Conway-Walsh's long journey to the Dáil

Rose blooms: Rose Conway Walsh Sinn Féin celebrates with her sons Peter and Anthony at the Mayo count at the TF Royal Theatre Castlebar. Photo: Conor McKeown

Rose blooms: Rose Conway Walsh Sinn Féin celebrates with her sons Peter and Anthony at the Mayo count at the TF Royal Theatre Castlebar. Photo: Conor McKeown

It has been a long building process for the newly elected Rose Conway-Walsh to become Mayo's first Sinn Féin Dáil deputy since the 1920s.

The Belmullet based public representative first contested the local elections in 2004 and finished in fifth place in the Belmullet area; five years later she was the last person elected in the same area; in 2011 she first tried her hand at winning a Dáil seat, then in 2014 she topped the poll in the then newly constructed West Mayo area in the local elections and two years after that, she had another tilt at the Dáil finishing in sixth place and was then elected to the Seannad in the subsequent election.

Last Sunday from early on as the tallies were being added up, it was clear it was going to be Rose's day as she was taking big votes all over the county, finishing up with 14,633 and breaking the quota on the first count. Not long after she entered the count centre to great applause and celebrations by her supporters, she spoke to the Mayo Advertiser.

"I feel grateful and above everything else, I feel humbled, by so many people in Mayo putting their trust in me," said Rose, adding that how she accounted for doubling her vote was very simple: "Hard work, you can't avoid hard work and people's appetite for change and people in Mayo are no longer prepared to do what they are told; they were saying no, the people of Mayo are fighting back and say we need real change and real change in our lives and in our families lives and we want something different and I think I was well placed, because I worked for the last 17 years within the county, with people."

As for how it felt to have gotten over the line in a general election at the third time of asking, she was delighted but also mindful of it being a sad day for others: "It really is a great feeling, because there are days that have been very disappointing and that is why I am very mindful of that today, because some of the other candidates are having a difficult day. I have been there before and I know what it is like and I wish them and their families well."

The reason for her success in achieving such a stunning result, she put down to the team around her, saying: "I couldn't have done it without the huge team around me, I had two great directors of elections and a whole team of canvassers across the county. I think we led a better campaign than we ever did before. There were also groups of people who were working on my behalf as well, people I had worked with on various things like the farmers and the fishermen and lots of other groups - there is a stake of them in this as well."

The turn-out in support for Sinn Féin saw them get big votes in every demographic and that was because people felt left behind, she believes: "At one time it was just the young vote Sinn Féin were getting, but this time we really saw the increase in the age 24 to 60 bracket and that is because people feel ignored and that they have been left behind in the recovery and it is not a good thing to ignore people; things like agriculture and farming in Mayo were a huge issue, the insurance, pensions and people working day and night and not having money in their pockets; and people decided enough was enough and I am glad that they saw me as the change."

As for what will come next, it is about getting a programme that will work for all the people of Mayo as far as she is concerned: "We have always said, we will not ignore anybody, we will speak with all political parties, anybody who has a mandate; we very much respect the mandate of the people who have been elected, for us it is about a programme for government, for me it is about a programme of government that will serve the people of Mayo - all of the people of Mayo across the board."


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