Last head of Land League to stand in elections

 

The Labour Party seems to be absorbing almost everything these days following the recent high-profile amalgamation with Democratic Left.

Now it has pulled off a political coup in the midlands where it has secured the political goodwill of the last of the Land Leaguers, Mr Dan McCarthy, who will stand as a Labour candidate in the forthcoming local elections.

Many people will be familiar with Mr McCarthy, the Co Westmeath farmer who was the last president of the Land League, set up by Michael Davitt in Co Mayo in the last century.

Mr McCarthy, who has been articulating the worries and concerns rather than the demands of small farmers for many years, is trying for a new career in politics.

Respected in farming circles, he has been an independent member of Westmeath County Council from 1974 to 1979. He has also been a vice-chairman of the European League of Small Farmers (COMEPRA) and a former member of the National Council of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association.

For many years he was chairman of that organisation's rural development committee, a member of the administrative committee and on a committee for monitoring structural funding.

Earlier this week he explained why he joined the Labour Party over a year ago and has decided to seek a seat on Westmeath County Council.

"I have been involved for the last four years with Willie Penrose, the local Labour TD, and I have been extremely impressed with the work he has done," he said.

"I am more or less retired from national involvement with the ICMSA but I am still on the Midlands Regional Authority and the Legal Aid Board.

"I got a commitment from the Labour leader, Ruairi Quinn, that he would continue to fight for the things I believe in. I want a vibrant rural Ireland, and he does, too.

"I want the schools and post offices to remain open and the Garda stations and so does the Labour Party and that is why I am running for them."

He said he was proud to have been the last president of the Land League which, he said, was "killed off" when Mr John Bruton abolished the Land Commission.

"He did that the same day he abolished food subsidies and the food subsidies got all the publicity. That made life very difficult for the organisation."

Meanwhile, Mr James Flanagan (89), the State's longest-serving and oldest councillor, has not yet made up his mind whether he will seek his council seat again in the Edenderry, Co Offaly, area.

Mr Flanagan, who has been an independent councillor for the last 54 years, said he felt well enough to work in local politics.

"I will wait until closer to the nomination date and then I will decide. I will be 90 years old next year so I am giving it a bit of thought," he said.

In the Moate, Co Westmeath, area, locals will have a chance to resurrect the country and western brand of politics which people associated with Mr Albert Reynolds.

The country and Western star T.R. Dallas, best known for his hit O Lord It's So Hard to Be Humble, is seeking a seat for Fianna Fail. While he will be described on the ballot paper under his real name, Mr T.R. Allen, he will continue to wear his Stetson, his stage trademark.