A large crowd gathered in the Errigal Hountry House Hotel, Cootehill, yesterday evening, to honour Sinn Féin's longest serving TD, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, as he formally announced his decision to stand down at the next election, writes Thomas Lyons.
The meeting was billed as a “specially convened meeting of all friends of Sinn Féin in Cavan and Monaghan” that would “outline details of the upcoming Selection Convention”.
However details of prospective candidates in the forthcoming elections were not forthcoming as party members were tight lipped about possible names to go forward. The faithful did hear that the party was to employ a two candidate strategy with each county being represented on a gender balanced ticket.
Nevertheless the night was all about Caoimhghín as the Deputy bade his farewells, while committing his support to the organisation in the future. First elected to the Dáil in 1997, Deputy Ó Caoláin recounted his experience as the party's sole TD from then until 2002 and the development of the political organisation since. He spoke of his involvement before that when he worked on the election of Kieran Doherty in 1981.
He acted as the Sinn Féin's leader in the Dáil until Gerry Adams was elected in 2011. He said:”|Achieving the objective of an all Ireland Republic will continue to be my dream and what I will continue to work for.”
He concluded his speech by saying: “I am not going away you know, I am only coming home.”
The Cootehill meeting was also addressed by Sinn Féin’s newly elected Party President Mary Lou McDonald. Deputy McDonald said: “ Caoimhghín has always been a trailblazer, a tremendous worker and a committed family man.”
Local Fianna Fáil TD Brendan Smith has paid tribute to his Oireachtas colleague for his dedicated and committed work as a public representative.
"Caoimhghin was always a good constituency colleague and a team player and we worked closely together on many issues of concern to the people of Cavan/Monaghan."
Fine Gael Senator Joe O Reilly also wished Deputy Ó Caoláin a happy, fulfilling retirement.
"I look forward to continuing to work with him for the remainder of this term. Deputy Ó Caoláin is a hard-working, able and committed representative. He has always put the best interest of the constituency ahead of narrow partisan considerations. He works on matters of concern to the people we represent in close cooperation with colleagues. His eloquence, intelligence and work rate make him a model representative," said Senator O'Reilly.