Flynn back on centre stage

County View

Flynn back on the centre stage again

It was like old times for Pádraig Flynn at the Humbert School in Ballina where, centre stage again, the former EU commissioner delivered the keynote speech at the Downhill Hotel in favour of his old mentor, Charles J Haughey.
The colourful ex-politician had left his sick bed, school director, John Cooney, reminded the attendance, in order to honour his promise to be the keynote speaker, and even the traces of a heavy bout of ‘flu could not dent the enthusiasm with which Flynn recalled the Haughey era.
Early on in his speech he had remarked that Mr Haughey was not tall in stature, which explained why he himself was never photographed in the front of any grouping which included the former Taoiseach. (For those among us who thought that this was due to a natural reticence on his part, it was good to have that question settled once and for all).Padraig Flynn
Charles Haughey, he said, was a Mayoman who was proud of his roots and proud to support anything he thought to be in the best interests of Mayo. He reminded us – not that we doubted it for a moment – of how Mr Haughey had met a kindred spirit in the late Monsignor James Horan, and of how vision and initiative and determination had fused to deliver the dream of Knock Airport.
And he travelled back in time to recall the words of the poet Paul Durcan when on the opening day of Knock Airport, he spoke of how the project had become reality despite opposition from pedigree economists, calculators and the sophists of Dublin and the Pale. Mr Haughey too had given his ready assent to the development of the Céide Fields and had launched the first Humbert Summer School in 1986.
The theme of this year’s Summer School was ‘Ireland Transformed, 1986-2006’, and Pádraig Flynn skilfully traced the influence of Charles Haughey in placing Ireland in the European context. Haughey had supported Ireland’s first application for European membership, seeing the EC as having a distinctive European tradition founded on a long history of Christianity, and not just a community with a purely materialistic outlook.
But Europe too is changing, he warned. The growth of Eurabia, Muslim Europe within old Europe, is presenting us with challenges which we sometimes would prefer not to think about. We need serious debate on immigration and racism, if only because one tenth of our population is now non-national. Yet we are reluctant to engage with this reality, and our migrants are treated with suspicion and spoken of in critical terms, both publicly and privately.
And soon he was back to more familiar themes. There is a danger of growing apathy and disenfranchisement among young people in relation to politics. The media, he said, is often playing to an old audience.
Politics too often comes late to address the concerns of modern living, he said.
By now he was speaking like a man with the scent of political activity in his veins. His interest in the flow and ebb of politics, locally and nationally, was clearly more than being merely passive. And for those with any doubts as to whether he has quit the political landscape entirely, there was the not totally enigmatic comment that ‘maybe next year will create lots of political excitement for all of us, young and old’.

IN FOCUS Padraig Flynn arriving at the Humbert Summer School in Ballina last week, with John Cooney, Director.
Pic: Keith Heneghan/Phocus