Limerick’s veteran tallyman Joe Kemmy will never say he’s seen it all

Limerick tally legend Joe Kemmy. Photo: Bernie English.

LABOUR legend Joe Kemmy has tallied at every election since 1974, and has been heavily involved in canvassing in his time. This year, he tells this reporter that every election still throws up surprises for him, even at 80 years of age.

“We stupidly believe we know what elections are about, but we don’t – the public decide,” he told the Limerick Post at the count centre in Limerick Racecourse.

“Take today – some candidates who were expected to do well didn’t, and some who were not did. Now, the least experienced candidate – John Moran – is likely to be our mayor. The public decided that.”

Asked if he was ever tempted to put himself on the candidate side of the election fever, Joe says “I love politics. And I love my life.”

Despite efforts to persuade him by his brother, the late great Jim Kemmy, Joe is adamant that he while he buries himself wholeheartedly in the fray of every single campaign, he likes to go home and hang up his hat when it’s all over, leaving it to the public’s chosen few.

Sign up for the weekly Limerick Post newsletter

“Councillors have to devote a huge part of their lives to it (holding public office) and they’re much maligned. For everything from a lampost that’s not working to a national question that they have no control over, they’re asked about it and pilloried sometimes for failing to fix something that they can’t fix. They do a great service,” he sagely shares.

Joe has been director of elections for his late brother Jim, for former Minister Jan O’Sullivan, and for Labour’s Joe Leddin.

“I love it – I love the cut and thrust of politics,” he says. “But when it finishes then, I can hang up my jacket and it’s the councillors’ problem.”

He loves golf, but has had to stop playing “because my knees are crocked”, he pops into his son’s business on a daily basis to help out, and he visits all six of his grandchildren, who are working and studying in far flung locations.

He also takes short hops to his beloved holiday spot in Portugal a number of times a year in the off-season.

He says he is hugely excited about the future of Labour now.

Joe Kemmy with Labour’s mayoral candidate Cllr Conor Sheehan and former minister Jan O’Sullivan. Photo: Bernie English.

“We came in at just over 11 per cent today (Saturday, on the tally) when Labour was at three or four per cent in recent years. Somebody said to me the other day, ‘it’s time to forgive Labour – we’ve punished them enough’.

“This marvellous performance by Conor (Sheehan) today shows us what Labour can be like. I presume he will run for the Dáil – Elena Secas, 12 per cent in a tough constituency. The people didn’t give him (Sheehan) the gig as mayor, but they gave him their votes.

“Labour is on the up, we’re back to the good old days and we can concentrate now on winning the next general election.”

“We were in the doldrums,” the party legend says. “We made mistakes, we have to admit it and learn from it.”

“Now there are people voting in this election who don’t know or care how their parents voted. I’m excited and I hope to live long enough to see it.”