Can I trust you?
I have been reading the astonishing memoir of the enigmatic manager of Donegal’s All-Ireland winning team coach Jim McGuinness and am mesmerised by how he returns again and again to honesty and purity.
“Can I trust you?” he would ask everyone of his players in the pre-game huddle and insist on an honest answer.
The intensity of Jim McGuinness’ astonishing adventure — and perhaps too the title ‘Until Victory Always’ — brought me back to a period when honest and purity, not common traits in politics, were luminous.
It was Waterford, June 1981 and we were heading back to Belfast after a hard but unsuccessful campaign for hunger striking candidate Kevin Lynch in that year’s general election. We polled 3,337 votes but were way, way off a seat and the sight of ballot papers with ticks against 12 of the 13 runners but a blank space beside our candidate weighed heavily as we hitch-hiked overnight from Dungarvan to Béal Feirste.
We were offered the fare for our train journey home by the local repubicans but declined in favour of thumbing our way back.
Kevin Lynch died on 1 August after 71 days on the prison hunger strike. Honesty and purity.
Since then, I have kept a weather eye on Sinn Féin’s performance in that southeast constituency, waiting patiently for Kevin Lynch’s peaceful protest to be vindicated.
In anybody’s book, 35 years is a long wait but perhaps for that very reason all the more rewarding.
The bitter year of 1981 stays with me always.
But I consider the election of Sinn Féin Senator David Cullinane in the constituency of Waterford as a moment of transcendence.
A moment of honest and purity in an era when even the bravest would be hard put to ascribe those values to political life. A moment to make peace with the memory of Kevin Lynch and the trust he placed in us.
A moment to look back, briefly, and then focus again on the future and the trust which binds us to the peace, to the reconciliation of our peoples and to the electorate.
“Can I trust you?”