Councillor and former Killarney mayor


MICHAEL COURTNEY:MICHAEL COURTNEY, who has died at the age of 79, was a member of Killarney Town Council for almost four decades and was the driving force behind its burgeoning tourism industry.

He had no vested interest in the industry as such since he owned neither bar, hotel, nor restaurant. For him, Killarney and its people were at the centre of the world and he devoted his life to representing their interests, selling its lakes and mountains as the jewel in the crown of Ireland's lucrative tourist trade.

Like his father before him he was a tailor by trade, but he opted to work in tourism and politics. During the 1960s, he acted as a tour guide, setting up Killarney Tourism, later becoming chairman of Cork-Kerry Tourism.

A devotee of Michael Collins, he made an unsuccessful bid for the local council on a Fine Gael ticket in 1967 and was the party's director of elections for former Dingle TD Michael Begley in three elections.

Co-opted to Killarney Town Council in 1970, he became one of its longest-serving members. Following his re-election as an independent candidate in 1985, he defended his seat right up to his death. In the local elections held last June, he came home on the 9th count as a non-party member of the council.

A past pupil of St Brendan's College, he was a fine snooker and billiards player, and also played basketball. He was a keen supporter of the Kerry team and a follower of Killarney's Gaelic football team, Doctor Croke's.

As mayor of Killarney, he organised several "twinnings" with towns in the US and UK, and was deeply involved in the Killarney-London reunion drive. In 2001, as the council's tourism officer, he was instrumental in winning the 56th rally of the Dublin Motorcycle Club, an event with an international flavour.

He was the driving force behind a campaign to honour Killarney's forgotten heroes of the first World War. He also spearheaded an annual tribute weekend to Mgr Hugh O'Flaherty, the Irish priest who had rescued many Jews by smuggling them to safety through the Vatican in the second World War.

He was buried at Aghadoe Cemetery overlooking Killarney's mountains, lakes and dells.

He is survived by his wife Sheila, children Nancy, Kathryn, Paddy, Shellane, Gary, Mike, Donie and Hugh, sister Peggy, brothers Patsy and Donie, and 19 grandchildren.

Michael Courtney: born November 14th, 1930; died January 26th, 2010