Con Houlihan and The Taxpayers’ News

A folder entitled ‘Sources’ forms part of the Michael O’Donohoe Collection.  It contains an assortment of useful references, including guides to local history research (IE MOD-72-72.1), an index to the register of electors in Castleisland (IE MOD-72-72.7), a record of schools in Castleisland (IE MOD-72-72.2) and a 1996 Development Plan of the town (IE MOD-72-72.8).


It also holds a small number of photocopies from Castleisland’s first newspaper, The Taxpayers’ News, ‘the paper that is not afraid to tell the truth’.



taxpayers' news


The journal was published monthly from December 1957 until about October 1960 from a butcher’s shop in Main Street owned by politician,  Charlie Lenihan.


A butcher's shop on Main Street was utilised as HQ of The Taxpayers' News
A butcher’s shop on Main Street was HQ of The Taxpayers’ News


The newspaper was edited by Castleisland sports journalist, Con Houlihan (1925-2012).  Con described the mechanics of the publication:


We hadn’t our own printing works, we had to search around.  Some we found too costly, others were too timid, they were paranoid about libel.  Eventually we found a grand little man called Tommy Hayden, who owned and managed Marian Press … We usually posted our material on Monday morning.  I went on the first train from Tralee to Dublin on Wednesday morning to do the proofs.


taxpayers' news 1


The newspaper folded following a suit for libel.  Con explained how it came about:


On a certain Monday Charlie had business in Dublin.  We didn’t send our material by post – Charlie took it with him.  I couldn’t prevent him, I feared the worst.  He added a piece of his own – in it he referred to a fellow county councillor as a crook in politics and in his profession … a libel action was inevitable …that was the end of The Taxpayers’ News.


Con's 'street between two fields' during the Castleisland Horse Fair last year
Con Houlihan’s ‘street between two fields’ during the Castleisland Horse Fair in 2015


In an article, ‘The back pages of village life’ published in the Herald, 4 May 2011, Con provided background to Charlie Lenihan’s role in the publication:


The Taxpayers’ News was owned by Charlie Lenihan. His father had emigrated to Alaska from a small mountain-holding and made a fortune there … When he came back home he bought a splendid farm and a manor house [and] opened a butcher shop and milk business in the town … He was the pioneer of silage making in our part of Ireland.


Con Houlihan
Con Houlihan pictured during an interview for The Maine Event newsletter in 2002


Con described himself as co-founder of The Taxpayers’ News:


Charlie might never have started the paper if I hadn’t encouraged him.  He certainly wouldn’t have gone into the venture if I didn’t come in too.  So I can claim to be a co-founder of Castle Island’s first and probably last publication.1


John Reidy, founder of Castleisland's first online newspaper, pictured with his wife Cathleen during Heritage Week 2015
John Reidy, founder of Castleisland’s first online newspaper, Maine Valley Post, pictured with his wife Cathleen during Heritage Week 2015


John B Keane first published

Con was the first to publish a poem by Listowel playwright, John B Keane:


It was the first time ever that John B Keane saw some of his work in print.  It was a well-crafted poem to his girlfriend Mary O’Connor, whom he eventually married.


An example of the wit that endeared Con to his readers was published in The Taxpayers’ News in March 1958.  He imagined Sir Winston commenting on the Kerry rates:  ‘Never were so many done for so much by so few’.


Con Houlihan, who worked in the field of journalism for sixty years, was born in 1925, the youngest of three children of Michael and Ellen Houlihan of Reineen (an area in the townland of Dooneen, Castleisland).  His siblings were Diarmuid (known as Gerry) and Marie.


Con Houlihan (6)
The old homestead


Con joined the Irish Press group in 1973 writing for Evening Press until it closed in 1995 when he moved to the Sunday World.  He also wrote for Irish Independent and Hot Press. He was honoured in his lifetime with a bronze bust, unveiled in Castleisland on 16 January 2004 and in 2011 a sculpture was erected outside The Palace Bar in Dublin.


Approach to Castleisland from the Killarney Road
Con’s beloved Castleisland: image shows approach to town from Killarney Road


Con died on 4 August 2012 at St James’ Hospital, Dublin and was buried at Kilbannivane cemetery, Castleisland.


Charlie Lenihan

Charlie Lenihan of Woodville, Gortatlea, Castleisland died in hospital in Cork on 24 August 1971:


Charlie Lenihan was a councillor among councillors and while he might have been over-zealous on occasions in fighting the cause of a person whom he believed to have been wronged he did so forcibly and in a manner which endeared him to the people of Kerry.  We have lost one of the greatest personalities of our time and one of the finest councillors (Irish Examiner, 1 September 1971).


Con Houlihan published an appreciation in The Kerryman, 28 August 1971:


Charlie Lenihan was a folk hero long before he officially entered politics.  There are times that try men’s soul and certainly the nineteen-thirties in Ireland were such.  In that sour generation when farming was a dirty word, Charlie was an inspiration to the people of the Maine valley; he approached agriculture in a bold and optimistic spirit and experimented with techniques that were then considered heretical.


The National Library of Ireland holds copies of Vol 1, Nos 1-11 of The Taxpayers’ News.



1  The Maine Valley Post, Castleisland's first online newspaper, was founded by photographer - and Michael O'Donohoe Memorial Heritage Project Committee PRO - John Reidy, in August 2013.  The paper recently covered the death of Arthur Lenihan, son of Charlie Lenihan ('The late Arthur Lenihan, Woodville, Gortatlea', Maine Valley Post, 31 March 2015).  Other publications issued in the town in recent years include Gina McElligott's In and About Castleisland newsletter (see 'Gina Donates 'In & About' Collection to 'The Library', Maine Valley Post, 11 April 2014; the publication spanned 1994-2010) and Sliabh Luachra Outlook, established circa 2006.