By Dan Danaher
ENNIS Town councillors have objected to the provision of a local authority permanent tribute to the late Michael Tierney, a well-known character in the town for decades.
A number of councillors questioned whether Mr Tierney’s family would support the proposal tabled by Councillor Brian Meaney and criticised the description of the man, which was placed on the council agenda at this week’s meeting.
However, the Clare Champion has learned that Mr Tierney’s closest remaining living relative supports an official acknowledgement of the huge contribution this colourful character made to the town.
His first cousin, Cyril Quinn, who resides in Hermitage, confirmed he would really appreciate some form of tribute to Mr Tierney.
“If ever a man deserved a tribute, Michael Tierney did. He lit up the place wherever he went. If you went on one of his tours, the enjoyment you would experience would never be repeated.
“He enthused energy and laughter from everyone. If you were miserable and within Michael, within an hour you would be happy. He took the misery from life and replaced it with happiness,” he said.
Councillor Meaney came under fire from some of his council colleagues for tabling a motion requesting the town council, before its dissolution, to fund or assist in funding a permanent tribute, statue or plaque to Michael Tierney 1917 – 1998, 28 Hermitage, either at his grave or in the town centre, where he worked.
Quoting from an RTE radio documentary produced by local journalist, Brian O’Connell, Councillor Meaney recalled Michael Tierney was known to many people in County Clare.
“He may not have realised it but he was a quiet hero. He was an individual in an age of conformity. People still recount stories of his mystery tours. For decades Michael Tierney could be seen walking the streets of Ennis, delivering newspapers on his daily round or standing outside the main cathedral on Sunday mornings after mass.
“He was recognised by his hats, his choice of jewellery, or the smell of perfume as he walked by. He wore make-up and a large collection of wigs – some blonde with pigtails and others jet black like Elvis.
Michael, from the 1950s onwards, dressed in feminine and increasingly flamboyant outfits, yet he was fully accepted and respected as a character of Ennis. Country folk came to the market town at weekends and would only buy their papers from Michael
“The business community protected him from teenage taunts and general society took him in as one of their own,” he stated.
Councillor Peter Considine disagreed with any proposed local authority commemoration and proposed the authority should seek expressions of interest from other parties who may be interested in remembering him in a permanent way.
The Fianna Fáil Councillor warned the council could place themselves in a difficult situation if they pursued this matter as there were several other people who would equally feel they were entitled to similar recognition.
His concerns were shared by Councillor Tommy Brennan, who felt the council would left itself “wide open” to calls from other people to recognise the long list of great characters in the town such as Aidan Tuttle.
Stating Mr Tierney was well loved and liked, Councillor Mary Howard recalled guests who stayed in her parents’ bed and breakfast years ago were still talking about the impact he had on them and the town.
Councillor Frankie Neylon objected to the description of Mr Tierney, which was provided by Councillor Meaney in his motion, particularly the councillor’s reference to the deceased’s use of perfume as this was a “private thing” that shouldn’t be mentioned at a public forum.
If this proposal came directly from one of Mr Tierney’s relatives, Councillor Neylon said he would consider it and wondered what was Councillor’s Meaney’s connection with the deceased.
Councillor Meaney admitted he was fascinated by Mr Tierney who he saw on numerous occasions when he was delivering milk and spoke to him on one occasion.
Councillor Flynn recalled Mr Tierney helped out people in a quiet unassuming way and was accepted and very well liked at the time by the older generation. However, he noted that he did suffer some discrimination from the younger generation in the nineties.
Town Mayor, Councillor Mary Coote-Ryan recalled the deceased was very popular and helpful to numerous people particularly his neighbours by fulfilling their shopping requirements.
Councillor Paul O’Shea suggested his family should be consulted before proceeding any further with this proposal.
Councillor Michael Guilfoyle felt “other words” could have been used to describe Mr Tierney and stressed his family should be asked for their consent before a proposal is brought to a public local authority meeting.
Councillor Meaney stressed he was only looking for the authority’s assistance and recalled Mr Quinn had requested some form of commemoration in the RTE documentary.