LOOKS BACK ON THE LIFE AND GREAT TIMES OF FORMER MAYOR, ALY FARRELL
THE DEATH of Aly Farrell last week brought back memories of a different time in local political circles. He was part of a family that had politics rushing through the veins and - pretty uniquely - both he and his father were mayors of the town.
He had an uncle on both sides of his family on the Republican side in the Civil War, one of them being wounded while covering the retreat from Dundalk of Frank Aiken.
In 1974, when Farrell was first elected to the local council, a new generation of members also took up their seats, including Frank Godfrey. One of his main political aims was the reform of local government, a system he believed badly needed shaking up.
Down the years he worked with such names as Michael and Betty Bell (a neighbour in his young days), Paddy Buckley, Peter Hughes, Fergus O’Dowd, Pat Carr, Jimmy Mulroy, Jackie Murray, Ray Dempsey, Peter Moore and others.
Aly held the post of Mayor in 1978-79 and it was famously a year of unrest as residents of St Finian’s Park were angry about structural faults in their homes. Months after he left the post, €3m was allocated by the government for the reconstruction of the faulty homes after he led deputations to the minister.
He was a boxer in his youth and it was in the Drogheda Amateur Boxing club that he first struck up a friendship with two local men who were later to be elected onto the corporation with him, Deputy Michael Bell and Ald. Tommy Murphy. Later, when he joined the FCA in 1956, it was Bell who trained him.
He was appointed to the North Eastern Health Board in 1983 and attacked the ‘scandal’ of young multiple sclerosis patients being put into geriatric wards in hospitals.
More than any other issue, his opposition to the proposed closure of. St. Marys Hospital in Drogheda and local service charges, brought him into sharp conflict with his party. In the run-up to an F.F. Dail selection
HE COMES FROM THE HONOURABLE, NOBLE, DECENT END OF THE SPECTRUM
convention in 19861986, he claimed thathat he was “being shafted” by senior party officials in Co. Louth.
He was intent to “put the community before the party”. Indeed, the row became so bitter that he made a statement to the local press that he was “being shafted by sons of Blueshirts”.
Aly retired from the Borough Council in June 1989 after he took up his role as an army captain.
He served for nine years and retired in 1998, after almost 42 years in the forces.
He held two commissions, one in the FCA and the other in the Permanent Defence Forces - presented under the Presidencies of Eamon de Valera and Patrick Hillery - and was the first FCA officer to be commissioned into the PDF in 1989.
The Captain enlisted in the FCA in January 1957 in the South Louth Battalion (FCA) and was posted to ‘B’ Coy, 8th Infantry Bn (FCA) on ‘integration’ in 1959.
During the latter part of 1969, in the rank of Sergeant, he was called up in aid of the civil process and between then and June 1972 (when he was commissioned as an officer of the FCA) he performed security and other duties in Castleblaney Miliary Post, at the Boyne Viaduct and on patrols to Garda Stations in the general area of South Louth, East Meath, at Drybridge ESB Station, Mount Oriel, and train guards from McBride Station, Drogheda to Connolly Station, Dublin.
From June 1972 onwards, as a commissioned officer of An FCA, he performed the duties of Orderly Officer at the then Gormanston Air Station. When he was commissioned as an officer in 1989, he served with ‘B’ Coy, 27th Infantry Bn.
At his retirement, Commandant A. J. Donovan, said that they had come together to show their respect, honour and indeed affection for Captain Farrell. He said that among his duties, at one stage, was to act as train guard and although this might be considered a tedious job, it was nevertheless a very important one.
In performing these and other duties, Commandant Donovan said, ‘ no one knows what we saved this country from.’ There was abundant evidence from a wide circle of friends and acquaintances, he said that Aly Farrell was a man of the highest integrity.
‘He comes from the honourable, noble, decent end of the spectrum’ he added. He found him to be a very human person, very decent, very kind, with a tremendous sense of honour, ‘and a terrific analyst of local and national issues.’
Fittingly, last Thursday, his coffin, draped in the Tricolour, was carried from St Mary’s on the broad shoulders of members of the Irish army, the ONE flanking his hearse also.
Mayor Pio Smith, Cllrs Tommy Byrne and Frank Godfrey also attended with Thomas Byrne TD.
Aly is survived by wife Breda and children Antoinette, Mona, Sinéad and Eamonn, relatives and many friends from the political and army world down the years.
His burial was to Calvary.
The cortege to Calvary following Aly Farrell’s funeral in St Mary’s Church