*Dermot Hayes & Breda Shannon. 

ONE OF CLARE’S most prominent activists launches his memoir this Saturday in his native Corofin.

Dermot Hayes will rise along the road in St Patrick’s Hall Corofin at 6pm and it’s sure to be attended by a crowd of people who have fought for a multitude of causes down through the years. He will also be signing copies at Ennis Bookshop from 1:30pm to 3pm on March 11th.

Fighting for causes is what has endeared Dermot to so many. “There’s no point sitting on the couch, complaining about things,” comrade Hayes said of his activism. “You have to be raising the issue like if you feel strongly about it. Only for the people protesting about the HSE and Limerick, there would be nothing done, we got change from the PAYE marches, I believe that we have to pay for water but those marches worked, people around Clare and other counties pay a fee for their local water scheme, it’s good because it is respecting the water. We have to stand up for causes, clerical abuse and cervical check are all very important, that is what civic spirit is”.

This civic spirit has been fuelled throughout his life. The boy from Kells has battled a debilitating illness for most of his life and instead of feeling sorry for himself, he has continued to fight for what he believes in.

He goes back to his days in the Corofin Youth Club for helping to develop his social conscience while his school days have left a lasting impression also. “The social conscience in the sense I could see people had different standards, the national school we got bate but the sons and daughters of the farmers, professional people and shop keeper never got hit”.

Dermot Hayes. Photograph: Natasha Barton

Joining the Trade Union movement saw Dermot’s activism grow further. “I worked for a year on the Clonroad and I raised money and went to an electronic school in Cork, I paid all of my money which I saved, we were doing the exam in Christmas and the fuckers pulled the rug from under us, somebody caught them, they were faking the exams and they were not being sent to London, it came out in The Sunday World at the beginning of 1974, I was devastated. I lost £300 which was a lot of money at the time”. In the late 1970s and early 1980s he was among the main organisers of a PAYE march at the Daniel O’Connell Monument in Ennis which drew reported crowds of 5,000.

Recalling family events did stir up emotions for Dermot when working on the memoir with Breda Shannon, particularly how his grandmother ended up living in a workhouse in Corofin. He speaks with great fondness of his own mother, Anne, “she was a tough woman, tough in the sense she was strong, there was no violence in her. You wouldn’t be demonstrating your love in language. She was there and you know she was there. When I was in hospital in Croom when I was sixteen, she used to send me the ten bob note and write the letter which I found very hard to read, she used to scribble. My youngest sister went to England at seventeen, she is in England sixty years now”.

He added, “My mother and father were strong people, they had no car, they cycled the two and a half miles to the village, my mother used to be the talk of the parish because in the worst of days she would cycle and she would refuse a lift because she wanted to be independent and strong, people commented for twenty years after about. Philip O’Reilly told me one day he got out of the car one day in Corofin on a bad day, he stopped the car, opened the boot and she wouldn’t get into the car”.

Health issues have been a constant during the father of two’s life with The Clare Echo previously reporting on his dialysis treatment and trolley waits at University Hospital Limerick. “Health has been a challenge all my life since I was twelve. When you look back you might do things differently like taking Nurofen for pain, I don’t know if anyone has done a scientific study but that and kidney failure is linked in my opinion, they are addictive and they destroy the kidneys if you take two a day. I’m here now, there’s no point looking back”.

It was his time in UHL during COVID that prompted him to write down his story for his daughters Aimee and Marese. “Anyone with a kidney disease realises that you might have another four or five years at the most, your man said to me several times that new technology comes along the whole time, I had a heart attack on Saturday morning and I thought I was gone, it turned out I needed three stints which is a lot. I thought to myself, I’ve come a long way, I’ve lived a long time, the end has to come sometime so I’m not afraid of death, I’m not one bit afraid of death but I don’t want to go today because I’ve a few things to do later on”.

Dermot Hayes. Photograph: Fiona McNamara

On three separate occasions, he has ran for election, in 1985 for The Workers Party, for Labour in 2014 and as an Independent in 2019 but success has eluded him for each attempt. It is very hard to compete with the big backing of the main parties, he surmised. “When I look back now and I say this to a lot of people, you can’t beat the party machine. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have the party machine down to a fine art, they’ve people behind the scenes who are never on the canvass but they are doing the book work, they know who voted what way and who is on the register, they have members to saturate a place, I saw it in my own estate Mark Nestor had 15 people there, the security of Fianna Fáil is in people’s minds because of owing favours for getting houses and that shite. We didn’t have that but we had a great strategy, I knocked out Mickey Guilfoyle, Tony Mulqueen and Frankie Neylon in 2014, I did well but the party machine was too big. Mark Nestor ran in 2019, I’ve relations in Dysart and Toonagh but so does he and when you analyse it he took a number of votes there, I wanted the number one votes to get up the pecking order, if I got another 15-20 first preference votes I’d have been closer to Pat Daly or Ann Norton but that’s the way the cookie crumbles, my kidneys were very bad at the time”.

Since 2013, Dermot has been beaming out on the airwaves of Raidió Corca Baiscinn, a hobby that he has developed a great affection for. “I love it, it keeps me going and I’d be thinking of who I’ll interview next, there would be a lot of stuff in my head, I rarely get refusal”. Unusually, he is tight-lipped when it comes to finding out who has said no, “I can’t tell you that, you’re digging! I have a rule that I don’t go for any politicians, that’s a very big rule I have”.

His cousin Mattie Finucane from Dysart has been the best interview, in his view, “he’s 92 this year and he has an amazing memory, he was in the Curragh for six months in 1957 and was interned by the police because of Sinn Féin, he has a great brain, he doesn’t read as much now but he’s read a lot of stuff, he’s from Dysart. He was in charge of the tug of war in the Dysart and Ruan area, he was very involved in the hurling in his younger years, a phenomenal memory, a pure cynic”.

If there is a cause worth fighting for, chances are Dermot will be there with his sticks and instantly recognisable red hat, “I had a red hat back in the 80s with the cooperatives, I lost it and sent away for another one, this was made in China. I like to think I’m a socialist, most of the time, that’s why with the book I’m giving away all the profit to the hall in Corofin and the Clare Leader Forum, while I would love more money they are two important organisations”.

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Subscribe for just €3 per month

If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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