Five years ago a North Galway woman made national headlines when she drove across the concrete plinth in front of Leinster House on her first day as a TD.
Mary Mitchell O’Connor – originally from Milltown but representing the Dun Laoghaire constituency – found herself in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons; this time, no such embarrassment awaited the five newcomers selected by the electorate of Galway’s three constituencies.
Instead they were relishing the attention of being ‘newbies’ in the 32nd Dail as they were showered by the media as well as being congratulated by some of the seasoned elected members.
It was like their first day at school as they were accompanied by family members who delivered them to the gates of Leinster House in time for class.
And they all dressed well for the occasion with Fine Gael’s Hildegarde Naughton attired in a striking and appropriate blue outfit while independent TD Catherine Connolly donned a suit for her first day in the Dail chamber.
Earlier in the morning we spotted Fianna Fail’s Anne Rabbitte in a tracksuit bottom outside the hotel she was staying along with her three children and supporters but that was soon discarded as she wore a dress that was very suitable for the occasion.
Independent Sean Canney looked dapper as usual but his wife Geraldine stole some of his limelight as she was ‘pretty in pink’ while Eugene Murphy of Fianna Fail, representing the Roscommon-Galway constituency, looked slightly in awe of his new surroundings as he was accompanied by his wife on the occasion.
They must have felt slightly unnerved that their first day in the new Dail was marked by a rather vocal anti-water protest group who were surrounded by a couple of dozen Gardaí.
They heckled politicians as they made their entrance and, when there were no politicians around, they were entertained by a lone piper.
When all the photographs and handshakes on the plinth were completed, something of an eerie silence descended outside Leinster House as the Dail finally convened around mid-morning to elect a Ceann Comhairle.
The public gallery was mainly occupied by family members and supporters of the newly elected TDs who viewed with interest what was going on underneath them – even if there was not a lot going on before their eyes.
TALLIES: Fine Gael will struggle to hold seat in City East
Fine Gael will struggle to hold its seat in Galway City East.
TALLIES: Cheevers looks set to take a seat in City East
With just over half the boxes tallied for Galway City East, Fianna Fáil’s Alan Cheevers looks set to take a seat, polling at over 17 per cent of first preferences.
With Mervue, Ballybane and Tirellan polling stations still to be tallied, Cheevers has taken the lead, with Independent councillor Terry O’Flaherty slipping into second with 16 per cent.
Incumbent Fianna Fáil councillor Mike Crowe is on 10.5 per cent, with Independent councillor Declan McDonnell on 8 per cent.
The Green’s Claire Hillery looks to be benefitting from the party’s nationwide jump in the polls, collecting 6.5 per cent of first preferences.
Sitting Councillors Noel Larkin (Ind), Mairéad Farrell (SF) and John Walsh (FG) are polling at 7.5 per cent, 5.7 per cent and 6.7 per cent respectively.
Also still in contention is the Social Democrats’ Owen Hanley with 6.6 per cent of the vote.
Deal demands better focus on rural Ireland initiatives
A concession on turf cutting, an examination of the decision to close rural Garda stations and post offices – as well as flood alleviation – are all on the shopping list for at least two of Galway’s independent TDs before any agreement to support a new Government.
Both Michael Fitzmaurice from Glinsk and Sean Canney from Tuam have been in discussions with the main parties since the general election with a view to securing their support.
They are part of the six-strong Independent Alliance which also includes Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran and Shane Ross – but top of their list concerns they have regarding rural Ireland.
It is understood that part of any deal would see some concession on the whole turf cutting controversy, while the issue of the closure of rural Garda Stations and rural post offices are also high on the agenda.
Deputy Canney said that so too was the recent flooding crisis and added that many farmers and individual householders were still suffering.
The Independent Alliance will hold further discussions with the parties and Deputy Canney emphasised that they were not demanding ministerial positions but just a better deal for rural Ireland.
They are demanding, however, that there will be a full Minister for Rural Affairs appointed once the new government is formed.
Deputy Canney added that it was being suggested that a TD in each constituency would report back to this department.