A ‘new name’ had been mentioned in Galway IFA circles as a possible candidate for the presidency – the former Connacht Vice-President, Michael Silke, a man who would command a lot of respect from the farming community.
“I went to the meeting that night in Athenry fully expecting to be supporting the candidacy of Michael Silke for the next president of the association.
“However word came through that Michael wasn’t going forward and I thought well that’s the end of that. Then Enda Monaghan stood up and said that there was another man from the county who could stand and he was supported by Joseph O’Connell. As it turned out ‘that other man’ was to be me.
“The thought of standing for the presidency hadn’t even entered my head. I looked up at Pat Murphy (the County Chairman) and shook my head, but he told me to think about it over the Christmas, and that’s really how it all started,” Joe Healy recalled.
Think about it he did, and by the time the first week in January had arrived, the plans were being put in place for the campaign, spearheaded by County Chairman Pat Murphy and Joe’s Campaign Manager, Anne Mitchell.
“We took a very conscious decision at the start to start local, to build up a strong team in Galway, and to get the required six nominations in Connacht and Donegal.
“Of course, these were tough times for the IFA and the membership were upset at things that had happened, but I would have to say that right from the start, I got a very positive response from members and branches. I never got as much as one snide remark thrown at me,” said Joe Healy.
He was elected on the first count with 51% of the vote but there was no time for a honeymoon. After a quick return to Athenry that night to celebrate with his own supporters, it was back to Dublin the following day and then off to a meeting in Brussels.
“It was a case of hitting the tarmac running. A lot of ground had to be made up and really it was a case of straight down to business once my own housekeeping arrangements were put in place for the management and running of the family farm,” he said.
Although Joe Healy knew what was in store for him in terms of the workload and travel, the first couple of weeks were still a bit of a shock to the system.
His base, for the want of a better word, is the Red Cow Hotel in West Dublin but it’s more of a very short resting place than anything else.
“On a typical day, it’s a return to the Red Cow sometime between midnight and 2am with a 7am start the following morning. It’s quite hectic, and there is an awful lot of travel, but I would have to say that I love every moment of it,” he said.
He remembers one particularly busy Friday, when he attended functions in the four provinces, taking in Carlow, Waterford, Monaghan and Galway, but if at all possible he tries to be back home on Friday night at the family home in Greethill for the weekend.
The former President of Macra – he held that office from 1995 to 1997 – knows full well that there will be no let-up in ‘the action’ over the coming years with his time roughly being split three ways between Head Office in Dublin, Brussels and in keeping in touch with the farmers on the ground.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
Galway Lotto prize winner off to see the King!
A National Lottery player from Conamara is still in disbelief after claiming their EuroMillions ‘Ireland Only Raffle’ ticket worth a staggering €1,005,000 this week – and is already planning a trip to Graceland!
The player, who wishes to remain anonymous, said they didn’t realise they had the winning ticket.
“I was looking at my ticket and it didn’t have any of the EuroMillions numbers, I didn’t think I’d won anything, so I threw it somewhere in the car. I completely forgot to check the raffle code on the bottom of the ticket!
“A few weeks later I decided to do a clear out of the car and I found the ticket wedged down the side of the seat. I scanned the ticket on the app and called the National Lottery Claims Team and that’s when they told me I was a millionaire! I couldn’t speak, I was in such complete and utter shock!
“I had a plan to surprise my wife for her birthday by putting the cheque in the card, but my great plan lasted all of one hour, I just had to tell her, I couldn’t keep it a secret any longer!”, they added.
The player purchased the winning EuroMillions ticket worth €1,005,000 on the day of the draw, Friday 19th August, in Costcutter in Beal an Dangan.
They revealed some plans they hope to achieve with the new life-changing prize.
“We’ve always wanted to go to Graceland in Memphis to visit the home of Elvis Presley, the King of Rock and Roll himself. That’s all we have in mind for the moment, we’re still letting it all sink in”, they said.
Exhumations to begin next year at Tuam Mother and Baby Home site
A full exhumation of the bodies of children buried in the grounds of Tuam Mother and Baby Home will begin in 2023.
A ‘Director of Authorised Intervention’ is to be appointed by Government to oversee the excavation of the site where it is believed almost 800 children were interred in an unmarked grave.
Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman, in bringing matter before the Dáil, said it was incumbent on the State to address what was “a stain on our national conscience”.
Deputy Catherine Connolly, TD for Galway West, said while the news on the exhumation was welcome, she had “lost faith” in the Government which she said had “learnt absolutely nothing” and had to be “dragged” every step of the way.
It had failed to bring forward a redress scheme for survivors of the home, she said, and Minister O’Gorman had rowed back on a previous commitment to have an independent human rights review of the testimony provided by survivors to the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes.
“I don’t think he should ever have promised that because he was never in a position to do it. He was never going to question the establishment narrative given to us by the three wise commissioners, the narrative that told us that the evidence of those who came forward was contaminated and should therefore be treated with caution,” said Deputy Connolly.
“We continue to begrudge and to do everything belatedly. If we are seriously interested in redress, let us do it right.”
Paying tribute to those who shone a light on the wrongdoings in the Tuam Home and elsewhere, Deputy Connolly said it was they who had forced the Government’s hand.
“On the ground, we have seen Catherine Corless and, well before her, Mary Raftery. I also want to mention Patricia Burke Brogan [activist and playwright] who died last week – may she rest in peace – with regard to the work she did in respect of the Magdalen laundries, in particular with the play Eclipsed.
“The groups on the ground have certainly forced us and dragged us every step of the way,” she said.
Agreeing, Minister O’Gorman said it was absolutely right to recognise critical the role of Tuam historian, Catherine Corless.
“We would not be here today but for her dogged persistence in highlighting what happened in Tuam.
“Deputy Connolly mentioned the redress legislation. This legislation has been worked on by my Department over the summer and I will bring it to Cabinet in October to seek approval for the final Bill and to bring it rapidly through the Houses [of the Oireachtas] and the committee, so that we can provide redress to family members,” he said.
Meanwhile, Deputy Seán Canney, TD for Galway East, said what had happened had impacted the people of Tuam deeply and said the Director, when he or she is appointed, should be based in Galway and seek to engage with locals during the excavation process.
“It has created a sense of a stain on, or a shadow over Tuam as a town. Tuam is a very good town and has the finest people living there.
“The Minister has set out in his speech how a Director would be appointed . . . and that an office will be set up to manage the excavation and all that goes with it. However, it is important that there is local engagement with the people of the town,” said Deputy Canney.
“The office should be set in the town and there should be a liaison aspect to the brief that this director will have so people from the locality who want to know what is going on can find out,” he continued, adding that locals should be able to meet the Director in Tuam and not Dublin or anywhere else.
Minister O’Gorman outlined that the Director would oversee a phased forensic-standard excavation, recovery, analysis and re-interment of the remains.
“The order also provides that the Director will carry out an identification programme as an additional function for the intervention,” he said.
Customs ‘dip’ for green diesel on Aran island
Revenue officers made an unannounced visit to Inis Mór last week – with around 10 customs officials performing spot checks for marked diesel.
The Connacht Tribune understands that three motorists were nabbed by the officers for driving with ‘green diesel’ – a fuel only permissible for off-road use, mainly in agriculture.
According to a source in Revenue, this surprise visit is a return to normal service, with spot checks having stalled during Covid.
As part of the operation, customs officers were drafted in from various locations and travelled to the island without prior notice to Gardaí.
Having arrived by ferry from both Galway Docks and Ros a’ Mhíl, officers performed a number of checks at the Pier in Kilronan and also visited Dún Aonghasa.
Vehicles were dipped for green diesel for which tax is paid at a much cheaper rate than road diesel. Those convicted of using marked diesel on the roads face a maximum fine of up to €5,000.
A garda spokesperson confirmed that a group of Revenue officers visited Inis Mór on Friday, September 16, and were facilitated by gardaí on the island.