From the Cavan Leader to Brussels, with happy times in between

Roscommon People Editor Paul Healy reflects on a long-time friend and former journalistic colleague’s rise to MEP status…

The first time I ever met Ciaran Mullooly was on the sideline at a GAA club game in Longford. It was 1986. Neither he or I were manager or sub; he was a confident Longford Leader journalist, I a shy cub reporter on one of my first outings.

Ciaran was friendly, welcoming and full of quips. Thus began a close friendship that continues to this day.

Within a year or so of that first meeting, Ciaran and I were dispatched to Cavan by our boss, the late, great newspaperman Eugene McGee. The Longford Leader had opened a sister title, the Cavan Leader, daring to take on the mighty Anglo Celt. Ciaran would run the enterprise for McGee, while I took up a position as sports reporter, Mr Mullooly my direct ‘line manager’.

It was a fine newspaper, but the public’s unbreakable loyalty to ‘the Celt’ – that and a costly legal outing or two – led to the demise of the new Cavan paper after a couple of years.

Before that happened, and before Ciaran headed for Shannonside Radio, we had great times/escapades together with our colleagues in Cavan (a great town, then and now).

Indeed Ciaran and I shared a house in Cavan for a period of time. Parked outside were our cars, which were bangers (well, mine certainly was). These were days of regular impoverishment, no doubt because we struggled to link the phenomenon of being broke by midweek with our fondness for a night out. We shared an inability to make a week’s wages last for anything like… a week. We had great fun.

One Good Friday, alarmed at the prospect of not being able to get a drink in the Republic (pubs closed on Good Friday in those days), we travelled into Northern Ireland with a work colleague and found an establishment where we had a great night in the company of a few locals who were, I suspect, of a different political persuasion to us. We survived it.

My wife Fiona, and Ciaran’s wife Angela, also became very good friends. Many years later (2005) on the very same day and in the same hospital (Portiuncula), Fiona gave birth to our third daughter, Ciara and Angela gave birth to the Mulloolys’ first son, Bryan.

In latter years, Ciaran wrote a column for the Roscommon Champion while Fiona and I were there, and more recently he penned one for the Roscommon People. We’ve even launched eachother’s books.

If you’ve read this far, it is hardly necessary (well, it probably is) for me to declare an interest on the matter of my old friend’s elevation to member of the European Parliament last week.

It’s been fascinating watching this journey unfold. The County Longford native (now resident in Ballyleague) has had political ambitions for many years (Fianna Fáil made regular overtures to him). The slick and comprehensive campaign run by Ciaran and his team paid off just over a week ago, not least because of the Independent Ireland candidate’s air of positivity, communication skills, good humour and energy. (As an aside, I know that our mutual friend, the late and lamented Mick McCormack, would have been enthusiastically first out with the camera in Castlebar in the early hours of Friday morning).

Unaware at the time that Ciaran would declare as a candidate, I introduced him as a speaker at this year’s Suck Valley Way Conference as a man of great ideas and energy, a person who gets things done. On Monday, his first day in Brussels, he was left under no illusions about how intense the spotlight will be now, with severe criticism of his response to the passing of the Nature Restoration Law. His new role will be a learning curve, but without any political or personal bias, I can say with absolute confidence that Ciaran Mullooly will bring his great energy, flair for coming up with new ideas/solutions, and a ‘can do’ approach to his work as an MEP. He has been an outstanding community activist in Ballyleague/Lanesboro, and across Longford and Roscommon (the Lough Ree Access for All project would never have been launched were it not for his determination and drive).

A native of Killinure in the parish of Rathcline, Ciaran’s media career took him from the provincial press to Shannonside Radio, and later to a long stint as the national broadcaster’s Midlands Correspondent. Now a new chapter opens as he begins his work as an Independent Ireland MEP.

I suppose a small loan before pay day is out of the question?