Mayor of Killarney John Sheahan has been urged by fellow councillors to engage with the relevant authorities as the Killarney Advertiser’s campaign to see the McShains suitably honoured continues to gather pace.
The idea to recognise the generous American couple, who came to own a large part of Killarney National Park before returning it to the State for virtually nothing, was first floated in these pages by our resident historian Damien Switzer earlier this summer. Since then, a wave of support has swept across Killarney with many of our readers left wondering why such measures haven’t already been taken in the years since John and Mary died.
Cllr Maura Healy-Rae joined the Killarney Advertiser’s McShain Campaign two weeks ago and she broached the topic at the latest Killarney Municipal District Meeting.
“We’re all well aware of the contribution the McShain family have made to the success of Killarney town as a whole and the tourist destination that it is,” she said. “I’m asking the members for their support on this. There are a variety of things that could be done. I’m not saying what is the best way to do it – it could be a bust, a monument, or renaming the park… But I would ask Kerry County Council to engage with the relevant agencies so that something meaningful, respectful and appropriate can be done.”
Former mayor Niall Kelleher pointed out that during his tenure he oversaw efforts to have John McShain posthumously inducted into the Order of Innisfallen, but the plans never materialised as Sr Pauline McShain, John and Mary’s daughter, was unable to travel back to Ireland due to ill health. He was still hopeful that a relative, possibly a first cousin of Sr Pauline’s, would be able to accept the Order of Innisfallen in the McShain’s honour.
While Cllr Kelleher said he hoped that those plans would eventually come to pass, he clarified that he is also in favour of other ways of honouring John McShain. He then called on the new mayor, as first citizen of Killarney, to take the lead on the issue.
Mayor Sheahan agreed, saying: “I think we’re all in the same mind about this. The McShains have done us a great service; you couldn’t put a price on it. It’s the least we can do.”
Cllr Michael Gleeson suggested the idea of inviting submissions from the public to determine what might be an appropriate method of paying tribute to the philanthropic pair.
Cllr Brendan Cronin, meanwhile, offered a dissenting voice on one of the suggestions, namely the idea of renaming Killarney House & Gardens ‘McShain Park’.
“My understanding and my knowledge is that the sentiments of the McShain family were that (Killarney House & Gardens) would be available there for the public,’ he said. “If we’re talking about renaming it, I believe the grounds should be considered ‘The People’s Park’. That’s what they wanted.”
Cllr Healy-Rae responded to that point, saying: “Yes, it was given to the people, but the people want to recognise them.”