Sunday, 21 April 2019


Although others doubtless felt relief at the news of Pádraig Conneely’s retirement from politics, Double Vision lost one of its favourite foils.

Over the last two decades, Podge and I have enjoyed gently upsetting each other.

My first encounters with Pádraig Conneely came on Friday lunchtimes in the early 1990s, when we both chose to hang out in the Connacht Tribune newsroom.

A smattering of editors leaned back on their chairs, enjoying a bit of craic, chatting about the latest news and scandal, while the floor vibrated beneath our feet, as presses and conveyor belts printed and assembled the newspapers below.

New in Galway, ignorant and curious, I wondered who was this strange man, sat with his feet up on a desk down at the end of the room?

With his with oiled hair and pinstripe suit, his face carried a worldweary scowl. He looked like a baddie from a black and white movie, but was he there to nick our news or feed it to us?

Editor Mike Glynn advised me that it was a bit of both; that he was some kind of unofficial PR for local Fine Gael.

When in 2004 I returned to Galway from North Mayo, I discovered that far from lurking in the shadows, Podge had now become the most visible figure on Galway’s political scene.

Obstreperous and obstructive, outspoken and on occasion plain vindictive, Podge made headlines each week by disrupting the council chamber.

His omnipresence in local media was clearly and blatantly down to self promotion, and he was starting to drive a lot of people plain potty.

That’s when this colyoom told the people of Galway how I’d played ‘Podge’s Breakfast Bingo’, which entailed sitting at my kitchen table with a Full Irish on the plate and a pile of local papers.

I could eat each item only when I saw either a photo of Podge, or read a story in which he was mentioned.

Front page story about him: there go my rashers. Photo of him on page 2: fried eggs down my gob. Photo of him and a story about him on page 7: snarf my bangers with slices of toast.

Hours later, Podge took his revenge by talking on the radio while I was lying in my bath.

Did I really have to listen to his complaints as I lay there naked?

There truly was no escaping the man.

Podge made it known to me he was unhappy about the piece, but that in itself meant nothing, as he was always unhappy about something.

Even back then though I suspected there was more to the man than vanity. Was it possible that such profound cynicism as his harboured a wit dryer than desert sands?

Several years later we met again in the Tribune newsroom, where he smiled and walked up to me.

“You haven’t written about me for a long time. Write something about me.”

Astonished by the fearless honesty of his order, I looked him in the eye, making sure he was being serious.

“Really, Podge? But it didn’t exactly go well for you last time, did it? What would I write? What do you want me to say?”

“Just write something about me.”

It was impossible not to admire Podge’s ability to be brazenly demanding. He made no pretence of his ambition. I went off and wrote about Podge asking me to write about him, just as I’m doing again now, and yet again, the man made it clear he was unhappy.

That time I didn’t care.
He’d asked for it.

By 2008 Podge had risen to the top of the local tree, making waves in national news by earning the moniker of ‘Galway’s Maverick Mayor.’

Around that time we found ourselves on a boat together, during a regatta. Puffing on his fag, Podge shouted impatiently at the skipper:

“How long are we out for? I have to get back soon! I’ve places to go!”

Surrounded by a fleet of Galway Hookers, we were in the middle of Galway bay on a gloriously sunny afternoon.

’What’s the rush? Relax!” I admonished.him.

“You know what I like, Charlie? I like shopping in Chicago.”

Podge then proceeded to reveal things about himself that I cannot print here. Suffice to say he managed to deeply shock a man who thought he was beyond shocking.

Yet again, Podge had been blatant, bold and completely unapologetic. I felt as if he was almost daring me to write about what he’d said, but I won’t, as there’s another side to the conundrum that is Pádraig Conneely.

Early on the morning of Podge’s inauguration as mayor, I called him from a clubhouse in the city. I’d just started working with a group of young Travellers and was disgusted to find that the place was in tatters.

Windows were broken, shards of glass sticking out of the frames, while live electric cables were hanging loose from walls.

As I explained to Podge on the phone, it was unfit for any humans, never mind young ones. Once he’d settled into his new office, could he maybe do something about it?

I hadn’t expected Podge’s reply: “I’m on my way, Charlie.”

15 minutes later he was in that dilapidated hovel, assessing the situation, his spanky new mayoral robes and ceremonial chains glistening in the darkness.

“It’s a disgrace. Leave it with me, Charlie.”

That afternoon two men arrived and fixed the place up, and here lies the quandary. Intensely irritating and cravenly self-promoting, Podge cares much more than he allows his image to show.

Part irritating whinny, part concerned councillor, Podge was and always will be a paradoxical character, and therefore a true Galwegian.

©Charlie Adley

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