From the Sports Field to the Political Arena
Deaglán de Bréadún
There must be countries where political leaders are selected after they have undertaken a rigorous study-course on democratic institutions and how they should be run, followed by a series of interviews with an independent panel, testing their suitability for the job. Maybe it’s like that in Scandinavia, the model democracies of our time.
Here in Ireland, it is all too often a family relationship with an outgoing TD which opens the door to electoral success. It sometimes strikes me that we should call on the public not to vote for anyone who is related to a member of the outgoing Dail. That would be a good way of curtailing the dynasticism that is all too common in Irish politics.
Having said that, some of our better politicians happen to have previous family connections with the Dail chamber. But it’s gone too far and it’s time to start applying the broader criteria in a more serious way.
Another short-cut to electoral office is to become a sports star. Again, some who have come in by that particular route have turned out well. At least they had a record of accomplishment on the sports field, as distinct from just being born into a political family.
A new book, “Dail Stars”, by Sunday Tribune journalist Conor McMorrow shows how the GAA
has been a breeding-ground for Irish politicians for over a century. By devoting a chapter to
each of the 15 ‘Dáil Stars’ the book tells each player/politician’s individual GAA and political story.
All shades of the political spectrum are represented, from the deep blue of Mussolini-fan Eoin O’Duffy, to Austin Stack, Jack Lynch, Dan Spring, Jimmy Deenihan, Martin Ferris, Henry Kenny (father of Enda) and more. The highlights include:
#How Blueshirts founder and former Ulster GAA Secretary, Eoin O’Duffy, invited a Nazi
spy to an All-Ireland final
#How Mayo football star and TD Henry Kenny invited TDs to his own all-night ‘wake’ in the Dáil bar
#Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris on winning an under-21 All-Ireland title as an IRA fugitive on
#Fine Gael TD and Kerry legend Jimmy Deenihan on his heart-to-heart with playwright John B. Keane about entering politics
#Six-time All-Ireland winner Jack Lynch and his ambition to bring the level in the bottle of whiskey ‘below Thurles’
#How Sean Flanagan, the GAA’s answer to Roy Keane, tried to scrap his own government
department as a minister
#Dublin GAA star Des Foley and the Arms Trial.
#plus the ‘Also-Rans’: GAA stars who unsuccessfully stood for election. A nice wee present for the sport-and-politics enthusiast in your life, “Dail Stars” is published by Mentor Books at €16.99 paperback