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November 28th 2001

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Behind Closed Doors
with Cross Bencher

Mayor Curley of Boston defined an honest politician as one ‘who when bought stays bought’. Alan Dukes once used the phrase in cabinet to Dick Spring when the tetchy Mr. Spring had to lump it over some decision or other.

Thomas Gildea fits this definition to a tee. He is an honest politician. He made a deal with Bertie Ahern whereby he would get certain special consideration for his constituency representations in exchange for his support. He has stuck to his side of the agreement.

This latest test to his resolve could not have been easy - he was one of the vocal accusers of that Letterkenny Gardai clique in regard to the explosion at the mast in Ardara. The easy and popular thing to do would have been to go against the Government on the Dail vote. You can rest assured he would have had a serious detailed discussion with the Justice minister on the issue. He must have received sufficient assurance that nothing was being swept under the carpet. So he was able to continue his support of the government in good conscience where someone more wily would have gone the populist route.

Nevertheless, he was under pressure and felt he had to defend himself. The pressure was being exerted by the parties which were in power when the T.V. deflector issue was at its height and M.M.D.S was issuing writs against the protesters and had the backing of the government in pursuing this course. The Department of Justice, through the guards, was the visible culprit in the eyes of the protestors. Many harsh things were said and the campaign was often personalised against Ministers and Gardai. The former minister Ray Burke received particular mention. It was a time when sleaze at the top was being exposed. Michael Lowry, who was Minister in charge of Telecoms, had just been sacked from cabinet.

It is in this context of tribunal exposure of the Dublin golden circles that Thomas Gildea, an honest politician, lashed out when forced to defend himself. He personalised the matter as he and his supporters have always done. Indeeed as is always the case in political fights. Nobody for an instant believes that Nora Owens personally received money by way of bribe from M.M.D.S. Would we believe similarly of Ray Burke or Michael Lowry? Would we believe that MMDS would not stoop so low as to make a large political contribution? Companies connected to the O’Reillys have already been exposed to revelations of political donations and the O’Reillys and the Independent media group are connected to MMDS.

Fine Gael has never revealed details of the funding received in 1995 and 1996 that enabled the party to clear its large debt imbalance. Repeatedly, they have been asked for this information - all such requests have been ignored. Nora Owen should now demand that her party give this full information and so clear her good name absolutely.

The Department of Justice has also been involved in providing masts to some Telecoms and the tribunals have raised questions about contributions from one or other of these Telecom companies to Fine Gael.

Of course the counter attack was mounted against Thomas Gildea and boy - was it not personalised?

Thomas Gildea speaks with a Glenties Donegal accent; he hardly ever speaks in the Dail, so he must be stupid and inarticulate; he could not possibly be able to write out his own words; he looks and acts like a bogman; he is speaking out now as an election is close - cute hoorism in another words.

I think it is incumbent on us in Donegal to put the record straight.

Thomas Gildea TD for Donegal South West is not only an honest politican of whom we can be proud but he is a man true to his own place and yes - he speaks like somebody born and reared in McGill country.

Thomas Gildea, like Patrick McGill, is far from being stupid or inarticulate; he and his supporters ran a very clever political campaign to get elected as an Independent. How many of today’s front benchers would have made it to the Dail running as Independents!

Thomas Gildea is well able to write; his election literature is always clear and meaningful, devoid of stereotype platitudes. The fact that Patrick McGill could possibly write must also be a surprise to many people with pretensions; McGill was off to the hiring fairs at ten years of age, so his schooling was very light.

Thomas Gildea is as God made him, modest, reserved yet decent and becoming - would that there were more like him in the political field.

Thomas Gildea did not make any calculation as to publicity and the gaining of votes on making his Dail comments. He spoke and explained his vote because he felt he had to, in order that supporters would understand that he was remaining true to previously stated convictions and being consistent in the face of allegations of the opposite. There are no votes for him in this issue on the stand he took.

There are some politicians, notably Jim Higgins of Mayo and Brendan Howlin of Wexford, milking the killing of Richie Barron for all it is worth. Now I know there are quite a few Mayo guards in Donegal but where is Howlin from Wexford coming from? These two front benchers should more fully explain their roles and maybe then we might see some cute hoorism. There were some political donations along the way here too. The fact is that Richie Barron was killed but it does not seem to be of central interest.

This column holds no brief for Thomas Gildea but he has demonstrated his honour and his commitment to his own people and not just since he became a T.D. - and this current fracas underlines that he is an honest politician within the already stated definition of Mayor Curley.


Fine Gael have done Donegal Town the honour of giving us a local man to vote for at the next General Election. Big Jimmy McGroary is to be their candidate in the South of the county.

Jimmy is a life-long Fine Gaeler as was his father before him. Jimmy the Tailor worked in Mick Harveys and then Charlie Harveys and with wee Charlie was a G.A.A. enthusiast and a Four Masters official for many years.

Jimmy i.e. Big Jimmy, then taught for many years under Mick Harveys grandson J.J. - such are the connections in a small town. Many of his fellow teachers have been Fine Gael supporters through the years. If the local community give their support as they should, then he would have a base to build a good vote.

In the last election Manus Brennan stood for Labour, which was an uphill battle in traditionalist Donegal. With the aid of those teaching colleagues Jimmy could do better under the Fine Gael banner.

There are six vocational schools in this area, so if those teachers were to form an ‘elect Jimmy committee’ and devise and implement an election strategy to assist the Fine Gael party, then the sparks could fly. The best brains of the area, who are not short of the required political noos should be able to give Dinny and Mary a run for their money.

But listen - there will be no £27 per hour available.

The Donegal Times, The Diamond, Donegal Town, Ireland

Tel: +353-73-22860 Fax: +353-73-22937