I served as a Fianna Fail councillor from 1974 to 1985 and they were eleven great years for me. I had very much the same socialistic approach to politics as my uncle before me. I became very involved with the islands issue. After the Inishturbot disaster in 1974, the people there became quite disillusioned and wanted to permanently leave their island. I arranged a meeting in the Celtic Hotel in Clifden to discuss the matter. There was a member from every house on the island present and that night we discussed the length and breadth of it. Marcus McNamara from Aillebrack gave me great assistance. I persuaded them all to sign a petition stating their deep desire to move to the mainland. I gave the petition to Bobby Molloy to bring to Dublin. He passed it on in turn to George Colley who was the relevant Minister and he then got the Land Commission to make out an official estimate. The cost of buying the land and building seventeen houses came to £400,000. Mr Colley allocated the money, the land was purchased and the houses were constructed in different parts of West Connemara. A lot of local builders wanted the contract but when I went to the Department to negotiate on their behalf I was told, “We want proper modern houses built and we’re employing a professional contractor to do the job”. Moy Contractors in Galway city were subsequently given the contract and the people were all off the island in about one year. They’re all working now on the mainland driving cars and paying their taxes (which they didn’t have to do on the island) so I’m pretty sure that the £400,000 is well paid back by now.
I always had great admiration for island people, the way they survived and carried on without any of the facilities or infrastructure that we mainlanders take so much for granted. My uncle Gerald said to me back in 1974, “You’re elected to the Council now, don’t neglect the islanders, those people all need looking after”. I spent a lot of time subsequently trying to help the people of Inishbofin. After long delays, Jack Lynch was finally persuaded to allocate the necessary funding to renovate the school which was in a very sub-standard condition. Electric light was another contentious issue and I spoke out strongly on behalf of the island people at one Fianna Fail Ard Feis in Dublin. Afterwards Jack Lynch told me he’d go ahead with it and shortly afterwards generators were installed on the islands. The pier was always high on the agenda and I was forever pushing this issue. Eventually after meeting with Charles Haughey about it one day in Galway, I got some satisfaction. He told me to send him all the details in a registered envelope and that he would take it from there. Soon after it was announced publicly that one million pounds had been allocated for the development of the pier on Inishbofin. I also helped secure an ambulance for the island and I was able to get some extra funding for the renovation of the dispensary. I took great satisfaction from getting things done for the island people and they were always very good to me on polling day in return.
Remembered by Gerald Bartley and written by Paul Gannon
Full Version available in “The Way it Was”