Anne Rabbitte felt it her bones about a month ago that this was going to be a successful election campaign. Instead of having to try and recruit canvassers, she was getting calls from volunteers who wanted to go on the road.
Across the sprawling East Galway constituency, she met that enthusiasm from Ballinastack in Corofin to the banks of the Shannon in Portumna and that ‘edge ‘ never left her campaign right up until Thursday evening last.
Right from the start too, she felt that Fianna Fáil had a message that the people wanted to hear. It wasn’t about the USC tax — the main issues raised from start to finish was fairness in society.
“Issues such as special needs children, elderly people being afraid in their own homes, families having a decent health service and emigration just kept coming up all the time. This election wasn’t about tax or the USC — it was about having a fairer society for everyone to live in,” said Anne Rabbitte.
There was also a strong feeling in her home town of Portumna for a local TD to be elected and there was also a little bit of history ready to be made. In the past Fine Gael had Brigid Hogan O’Higgins as their woman representative in Dáil Eireann . . . now it was Fianna Fáil’s turn to strike.
“I know that I’ve made a bit of history today and that does mean a lot to me but also to the Fianna Fáil party and to their supporters on the ground. It is a very special day to be the first female Fianna Fáil TD in Galway East,” she said.
Geographically Anne Rabbitte had another string to her bow in this campaign that really stood to her. Her mother hailed from Ballynakilla in Abbeyknockmoy while her father came from Turloughmore.
She also lived in Abbeyknockmoy for a number of years and worked in Mountbellew for eight years. Those were vital links to have in North Galway and she made good use of them.
A regular through the year at Abbeyknockmoy’s hurling matches as they blazed a trail through Galway and Connacht, she nurtured her contacts in North Galway and over recent times had set up a clinic in the local Mannion’s Bar. Local GAA man and fitness guru, Ned Burns, took on the role as Director of Elections completing her twin-track strategy.
“My work as a TD starts from this evening [election count day]. The people of South Galway are, in all probability, just 10 months away from their next flood and I want to get the measures put in place to resolve this issue.
“I am just so looking forward to getting stuck into the issues that are impacting on so many ordinary people across East Galway. I am honoured and humbled to have been elected but now the work must start. I wan’t to repay the faith that the people of East Galway have placed in me,” said Anne Rabbitte.
For a woman who just over 18 months ago wasn’t even a councillor, her political rise has been meteoric. She knows that there’s a lot of work ahead but she’s ready for it.
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.