passion for GAA and politics
When Republican Sinn Fein Councillor, Sean Lynch lost his
seat on Longford Co Council last year it ended the Lynch
familys seventy year link with local government.
From an early age, Sean Lynch has been a staunch Republican,
and his life long friendship with RSF leader, Ruairi OBradaigh,
was at the heart of these beliefs. That passion for politics
is probably only eclipsed by his love of the GAA.
Sean Lynch, farmer, politician and Republican, was born
on February 18, 1933 in Cleenrath, Aughnacliffe. One of
eight, Sean, the third youngest, had two brothers and five
sisters and was, he admits, born into a very different Ireland.
Sean recalls walking over the fields and bogs to get to
primary school in the, now defunt, Puladoey N.S where he
was taught by Master McGee, as well as two of his relatives;
Rose Lynch, his aunt-in-law, and his aunt, Sissy OReilly,
After his spell at Pulladoey, he then attended the Latin
School in Moyne for a number of years, then went on to Longford
to learn the bar trade. There, he worked in an establishment
owned by Mary-Ann Hourican, but found that working in a
bar interfered with the greatest love of his life at the
Sean jokes that he didnt like when his shifts began
to interfere with his training and so he decided to leave
the hotel and catering industry. Afterwards, he went on
to find a job which was more amenable to the sport and began
working with Devines in Longford, an establishment
which operated a travelling shop and egg export company.
Sean trained to be an egg-tester, completing a course in
Claremorris and gaining a certificate in the trade. He also
accompanied the travelling shop across much of the midlands
and the west; spending a lot of time in Roscommon, selling
groceries and buying eggs from the local women who bred
chickens for the purpose.
Sean recalls this time with great fondness, recounting the
fun he had and the great variety of people he met at the
time. Sean also remembers the time, during the fifties,
as the golden age of Colmcille GAA, and remembers
with nostalgia his participation in the sport.
He played on the first minor team set up in Colmcille in
1949, which went on to win the league in 1950, which he
maintains was the premier competition of the time. We
won it when every team was at full strength, it was during
the summer when the college boys were able to play, unlike
the Championship, which was during the winter, when they
wouldnt have been able to participate.
I can see Seans eyes widen wide glee as he recounts
this, almost as if fifty years havent gone by at all
and he is still back on the pitch, scoring points for Colmcille.
Around the time, Sean also became involved in the training
and preparing of teams, helping to coach the 1953 Colmcille
Minor team to victory in the Championship.
This was also the decade when Colmcille won two senior championships;
in 1952 and again in 1958. During this time, Sean graduated
to Junior level, and played alongside his brother, Brian.
He also went onto become the longest serving secretary of
the Colmcille GAA Club, enjoying both the physical and clerical
aspects of football.
Sean admits to being completely passionate about football
at this time and also became a county delegate for both
the minor and senior boards, as well as being a selector
on a county minor board team in 1953. Football was
great entertainment for people at the time; it kepts us
all out of mischief, Sean says fondly, recalling the
evenings spent kicking a football around on Kiernans
field opposite the church.
Sean was also instrumental in the building of Fr McGee Park
in Colmcille, which he describes as being one of the
biggest events to happen in Colmcille at the time,
and he is still a trustee of the park. Fr Phil McGee
was a tireless worker for GAA and it was only right and
proper that he was remembered in this way, says Sean.
There was, of course another passion in Seans Lynch
at the time, politics and Irish history. Raised in a staunchly
Republican household, Sean was raised on a diet of rebel
songs, Fenian stories and Gaelic folklore.
Indeed, as I chat with Sean he directs me to a framed poster
of a Sinn Fein meeting in Ballinamuck in 1918 which featured
Michael Collins as the chief speaker and Seans father,
Sean Snr, as one of the local speakers. It cannot, then,
be surprising, that even as a young man, Sean himself, would
have grown an interest in the heady world of politics.
Sean recalls a strong political background on both sides
of his families; his mothers family had strong links
with the Fenian movement in the nineteenth century, and
he also had uncles and cousins on both sides of the family
who had taken part in the Ambush of Clonfin.
In 1955, Sean joined Sinn Fein, at the age of 22. It was
here that he became acquainted with Ruairi OBradaigh
whose father, Matt Brady was from the townland of Gelsha
in Colmcille. In fact, Sean recalls a time when Matt had
been injured in an ambush on RIC members during the War
of Independence and that his father had gone to Ballinagh
in order to find a doctor for him. So, even back then a
strong bond of friendship and loyalty had been formed between
the two families.
Years later, when Ruairi stood for election in the district
of Fermanagh/South Tyrone, Sean electioneered for him there,
as well as electioneering for Bobby Sands.
On May 26, 1969 the day his father died, Seans life
was to change dramatically. Sean Snr had worked as an independent
Sinn Fein Councillor for 35 years, from 1934-1969, and now
there was both a political vacuum as well as a personal
Sean gave up his job working with Devines which he
had retained during the sixties and took over the running
of the family farm. He would also, no doubt, have stepped
into his fathers political shoes on the County Council
had he been co-opted, but, in fact, this was not to be the
Instead, Fianna Fail took the seat ( Fine Gael had backed
Sean but FF, who were in the majority on the Council, voted
against this), and Sean was left in the shade.
It was not until June 1974, that Sean could win back the
seat, a seat many already felt should have been his in the
first place. On this date, Sean Lynch topped the poll.
The next election in 1979, was a slightly closer affair,
with Sean winning his seat on the third count. In 1980,
Sean was elected chairman of the Co. Council, a period which
Sean describes as the golden years of his political
career. He recalls it as the only time in the history of
Longford Co Council that the committees were spread out
evenly between the various parties - everybody goy
an equal share.
It was also at the time, in the early eighties the Northern
Ireland, and in particular, the Hunger Strike was at its
height. In the summer of 1981, Sean worked as election agent
for the hunger striker, Martin Hurson, a young man from
Cappagh in Co.Tyrone who ran for election in the Longford/Westmeath
District. After just a fortnight of electioneering, Hurson
had pulled in 4,573 first preference votes, although it
wasnt enough to get him elected. On July 15, 1981,
the young hunger striker died in the H-Block section of
Long Kesh prison.
Sean recalls this with a mixture of pride and sadness; pride
at the support he, and supporters of Hurson had managed
to whip up over just fourteen days, but sadness that this
young man had died in such a tragic way. Although he never
met Martin, he did meet most of his family members who thanked
him for all the hard work he had displayed during the election
The next local election which Sean himself had to face was
in 1985, and on that occasion, he lost. Sean cites the change
in boundaries as a large factor in defeat; certain areas
of Colmcille were amalgamated into the Granard electoral
district during this period, meaning that Sean lost out
a large support base in his own parish.
This, in fact, was the second time the boundaries had been
changed in Seans career; in 1974, four townlands in
the Granard area had been removed from Seans electoral
district, and this second removal was a strong blow to his
In 1986, Sean sided with Ruairi OBradaigh when the
TD rejected Sinn Feins decision to obolish abstentionism
and formed his own party, Republican Sinn Fein. This, he
tells me, was less to do with his enduring friendship with
OBradaigh, and more to do with the fact that this
was a basic rejection of Republican ideals. Sean himself
does not recognise the Dail, since it only represents 26
of the 32 counties, and he feels that Gerry Adams went
down the wrong road at this time - just like FG in
1922 and FF in 1926.
In fact, it is clear that Sean is Republican to his very
core; he tells me that he is as proud of his relatives who
fought in the battle of Clonfin as he is of those uncles
and aunts who worked in religious orders across the world.
According to Sean, he learned history from people
who helped to make the history, and seems particularly
proud of his grandmother, Katie Brady, a teacher from Granard,
who he describes as a real Republican. He and
fellow members of Republican Sinn Fein want a 32-county
Ireland, with no shortcuts, although he does
admit that it looks unlikely at the present moment.
In, a slightly surprising turn, Sean also tells me that
some of his best friends are Protestants, and doesnt
like labelling people either Protestant or Catholic. He
even cites, Wolfe Tone, the father of Irish Republicanism
as being of Protestant stock.
What Sean wants, he tells me, is a thirty-two county Republic
where Protestants and Catholics would live together in harmony.
But returning to Seans own political career, in 1991,
Sean managed to win back his seat because, by this time,
Sean tells me, he had gotten to know the people of the Drumlish
electoral district and had won their support. In 1999, he
won again, beating the FF candidate Benny Reid after a number
Which takes us up to last year, 2004, which unfortunately,
Sean lost to FF candidate Martin Mulleady. Sean is quite
philosophical about the defeat. I always did my best down
the years and dont have any regrets about my time
in the Council, so I didnt feel too bad when I lost,
I had a clean conscience.
Asked about his finest achievements in politics, Sean tells
me hes had a few.
He recalls a time in the seventies, when he managed to have
townlands in his district reclassified as severely
handicapped economically, thus enabling the farmers
there to receive higher grants.
He was also extremely involved in the Loch Gowna Water Scheme
which his father had actually started. After that, Sean
himself, worked on every occasion to have it extended, and
In Aughnacliffe and Perth, he was also involved in the granting
of public lighting; and he also pushed for lighting at Legga
and Moyne churches.
Sean also always supported rural housing and road maintenance,
as well as local improvement schemes, and was a strong supporter
of North Longford as a tourist destination, describing it
as the Killarney of the Midlands.
Sean tells me, that from a very young age, he always felt
that he was very much a community person wanting
to help and support the people with which he lived. He tells
me that he inherited his hard-working ethos from his dad,
who he is still extremely proud of.
Now that hes out of politics, Sean says that much
of his time is taken up with farming, which he still retains
a keen interest in, although he tells me he does get a bit
of time to do some reading and to practice his Irish, which
he is fluent in.
A bachelor all his life, Sean describes himself as having
being married to the job over the years! And
asked whether hell run again, he casts me a wry smile,
before saying jovially, You know something, I think
Ill leave that in the hands of the Lord!
Courtesy of The Longford Leader
8th April 2005
By Bernice Mulligan