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Memories of Mayo

Former President Hillery had a hand in Mayo’s future

Conor Ganly

Former President, Dr Patrick Hillery, paid a nostalgic visit to Mayo over the weekend.
Dr Hillery was in west Mayo with his son Dr John Hillery who is the President of the Medical Council, and who addressed rural GPs on Saturday in Mulranny.
While he was here Dr Hillery senior went to Achill to once again savour its spectacular views.
Now in his 80s Dr Hillery first became president 30 years ago this year. Before he entered politics he was a medical doctor and he gained some valuable early experience in Mayo in the 1940s. He took some time out to speak with The Mayo News at the weekend and revealed that he had a hand in Mayo’s future.
“I was looking for money to go to Canada and I came down and did a locum with Dr Kelly in Belmullet. I delivered a lot of babies there. He had a very big maternity practice,” he said.
It was the beginning of a long affinity with the county. He came to Mayo every year to capture the beauty of Achill and west Mayo. He also made friends with one of Mayo’s most famous sons.
“I used to come here painting when I was in politics. John Healy, who used to write the column “Backbencher”, used to paint in the group I was in. He was a good painter and his wife was a good painter,” he said.
The year Dr Hillery was first elected to the Dáil was historic for Mayo and would make a friend of another Mayo man.
“In fact, I went into the Dáil the same day as Sean Flanagan in 1951 the same year they won the All Ireland,” he said.
Dr Hillery said national politics has changed dramatically. He said it is tougher and more competitive and is more costly.
“In my time you had a collection at the church gate. You didn’t spend so much money. Canvassing was the thing, you asked for the vote,” he said.
As for Beritie Ahern’s recent troubles he made little comment other than to say that the media got “excited”.