Aspiring to Political Office – On this Week in 1942
In the Sligo Chamber of 2023, it is expected that the members of the Board conduct themselves in an apolitical manner with regard to all Chamber activities. Taking an unbiased position with respect to political matters is considered a fundamental principle for Board members when acting on behalf of the Chamber and its members. This was not always the case. In the early years of Sligo Chamber, there was a strong inter-relationship in membership between the Board of the Chamber and the Sligo Harbour Board. It was also not uncommon for members of the Chamber Board to be serving simultaneously as elected members of the Corporation of Sligo. Indeed, as we will see in this article, aspiring to political office while a member of the Chamber was actively encouraged.
Against this background, it was hardly surprising that it was arising from a suggestion of a Senator of the Irish Free State Parliament, that Sligo Chamber was formed. Senator Arthur Jackson, D.L., made the suggestion at a meeting of the Sligo Harbour Board on the 2nd of November 1922, that a Chamber of Commerce should be established in Sligo. Senator Jackson, a Belfast man, was a Director of the Sligo Steam Navigation Shipping Company, Chairman of the Sligo Harbour Board and a founding member of Sligo Chamber.
The First President of Sligo Chamber, Harper Campbell Perry, also a Commissioner of the Harbour Board, was the Senior Alderman of the Borough at the time of his election as President in 1923, having topped the poll in the West Ward. He would remain a Councillor for ten years, retaining his seat in the 1925 elections, while at that time, also retaining the position of Sligo Chamber President.
Moving on to the early 1940s and we really see active involvement by the Chamber Board in municipal elections and in seeking to have an influential role in the politics of the day. At the General Meeting of Sligo Chamber on the 16th of July 1942, D.M. Hanley, President, in the Chair, there is only one item of business on the agenda “To consider the question of selecting Candidates for the forthcoming Municipal Elections”.
An interesting sidebar to the meeting is the reading of a letter to the Chamber from the Department of Local Government and Public Health. The letter advises that the Minister for Local Government and Public Health desires to inform the Chamber “that in view of the fact that it has been decided to hold local elections and that a new Corporation will be taking office, the Minister does not think it necessary to pursue further the question of holding a sworn enquiry”. The matter of the Sworn Inquiry has a history dating back to March 1938 and concerned the proposal of the Corporation to raise loans for Housing, Sewerage, and a new Technical School, and the Chamber instructed Messrs. Fenton & Lyons, Solicitors, to be present at the Inquiry to represent the Chamber’s interests.
The meeting then moves on to the question of selecting candidates for the municipal elections. After lengthy discussion, it was decided that a Committee consisting of Messrs. D.M. Hanley, President, J. Harrington, A.B. Woods, W.D. Peebles and the Secretary, J.A. McLoghry, meet the Committees of Sligo Civic Committee and Sligo Citizens Association on the following night at 8pm to make the necessary financial arrangements and select twelve candidates to contest the election. The names of the candidates are to be submitted for approval to a joint meeting of those three bodies, called for the following Tuesday the 21st of July.
At the joint meeting on the 21st of July, the Sligo Chamber Minute Book again records only one item of business “To approve of Candidates selected for the Sligo Municipal Elections and make the necessary arrangements”. The names of twelve candidates are before the meeting. However, at the outset of the meeting, letters were read from Mr. Michael Martin and Mr. John Cullen, two of the candidates selected, regretting they could not see their way to allow their names to go forward for the election. The Secretary, Mr. J.A. McLoghry then advised that Mr. Thomas Monaghan, Solicitor, who was also selected, had decided to withdraw his name. The minutes record in alphabetical order the following nine candidates who consented to be nominated as Independent Candidates:
COLE, John Charles,
O’Connell Street, (Merchant)
FLANAGAN, Thomas Eamon,
High Street, (Merchant)
The Mall, (Journalist)
LYONS, Henry Cecil,
MACARTHUR, Alex. P.,
O’Connell Street, (Merchant)
MC VANAMY, Bernard,
Castle Street, (Saddler)
PEEBLES, William D.,
Grattan Street, (Newspaper Proprietor)
TOHER, Thomas P.,
Stephen Street, (Chemist)
It was then “Proposed by: T.J. Harrington
Seconded by: F. Crawford
And Resolved: That the above Candidates be and are hereby approved of.
J.A. McLoghry was appointed Secretary to the Election Committee and Mr. F. Crawford together with J.A. McLoghry were appointed to act as Treasurers. Mr. Thomas J. Torsney agreed to act as Director of Elections and this was unanimously approved of. It was accepted that there would be expense involved in conducting the election and the President, D.M. Hanley, said that although they had some money on hand, further money would be required and that would be forthcoming from members, one man having already told him he would subscribe £5 towards the election expenses.
A meeting of all the Candidates was arranged for 8 o’clock the following night “to draw up an Appeal to the Electors”. It was agreed that the Appeal be published in both the Sligo Champion and the Sligo Independent on Saturday the 25th of July. Mr. Peebles, who was one of the candidates, and also the proprietor and editor of the Sligo Independent, was asked to have “2,000 copies of the Appeal printed for distribution to the Electors by the Canvassers”. The Appeal to Electors as published in both newspapers set out that “The above Candidates, if elected, have pledged themselves to work unselfishly for the common good of the Town of Sligo, with all the seriousness and dignity which the present time demands. They realise that no effort must be spared to prevent the Rates of the Town becoming unbearable to the tax-payer. They are pledged to effect every possible economy in Rates, Rents and Municipal finance. Reduced Rates mean reduced Rents. They promise to develop Housing Schemes in the interests of all sections of the workers, and they recognize in this connection that the middle-class citizen has almost entirely been neglected. They also promise that no opportunity will be missed to see that a just share of any money available for the relief of unemployment will come to Sligo. This appeal is made with the full confidence that the Electors of Sligo will support the above panel”.
It is clear that the Chamber members were adept at preparation for elections as they then go on to consider the matter of canvassers for the candidates and the following were appointed as canvassers for the three Wards of Sligo Borough, the same three Wards as we would be familiar with for elections in Sligo today.
“North Ward: The three Candidates: J. Harrington, A.P. Macarthur and T.P. Toher assisted by: T.G. Bourke, Thos. Mahon and T.J. Torsney.
East Ward: The three Candidates: E. Flanagan, B. Mc Vanemy and W.D. Peebles assisted by:
D.M. Hanley, A.B. Woods, Michael Meehan and J.A. Stevenson.
West Ward: The three Candidates: J.C. Cole, D. Flanagan and H.C. Lyons assisted by: F. Crawford, T.J. Harrington, M.J. Mulreaney, R. J. Clark, F. Keenan and J.T.H. Orr”.
The above-named canvassers agreed to meet on Monday night the 27th of July at 8 o’clock to make the necessary arrangements to organise the door-to-door canvassing in each of the three Sligo Wards.
It was a tightly fought election with a crowded field of 37 nominations for the 12 Corporation seats, (compared with 18 nominations for 12 seats at the next following election). The quota for election was 332. After all the effort and expense, two of the Sligo Chamber Candidates reached the quota and were elected, both successful in the West Ward, those being J.C. Cole and H.C. Lyons.
Polling for the Municipal Elections, strongly contested by Sligo Chamber Candidates with the support of Chamber members and in which Messrs. J.C. Cole and H.C. Lyons were ultimately successful, was held on the 19th of August, on this week in 1942.
Researched and written by Conor McCarthy
Supported by the Sligo Chamber Centenary Committee:
- Catherine Maguire – Admin & Photographic Research
- Geraldine Courtenay – Creative Direction
- Aidan Doyle – Review & Publication
The next Article in the series commemorating The Centenary of Sligo Chamber and entitled
“A brief history of Sligo Showgrounds” will be released on the 28th of August 2023.
#Sligo Chamber Centenary