Tuesday 6 December 2016

Little sympathy for Coughlan in her former heartland

Published 27/02/2011 | 15:49

The sleepy village of Frosses, nestled into the stunning hills of south-west Donegal, is the idyllic home of Ireland's second most powerful politician.

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Or at least it was until late on Saturday night, when Tanaiste Mary Coughlan was ingloriously kicked out of high office after almost a quarter of a century representing the area.

But even here, in her close-knit heartland, there is little sympathy for the embarrassing routing her Fianna Fail party suffered at the hands of an angry electorate.

The morning after the night before, the village main street - its only street - is bathed in the warm sunlight of a long-awaited spring, but there is little sign of life.

Opposite the dormant terrace of attractive houses on one side of the road is a graveyard - prompting the local joke that one side of Frosses does not speak to the other.

And when villagers start seeing a bit more of their former TD in the coming weeks and months, there is a sense they will not be running across the street with open arms.

Outside the grocery, one young woman - who voted for her first time in the General Election - dismissed any suggestion that Coughlan's drubbing was a shock.

"She deserved it," she said.

"You wouldn't have seen much of her around the village, she was always in Dublin or wherever.

"We'll be seeing a lot more of her now though."

There were barbed mumblings too in the St John Bosco centre in Donegal town, where the ballots were counted, on Saturday night about the whereabouts of the Tanaiste as it became increasingly obvious she was in serious bother.

But just before 9pm, dressed all in red, she strode into the count station, shielded by party officials and - some say - kept at a remove from voters awaiting the final result.

She refused to admit defeat openly and insisted Fianna Fail were still at the races in Donegal.

"I'm not conceding on this one yet," she said.

But just half an hour later she had slipped away from the thronged hall, knowing well the decades-old Coughlan dynasty, forged out before her by her father Cathal and uncle Clement, both former TDs, had come to a humiliating end.

Phone calls went unanswered and party officials shrugged shoulders when asked if she would be back for the formal declaration, when both winners and losers traditionally address the electorate.

She did not return.

In Frosses the next day, a local man enjoying a sunny morning stroll said the village's best-known resident would be all right in time - she had a good pension.

Bucking the national trend, he had voted for Coughlan despite being a lifelong Fine Gael supporter. Why?

"Because she called to the house. Nobody else did," he said.

But would he vote for her next time around?

"It depends if she calls to the house," he smiled.

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