While the destination of the seats wasn’t altogether unsurprising, the manner in which two of our four TDs graduated to the 32nd Dáil was certainly a turn-up for the books.
For poll topping Mary Butler, less than two years into life as a City & County Councillor, a steep learning curve beckons after her spectacular victory on Saturday last.
Conscious of the need to build a profile right across the constituency, Deputy Butler began canvassing on June 13th last.
She pressed the flesh on tens of thousands of occasions and criss-crossed the constituency repeatedly. Clearly, it worked, quite brilliantly in fact.
She also invested heavily in posters and in good old fashioned newspaper advertising, which suggests there’s life and value in print publications yet, thankfully!
Was hers the most spectacular poll-topping of campaigns? To be fair, it probably wasn’t, not that she’ll be too perturbed by such a conclusion on my behalf.
But what it did prove was that getting out good and early to canvass, and doing the ‘doorstep two step’ long before an election was called, proved a most astute move on Mary Butler’s behalf.
For all the talk of discontent among the party’s wealthier local backers about the lack of a ‘true’ city candidate, and the late change in FF’s Director of Elections, Mary Butler – with her fellow Councillors fully behind her – got the job done. And how, in what has to go down as one of Fianna Fáil’s most spectacular successes of all last weekend.
At the fourth time of asking, and after a highly prominent term in the Seanad, David Cullinane did what no Sinn Féin candidate had achieved on Suirside since the late 1920s when taking a Waterford seat.
His has been a lengthy political apprenticeship and, not unlike Mary Butler, the importance of a consistent, visible presence on local doorsteps certainly helped Deputy Cullinane home last weekend.
When attending a conference organised by the Waterford Disability Network last year, Chairman John McDonald remarked of David Cullinane: “I don’t know he manages it. Any time I’ve invited him to something, he always turns up, and that’s even on days when he knows he has to be in the Seanad.”
Ask practically anyone the same question about Deputy Cullinane when it comes to his commitment to making meetings held by groups in the city and one generally gets the same reply: a positive one.
David Cullinane has been a diligent and hard working public representative, who will stand up for his principles and those of his party.
Yes, questions about the past remain and I for one fundamentally disagree with Sinn Féin’s calls for the removal of the Special Criminal Court, but theirs is a political voice which deserves to be heard.
And in David Cullinane, they shall have an articulate and determined voice in the Dáil and, knowing him as I do, I know he’ll give his utmost commitment to Waterford in Leinster House.
John Halligan’s excellent parliamentary standing since 2011 convinced 8,306 constituents to give him another tilt at national politics, and there’s little doubt that he will be among the more vocal Independent voices during the lifetime of the next Dáil.
The art of the possible is a key ingredient in sustaining a political career, and Deputy Halligan has proven an astute operator in the corridors of Leinster House over the past five years.
He has not taken the stereotypical left wing approach to politics: of working himself into a welter during Leader’s Questions, of offering wild gesticulation and incoherent outrage at every motion tabled by government.
He has, whenever a question merited it, briefed the Taoiseach beforehand in the hope of getting a more satisfactory answer.
In fact, he’s been practicing the ‘new politics’ Fine Gael espoused when elected five years ago: he has tried to do things differently, and on many occasions he has done so away from the spotlight and not within distance of a reporter’s recording device.
John Halligan is not a catcaller or rent-a-quote critic of Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil or Labour: sure, he has and, no doubt, will continue to berate them on issues of fundamental disagreement.
But he’s also a pragmatist and has worked well with government backbenchers since 2011, including John Deasy. It’s an approach which has served him well throughout his career so there’s little danger he’ll change the prudent habit of a political lifetime.
I don’t suspect that Deputy Deasy foresaw himself in a dogfight for the fourth and final seat in Waterford. The bookies certainly didn’t, and to see both himself and Fine Gael colleague Paudie Coffey battling for that final berth added some unexpected late night drama to proceedings at WIT.
And while one suspected his first preference vote would inevitably be down on his 2011 tally (10,718), to see over 3,000 ‘number ones’ wiped off the Deasy ledger was as extraordinary as it was unexpected.
“A big wake up call” was the opinion offered by one Fine Gael advocate late on Saturday night when it came to Deasy’s eventual election and who knows, perhaps we have not yet seen the best of John Deasy in Leinster House.
But his post-election sentiment on Waterfordians’ “fixation” with gaining a ministerial brief was certainly misplaced. I’d contend that it does matter to a great many of us, and that comment may not be forgotten by voters in the event of a snap second election.
To Paudie Coffey and Ciara Conway, thank you for your service. And to our four TDs in the 32nd Dáil, the very best of luck to each of you.