Speaking in that unique east Galway accent of his, defeated FG councillor Michael Finnerty summed up the strength of the Paul Connaughton brand when he said to me afterwards “If young Conner-ton had only been named Sue or Seamus or Michael, but anything but Paul, I might have had a chance.”
Such is the strength of the Connaughton brand in east Galway politics — and when the Connaughton brand that swept Sinead to power some years ago, had the name Paul at the front of it, the latest incumbent to the Mountbellew political dynasty was on a sure road to success.
“Young Paul” was the first councillor to be elected in the county council count centre at the Galway Lawn Tennis Club, topping the poll in the Ballinasloe electoral area, to the obvious delight of his dad Paul and his former councillor sister Sinead who were at the count centre to see him hoisted high.
The new councillor was delighted to top the poll, getting a whopping 2,563 votes, 300 more than the quota and with it a ringing endorsement from the electorate that a new Connaughton era had arrived, continuing almost half a century of family participation in local politics.
Paul Connaughton jnr steps into the seat vacated by his sister Cllr Sinead Connaughton who decided not to run in this election.
However, despite the jokes and the comments about the family brand, the new councillor is insistent that he will make a mark for himself in time.
He denied that his win was a continuation of a political dynasty, adding that he was aware of the political capital that the family name generated on the doorsteps
"I don't know if there is a dynasty but there is certainly a strong name there and that was a great help too, but I’m glad to say that people said they were voting for me because of me and because youth was on my side, and the job I am in and all that working with people.
"I'd like to think I brought a lot of the vote with me anyway," he added.
"It's been a long hard campaign. There is an almighty amount of anger out there at the moment. I'm just glad that the people of this area saw something in me to give me the vote that they did.”
Cllr Connaughton said that all thoughts of following Paul snr into national politics will be on hold for several years at least as he goes about learning the trade from the bottom up.
"I'm just happy about today and I'm not looking anyways past this. I’m thrilled with the result I got but I think I have to prove myself as a councillor first," he said.
He is under no illusions as to the size of the task that lies before him.
"I know from talking to previous councillors that there are massive challenges in front of us.
"There are massive cuts in funding and all that, but I see that as a challenge as something i can work on.
"There are a lot of issues out there, the amount of stuff that came up on the doors and I'm looking forward to that. I am ambitious and I am ambitious for the people of the Ballinasloe area," he concluded.
Paul Connaughton Snr was also delighted at the win.
“Do ya see those young people over there,” he said pointing over to a large group. “They’re all here to support Paul and that’s the generation he is appealing to. It’s a new type of politics and the best of luck to him.”
Paul jnr won his seat on the first count with 2,563 votes, with the next notable event being the elimination of Michael Finnerty after the third count. Michael Mullins won his seat back on the fourth count and vowed to ensure that front line services of the Council are not hit by funding restrictions, especially when it comes to road maintenance.
The sixth count saw affable newcomer Tim Broderick elected having reached the quota while the elimination of James Joyce resulted in FF’s Tomas Mannion and SF’s Dermot Connolly elected without having reached the quota.