When I first started covering local council meetings here in Galway city and county, there were a lot of serious players on board. Heavy hitters who as soon as a meeting was over, would head to Dublin to make or take decisions in a higher forum. They looked and sounded serious. They were like Abbey repertoire actors let loose on touring the carnival tents and halls of rural Ireland. They knew how to play to the gallery and how to ensure their survival in an animalistic political arena. It was in the chambers of the councils that they fine-tuned their roar for the national stage.
It was a different era and one by one, those who dominated the political chambers and meeting rooms of this county are departing the stage. Already in the last few months, we have lost Mark Killilea; over the past few years, others have passed on. Councillors like Toddie Byrne, John Mannion, Joe Burke, Pat Finnegan, Angela Lupton, Bridie O’Flaherty. Kings and queens of their realms. And these week, we lost another.
It was in one such chamber that I first met Cllr Michael Fahy, whose passing on Tuesday night saddened and shocked so many, coming just a few weeks after he revealed that he was battling liver cancer.
While being well aware of his potential for divilment and political posturing, I had great time for Michael over the 30 years or so that I have been covering him. I travelled on several overseas delegations with him, dipped many a chocolate goldgrain with him at County Hall, dined with him in exotic places like Swindon and Bristol while nodding at some superdump or housing scheme presentation.
I listened many’s a time to hear him speak wonderfully of his love and respect for his mother Mai, and of his life which he revealed was often lonely at times; but his fortune at having good close friends who stood by him through everything; his constituents, those who he asked for support every time a poll came around. He regaled us with tales of a life most interesting in which he became the very epitome of your rural county councillor.
He sat right in front of the press desk in the council chamber at the old County Hall. Before he’d start his contribution to a meeting, he’d look around at us, usually myself or Bernie Ni Fhlatharta or Ann Healy or Mairtin O Cathain or others, he’d wink and let us know he was about to go off on one. And his contribution would start at an even tone, and with each line would rise an octave and so on, until four minutes or so in, he would be redfaced with a constructed indignation, his expression contorted with an emotion to match the intensity of his contribution.
He’d embellish his offering with a flourish of the hand and a throw of the sheet to the desk, with a final rallying cry that would normally end with someone like Michael Regan or Jimmy McClearn shouting ‘good man Stroke,” at which point, he’d politely say ‘thank you Mr Chairman...” and sit down, before twisting around for another wink, to let us know that that was it. And had we got it all down? Because if it wasn’t going to make the papers, sure what was the point?
Behind all the bluster and the bravado and the playing to the gallery, he was a gentleman with perfect manners who would never wanted to behave in any way that Mai would have disapproved of.
There are enough stories about Michael’s political life to fill a volume of books. His was a career that divided opinion, with consequences that he perhaps endured because he sometimes did not prevail to wiser counsel.
I am genuinely sad that he has passed on, but he lived a life less ordinary. He did not have much time since he was diagnosed with serious illness earlier this year. As was his wont, he pledged he’d be here for the election. but alas he won’t be. The county council count centre on Saturday May 24 will be a poorer place without him. Ardrahan will be a poorer place without him.
The pleasure of knowing him, covering him, and commenting on him was all mine. Farewell, Michael, farewell.
Cllr Michael Fahy will be reposing at Monahan’s Funeral Home Labane, Ardrahan this evening (Thursday ) April 4 from 5.00pm. Removal at 8.00pm to St. Teresa’s Church Labane. Funeral Mass tomorrow Friday April 5 at 12 noon. He will be laid to rest in Labane Cemetery.