The ‘Paschal factor’ got me the seat

He was Fine Gael’s ‘Chosen One’, the heir apparent to Pádraic McCormack’s seat and party HQ were expecting him to retain it and deliver a running mate. He did, but it took a long time and it was nail-biting stuff to the very end.

Brian Walsh was always odds on to take a seat, but the Fine Gael strategy of running four candidates, all within a 10-mile radius of each other, and the re-count demanded by party senator Fidelma Healy Eames, made things very long and even more difficult for the party.

Dep Walsh received 5,426 first preferences and sometime between 4am and 5am - by that stage time had ceased to have any meaning for any of us in Leisureland - he was finally elected on the 12th count, with his surplus enough to take in his running mate Sean Kyne.

It was a long wait, but the blueshirts got the two seats they desperately wanted.

“I feel elated,” a weary but delighted Dep Walsh told me. “It’s what I always wanted to do, to be in national politics. I am very proud to have been elected. It’s a proud day for my wife Fiona and our child. It’s a proud moment for my mother and my family and my late father Paschal would have been very, very proud.”

Indeed Dep Walsh credits his late father - who served as a councillor in Galway - for his election victory.

“He is the reason I got involved and I thank my mother and father for all the opportunities they gave me throughout their lives,” he says. “I have no doubt that this is down to my father. For the six/seven weeks of the campaign his name has come up on the doorsteps and there is no question that the regard he was held in translated into votes for me.”

Negotiations between Fine Gael and Labour are now underway with a view to forming the next Government. For the four Galway FG TDs - Brian Walsh, Sean Kyne, Paul Connaughton jr, and Ciaran Cannon - their first experiences of being TDs will be as Government TDs.

However they will also be backbenchers and the backbencher’s lot is an unglamorous one. In no way, though, does this diminish Dep Walsh’s enthusiasm for what lies ahead.

“There is a significant difference in being a member of a council and a member of a national parliament,” he said. “In the parliament you have researchers, secretaries, staff and because of that I will be able to do my job a lot better.”

One of the most notable factors of Election 2011 in Galway West and Galway East was that the voters put their trust in young candidates with no previous Dáil experience.

FG’s Brian Walsh and Paul Connaughton jr and Labour’s Derek Nolan had never run in a general election before, while FG’s Sean Kyne and Labour’s Colm Keaveney had only one run at it previously in 2007. All are in their 30s.

“The election of Derek Nolan, Sean Kyne, Paul Connaughton jr, Colm Keaveney, and me reflects the need and desire for change,” says Dep Walsh. “People are associating themselves with young candidates. We need change in the way politics is done in Ireland.

“The political system has been dealt a catastrophic blow but that has been a good thing. We have had a sea-change and a complete move away from the politics of the past. The politics of the past has brought us to where we are. We must look forward and have confidence in our great country.”

Fine Gael and Labour have inherited an horrific mess from Fianna Fáil.

Fianna Fáil and their cronies in the banks and among the property developers went on a reckless binge with taxpayers’ money during the boom, the rotten fruits of which are negative equity, unemployment, emigration, pay cuts, fearsome cuts in services, and punishing tax cuts, the pouring of billions into dead and zombie banks, and the EU/IMF dictating fiscal policy.

This is the legacy of 14 years of Fianna Fáil rule and the thankless task of cleaning it up now lies with FG/Labour. Their reward for this task could be to bring the wrath of the public down on top of them.

“There are very difficult decisions to be made,” says Dep Walsh. “We need to be honest with the people, tell them from the outset what the condition of the finances are, and don’t lie to them like the previous government did.

“The state of the country’s finances are dire and a lot of what has been forecast for growth rates may not be achievable. If we fail to meet the rates in the four-year plan as prepared by the outgoing government then adjustments will be necessary to implement.

“We will be looking to renegotiate the bailout. There is potential for us to renegociate the interest rates and there are indications from Europe that this is possible. If we can do that it will enhance exchequer returns but the key is growth rate projection by the ERSI. Whether we can adjust that is out of our hands but growth rate will be important in job creation and sustaining jobs and everything we do must revolve around that.”

During the campaign, Dep Walsh was accused in some quarters of being ‘diet Frank Fahey’ and ‘Frank Fahey-lite’. Dep Walsh, however, has no desire or intention of becoming the next Frank Fahey.

Indeed he has little time for Mr Fahey’s view that, with a Mayo Taoiseach and Limerick Finance Minister, Government focus and investment will be taken off Galway and that the city and county will suffer as a result.

“There was no focus on Galway for the last 14 years,” says Dep Walsh. “The two major political projects have not happened. The outer bypass was first mooted 14 years ago and it has not been delivered. The reason why is the lack of political will and the failure of representation by the senior deputies in Galway West, namely Éamon Ó Cuív and Frank Fahey.

“Another issue is the new harbour where we had two most senior TDs at loggerheads over that, with one wanting it in the city and the other wanted it in Rossaveal, so for Frank Fahey to suggest he is concerned is a bit rich. Galway has never been well represented.

“I will represent this city and county to the best of my abilities. I will fight for investment in Galway West and I will set us apart from what has happened before.”

 

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