Updated: 10/11/16 : 05:35:10
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Sligo links to days power shifted in Fianna Fáil

By Eugene McGloin
Political Editor

FIFTY YEARS ago today Fianna Fáil had its first ever leadership contest.

The winner on November 10th 1966 was six times All Ireland winner in football and hurling, Jack Lynch.

Sligo was linked to the event by another man who had come into the Dáil at the same time as the Corkman.

Famed Hurler

February 1948 to be exact when the famed hurler and the ordinary farmer from North Sligo signed the Dáil Register.

Their signatures and details like date of birth are all embedded in the Dáil's records.

That day in November 1966 Eugene Gilbride got the honour of seconding Jack Lynch's successful bid for the leadership.

He was my grandfather and the details have remained vivid over the decades.

Kerry's Tom McEllistrim, senior, had the higher honour of proposing the giant of Glen Rovers for the big political job.

Historian Ryle Dwyer, not for the first time, recalled those details and much more in an excellent article on that November '66 meeting in yesterday's Irish Examiner. See link.

He was repeating detail Jack Lynch himself recorded in his 1979 memoirs for Magill magazine and in earlier interviews with The Sunday Independent.

Biting Tirade

The Irish Examiner article recalled one biting tirade against the party's outgoing leader, the legendary Sean Lemass -- a lapse in loyalty, if ever.

Journalist John Waters had recalled in his famed Hot Press interview with Charles Haughey over 30 years ago how Lemass so highly valued loyalty.

Except.....except he could not pronounce loyalty; for Lemass the word always came out as 'loy-laty.'

No doubt Donald Trump will have plenty of it on the White House menu from January, loyalty that is!

The Sligo constituency was again to the fore when Fianna Fáil changed its leader 13 years and had only its second contest in 1979.

Following from that Raymond MacSharry became a powerhouse in Irish politics.

Offices held by MacSharry include Agriculture, Finance, Tanaiste, MEP and later Ireland's Euro Commissioner.