Cormac MacConnell: Bonfires, marching bands, and strokes...

The election candidate who called to your door five minutes ago with a fistful of literature and a mouthful of promises is almost certainly a thoroughly decent and earnest and worthwhile citizen.
Cormac MacConnell: Bonfires, marching bands, and strokes...

This person is playing their part in the most fundamental exercise of our democracy, and is to be commended for that.

It is, however, a great pity that a modern Irish election, like so many of those worthies involved in this digital era, is so bloody boring and uninspiring, at least for me.

Wise pundits in the media were stating this week that the campaign, as they put it, had not caught fire.

How the blazes could it, when the reality is that so many of us are bored stiff by barrages of promises, manifestos galore, polished prepared speeches and bytes of them, and a million posters featuring blandly respectable outgoing TDs, as they looked when photographed ten or 15 years ago.

Either that or posters of young hopefuls who look as if they were still being pushed around in prams or buggies 15 years ago.

The pure truth, once more. It’s boring so far, and likely to remain so.

God be with the days when bonfires blazed on the hills, when marching bands skirled the madness of their war pipes over the electorate, when strong men settled political arguments fistically in the backyards of pubs or on fair greens; when party leaders, none of them boring and most of them gloriously flawed, led armies of their followers to the hustings; and, in their time and season, recreated de Valera’s triumphant ride through Ennis on a fiery stallion.

All elections were great craic back then. We could relish them, no matter which party we would support in the end.

Almost everybody voted, unlike today when turnouts are dropping sharply, and the whole exercise energised the entire community, especially those battles waged in dark, gloomy winters, like now.

You could and would enjoy the democratic exercise down the decades, when the tally men were kings, and the counts often lasted for the better part of a week. That’s all gone now.

I feel it my duty, accordingly, to inject a little bit of levity into the situation this Thursday, by informing one and all that there are still a rare few mighty “strokes” being pulled, according to the old traditions.

One of those is a classic, because it involves Our Holy Father the Pope himself.

I never lie in this space, so take it as gospel, in more ways then one, when I inform ye that Pope Francis is praying for the future wellbeing of the Irish electorate, even as ye read this in astonishment.

Furthermore, he is especially praying for those, mostly farmers, who suffered most during the recent flooding episodes. That is the pure truth too.

Maybe the most colourful candidate in the field today, you see, is the flamboyant father of Galway County Council, an East Galway farmer who bears (I swear) the name of Michael “Stroke” Fahy, who has been a poll-topper in the council elections since 1979, who is running as an Independent in East Galway, and who, in surely the stroke of the century, has enlisted the prayers of the Pope of Rome in his campaign.

He achieved this by bringing the plight of the flooded South Galway folk in his area to the attention of the Papal Nuncio, Charles J Brown, whom he had met years ago, and the good Nuncio replied he had informed the Pope of the plight of the people in South Galway, and the Pope had assured him that he would pray for the flood victims. That is the kind of old-style stroke that fills my heart with joy as I write.

There are pages on the internet which detail the colourful career to date of Stroke Fahy and, I assure you all, these are infinitely more compulsive reading than the current bland spew of manifestos. I will leave ye with just one morsel.

The Stroke was in jail for an alleged fraud offence, which was later quashed at the Court of Criminal Appeal, back in 2007.

There was a Seanad election during the months he was inside but, as an elected Councillor, he was entitled to vote in the contest.

His address, on the election register, was given as “Castlerea Prison, Co Roscommon”. That never happened before, and never will again, I’m sure.

Say a prayer of thanks to the Pope for his concern tonight...

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