Tom Crawford, our local TD, has always been a bit too cute for his own good.
Before he began to cultivate the polished image he now portrays, he was in danger of getting involved with a few undesirables in the early 1980s and, while most people are afraid to mention it, he once received a garda caution for cigarette-smuggling.
The Codys, from nearby Locknashinagh, were a family that tended to attract controversy and Jerry Cody was friends with Tom’s brother, Kieran.
With Tom not long out of school and yet to land his chosen career path – namely, marrying one of Senator Jim Tobin’s daughters – he was roped into what was sold to him as a ‘transport operation’.
One Land Rover with a horsebox was sent to Dublin to collect the merchandise; Tom was driving another that linked up to form a convoy, giving the impression of fairly normal equine business. And, they might have got away with it, too – except for the fact that this was around the time Shergar had been kidnapped and the gardaí were inspecting every single piece of horse-related paraphernalia in the country.
Two of the Codys did time in prison but, because no link to Tom could be proven, he avoided a conviction – even if everyone knew of his involvement.
He tidied himself up after that, with the procurement of Imelda Tobin as a political wife; allowing him to climb the greasy pole.
He first stood in 1987, intended as a sweeper candidate for Dick O’Neill, who had previously been a minister.
The deal was a vote-management arrangement that saw the constituency split in two, but Tom showed an appetite for sharp practice by plastering Dick’s half with posters that said, “Vote number 2 Tom Crawford”. You had to squint to see the bit that said, “Vote 1 Dick O’Neill” and it caused fierce friction in the party when the party grandee was dumped out of the Dáil by the upstart.
Well, when you raise an issue he doesn’t like at parliamentary party meetings he can get fairly thick!
He established his power-base fairly quickly, even if he occasionally almost caught himself out. On his first occasion appearing on Prime Time, he was asked what made his party leader tick and replied: “Well, when you raise an issue he doesn’t like at parliamentary party meetings he can get fairly thick!”
What he called ‘peace-time canvassing’ allowed him to secure votes. This involved calling to people outside of election time, ostensibly to check if they needed anything but really to build the “Isn’t he a great fella?” reputation, as well as hoovering up local gossip.
Involvement in the GAA club was also beneficial in that regard. To be fair to him, he wasn’t averse to sponsoring teams or events and even served as a selector a few times, but he tended to shelve the political diplomacy when he threw on the tracksuit.
In the mid-2000s, when one U21 team were being hammered at half-time, he announced in the dressing room that: “We have a real loft problem.” When he was asked what he meant, he spelled it out: “LOFT – lack of f***ing talent!”
On a national level, he never really made a huge splash
What he probably wasn’t expecting was one brave player launching in a version of the James Blunt song that was popular at the time – “Your boot is full, your boot is full, of Major and Johnny Blue!”
On a national level, he never really made a huge splash, happy to be the lord of his own fiefdom, but whenever he was on Radio 1 he tended to have a stock answer that Ireland “should take a look at the Scandinavian model”.
The more cynical people in our area reckoned that he had Scandinavian models of a different kind on his mind, given the rumours that had circulated for decades, and that view was underlined by the incident that led to his marriage breaking down.
While the Dáil sits Tuesday-Thursday, the catch-all excuse of “committees” allowed him to travel to Dublin on a Monday, where he would spend more time than he should at the apartment of his parliamentary secretary.
When, one Monday, his wife Imelda saw that the Dáil had been evacuated due to a bomb-scare, she rang Tom, all a-fluster, only for him to breezily reply that he was at Leinster House, working harder than ever.
It was the last straw for Imelda, but of course there was no divorce as that wouldn’t be politically expedient. While she hardly talks to Tom anymore, she’ll still canvass for him – the best way of ensuring he’s not around at home too much.