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Enda Kenny leads tributes to Jim Mannion

The late Jim Mannion is pictured with his wife Kathleen and An Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the Mannion homestead in Frenchgrove.
The late Jim Mannion is pictured with his wife Kathleen and An Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the Mannion homestead in Frenchgrove.

Warm tributes to born leader ‘Gentleman’ Jim Mannion

Michael Commins

AN Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, told the congregation at the Funeral Mass of Jim Mannion in Carras Church on Saturday that three words came to mind when one thought of Jim – Decency, Integrity, Respect. “He was as fine a Christian gentleman as you would find anywhere on this planet in a day’s walking,” he said to warm applause.
Jim Mannion (85) was born in Dublin, lived for a good many years in Co Roscommon before coming to his aunt’s home in Frenchgrove, Carras when he was around 16 years of age back in 1944. In the seven decades that were to follow, Jim made a huge contribution to life in the region through sport, politics and farming.
Jim was first elected to Mayo County Council in the then Claremorris 7-seater in 1985 after missing out in the elections of 1967 and 1974. He was subsequently elected in 1991 and 1999 before retiring in 2004 after 19 years of wonderful service to the community. Patsy O’Brien from Robeen became his successor in the 2004 election.
The ‘Mannion machine’ in those years was noted for its intense loyalty to Jim and it crossed all generations and parties. The manner in which Jim was always raised shoulder high by his supporters at the counts in Castlebar was legendary, the joy and passion and pride rolling out across the hall. Others were elected ….but Jim’s was a coronation ceremony with his supporters.
Jim married Kathleen Maughan and they had one son, Michael. He died tragically in a tractor accident on the farm in 1975. He was just short of 14 years at the time. It was the heaviest of crosses for Jim and Kathleen to shoulder and the whole community shared in their pain and grief.
Fr Michael Murphy, PP, speaking at the Mass in Carras, said ‘Gentleman’ Jim was a blessing to the region and a man who commanded the utmost respect.
Billy Fitzpatrick, on behalf of Garrymore GAA, told the congregation, that Jim was the master of the boardroom. “Himself and Mick Heaney were feared in every meeting where matters relating to the advancement of Garrymore were at stake. Mick was the quiet one, he made the scuds and no one knew better than Jim how to throw them. He was a brilliant debater and no one got the better of him.
“They made their name as Garrymore delegates back in the 1950s. My home village of Ballyglass on the county border was at the heart of it. They felt the Mayo County Board had not much interest in the Ballyglass area and were not concerned if it became part of Galway for football purposes. Ballyglass is in Mayo but is also in the parish of Milltown which is in Galway. It was a kind of Golan Heights problem back in those days.
“The matter, discussed under the Parish Rule, came before the Connacht Council in Castlerea. Galway had heavy hitters like Brendan Nestor and Tull Dunne at the time but Jim Mannion had one ace up his sleeve that none of them knew about. Dan O’Rourke, the former Roscommon All Ireland winners, was chairman of the Connacht Council and Jim had been a pupil of his in Tarmon NS outside Castlerea. Jim had a word with him before the meeting. The Ballyglass issue produced some heated debate and when it came to a vote, it was a tie. Dan O’Rourke cast his vote in favour of Ballyglass staying in Mayo and commented ‘the county line is stronger that the parish line’. That settled it!”
The Taoiseach, who addressed the congregation at the end of the Mass, said the bonds of friendship between Jim and Kathleen Mannion and the Kenny family went back a long way. “Jim was a great friend of my father Henry. He was on duty at Cregduff polling booth the day I contested the by-election when I was first elected to Dail Eireann when he got the terrible news of the death of his son Michael in a tractor accident on the farm. Jim and Kathleen were married the day after I was born in 1951 so our lives seemed to be linked in a special way.
“Jim Mannion epitomized a sense of strength. He brought this with him to Carras and Garrymore. At meetings in Tierney’s of Foxhall or Mayo County Council, whenever Jim spoke, people listened. He had that ability to still a crowd, such was the respect for him. He was a great man for advice and good counsel. We were immensely proud of him in the Fine Gael party.”
In extending condolences to Kathleen and the family, he recalled all the times he enjoyed the boiled eggs, the tea and chat in the warm and welcoming home in Frenchgrove. “Farewell, loyal and trusted friend, we will all miss you, Jim,” concluded an emotional An Taoiseach.
Removal took place from Roundfort Community Funeral Home to Carras Church with interment in Roundfort Cemetery following concelebrated Mass. Colleagues and former councillors from Mayo County Council formed a guard of honour in Roundfort. Garrymore GAA Club had a guard of honour as the cortege arrived in Carras on Friday evening and another in Roundfort on Saturday.
Jim, who was predeceased by his son Michael and his brother Fr Godfrey, OFM, is survived by his wife Kathleen, niece Mary and her husband Pat Merrick, brothers Tommy and Paddy, sisters Nancy and Phil, nephews, nieces, relatives, great neighbours and many friends.