A nostalgic look at the 2004 Local Elections in Old Athlone
Updated: Apr 27, 2019
Published in the Athlone Topic and Irishsmokefill.com
Gather around children, this is the tale of the 2004 local elections and the time I ran as a young man of 22 for Athlone Town Council. How the times have changed since I was a boy.
If a week is a long time in politics then what changes have we seen in the last 500 weeks?
Back in my day, you could have run for the Green Party or the Progressive Democrats but your best chance of success was to run for Fianna Fail who nearly had an overall majority in the Dáil and for a long time a complete majority in the Urban District Council and later Athlone Town Council.
Back in 2004, the council had moved into new premises that we used to call the new town hall after using the Fire Station for temporary meetings while the mighty new multi-million-pound building was being built.
I still remember marching as a fresher on the old UDC building in 1999 as A.I.T. students demanded a pedestrian crossing on the Dublin Road. Within a few years, I was running as a candidate from my student leader soapbox in A.I.T.
In 2004, I had just graduated with a degree in Business Studies and Ireland was awash with money and we clearly weren´t used to it as we had only changed from old money called Punts a few years earlier.
Athlone had closed its library, The Father Mathew Hall and moved to the state of the art Civic Office which is now apparently closing after about 100 monthly meetings of Athlone Town Council.
I used to attend the monthly meetings, I've sat and listened from the public gallery, usually alone, sometimes with independent candidate Jim Behan and very few other people.
I've sat in the press box needlessly as the now-defunct Athlone Voice went to print on a Monday evening, voiceless as my stories became old news by the end of the week. Back then you got your local news from a friend on the phone or a local paper and not from a local paper on your smartphone.
It was a different time back then, Mark Zuckerberg had his face in a book and writing on someone´s wall was called graffiti and poking a friend was an irritation.
When all my Apple products were bought in Behan´s Fruit N´Veg and the only people with an I-pad, had a lazy eye.
Before selfies and Lady Gaga´s Paparazzi, we were still shaking it like a Polaroid picture to OutKast´s Hey Yeah
Nobody in Mullingar had ever heard of a band called One Direction and an unheard of an Irish-African-American called Barrack Obama was about to break onto the world stage.
10 years ago, an unknown O´Bama became famous for his speech supporting Senator John Kerry´s presidential campaign against incumbent George Bush. A decade later and John Kerry is now Obama´s secretary.
George Bush was visiting Ireland in the run-up to the election so we deployed everything to protect him from the Irish. Pretty sure they had more security here than when he went to Iraq.
I marched down Dublin´s streets with the rest of the country on the 15th of February which was the biggest Irish protest against warmongering since Willy Patrick Hitler internationally condemned his Austrian uncle.
In cinemas, we were watching the first Spiderman sequel, Spiderman 2, laughing at Anchorman, the legend of Ron Burgundy and we saw the first Saw film. Before prohibition we were smoking in pubs, clubs and restaurants and long before Love Hate, we watched in despair as an Irish horse was caught snorting coke at the Olympics, well that´s how I remember it all kids.
Nationally there was a man called Michael D who couldn't get the Labour nomination to run in the 2004 Presidential Election and locally 22 candidates went knocking on your door looking for your e-vote. Enough interruptions at dinner time to make you want to tear up their manifestos in front of a litter warden.
Cllr. Nicky McFadden, later a Senator and Dail Deputy topped the poll with enough votes to almost win her a second seat and I bowed out in the second round, with a mere 46 votes.
Might seem strange to reflect on an old Town Council election but with the Council closing, we can no longer look forward to another one and looking back is sadly all we can do.