Last of a dying breed hands over reins to his son
Published 25/02/2011 | 05:00
PAUL Connaughton is one of the last of the "farmer TDs" who were once a dominant presence in the Dail.
When he started off in the Dail 30 years ago, they were second only to teachers as a group, and farming itself was a strong political issue.
"It has changed a lot. There are fewer farming TDs now and they have to work harder to get their points across for their constituency," he said.
The Galway East TD is now retiring along with other "farmer TDs", such as Fianna Fail's Ned O'Keeffe and Fine Gael's Seymour Crawford.
Mr Connaughton (66) is still visiting plenty of farmers in this election in Galway East. But this time, he is looking for number one votes for "Paul Connaughton Junior" -- his 29-year-old son, who grew up on their 110-acre suckler cow farm in Mountbellew in Galway.
The advantages to 'Young Paul' are obvious as his father introduces him to voter after voter in the town square.
"I didn't forget you all these years and I won't forget this lad either," one man told Paul. Another man told his son "Young Paul" to do as good as his father did.
Both are concerned about the future of the 107-year-old Mountbellew agricultural college, which is threatened with closure by Teasgac next year.
'Young Paul' said it was the only agricultural college left in the west of Ireland.
He is in the early stages of his political career having been elected to Galway County Council in 2009.
'Young Paul' is seen as a near certainty to hold on to his father's seat -- but that will not be the only life-changing event for him. He is getting married to Edel Burke in July -- although the election campaign has taken up most of his time so far.
"This is getting me out of the wedding planning," he said.