Last June Michael Ring celebrated a quarter of a century in Dáil Eireann - looking back to winning the 1994 Mayo West bye-election win where he saw off Beverly Flynn to win the seat that had been held by her father before he was appointed as EU Commissioner, he still finds it hard to believe how far he has come since then, he told the Mayo Advertiser.
"I fought the election in 1992, it was Mayo West, I got nearly 6,000 votes and at one time they thought I would take the seat. At one stage I was 1,000 votes ahead of Seamus Hughes and what happened in that election was Padraig Flynn got a big vote, he was Minister for the Environment at the time and I wasn't known in Erris and I wasn't known in other areas. I got a big vote in my own area. That was in June that year, then in November Flynn took the job as EU Commissioner and we didn't have a bye-election for 18 months, so I canvassed for 18 months and I won that bye-election in 1994 so that now - I'm 25 years in the Dáil."
Meeting the people is the key to politics
The key to success in getting re-elected ever since then has been being available to the people and working for them, says Deputy Ring: "I'm in this constituency office every Monday, I don't miss a clinic. I have clinics in south Mayo and north Mayo, I could be like a lot of them and be gone and not here, but I have looked after this constituency very hard for 25 years.
"There were times in the middle of winter when it was hard to go to Belmullet, but I went and did my clinics, the same in Ballinrobe and Claremorris. But what I think really stood to me is that I came through the ranks as a town councillor, county councillor, Dáil deputy, opposition spokesperson for many years and then as a Minister of State and a full Minister in the last government."
Even when people want to complain about you or your party, listening to them is the key to the job and it hasn't changed, Ring believes, but he does feel that people on social media are putting off good people getting involved in politics, to the detriment of communities. "Look I have always listened to people and there is only one place to be to listen to people and that is in the clinics; and when people come to you on the one to one, they open their heart and tell you their stories; and I can pick up on an issue that will be coming down the line from people coming into my clinic, I know there will be a problem.
"People are decent when you get them on a one to one; there is an element out there, the 'Face-less-book' people - and I'll say this, we must do something about these people and the hatred and the rubbish from them, because we are losing fine quality people from politics, they won't get into politics for that abuse. Of course there are times we are entitled to get slagged off, but not to have the abuse that is put up sometimes."
Delivering for Mayo and the country
Ring who has been the Minister for Rural and Community Development in the past government, makes no apologies for using his role to deliver projects to Mayo, but he has delivered projects right across the country, he says: "I have to say, I did look after Mayo and I will not apologise for that, but I did look after the whole country. We brought in the schemes - the outdoor recreation, rural regeneration, town and village, Clár programme, community enhancement programme, community services programme - all these schemes I introduced and adopted them to the needs for rural Ireland and the infrastructure like the N5, the five primary care centres around the county; I could go on and on, but that happened all over the country. works in Tipperary and in every town and village in the country - it is not an issue in the general election."
As for the issues that are coming up on the doorsteps this time around, the people have been very happy with what he has helped deliver to Mayo over the past number of years, he says, and some of them were very hard battles to get over the line. "First thing, they will say they are happy with the deliverance in Mayo and I know it from Bonniconlon to Ballyhaunis and they know it, every single corner of this county have got some development of one thing or another.
"They also know that this government have delivered in terms of things like the Sacred Heart Home, the five primary health care centres, the N5 road - the hardest battle I had to fight in government and if I wasn't in the cabinet that road wouldn't be going ahead today; the TII will acknowledge that if I wasn't in the cabinet that would not be happening. In the next three years there will be 60kms of road from Westport to Roscommon which will be dual carriageway."
Still loving the challenge
After 25 years in national politics - there is no sign of his appetite for the cut and thrust of the job dimming, he told the Mayo Advertiser: "I love it, I wouldn't be in it otherwise - I'm 25 years there now, I love the Dáil and I love the Minister's job. I can't believe I have been a Minister of State and Minister for nine years and it is marvellous to see what you can do. I listen to people talking in opposition and Independent councillors talking and they have all the answers, when they have no power. I don't have all the answers, but whatever power I do have, I am using it for the betterment of the county and the country.
"As long as I am healthy and I have that health, I will stay in the Dáil - as long as the people of Mayo want me in the Dáil of course, they are the ones that decide; I have no mandate on it and I am asking them again to give me the number one and not to be listening to those who say I don't need the votes, because I'd be the first man or woman elected to Dáil Eireann without votes - and that doesn't happen - you have to get votes to be elected."