Monday 24 October 2016

Bondings: Mum gets my vote - TD Aine Collins' daughter

Cork TD Aine Collins and her daughter Ciara have explored several career paths, and seem to be on the right ones now

Published 25/01/2016 | 02:30

Cork's finest: TD Aine Collins was 20 when her daughter Ciara was born and they are very close, even though Ciara
Cork's finest: TD Aine Collins was 20 when her daughter Ciara was born and they are very close, even though Ciara "rises mayhem" at home at times. Photo: Dave Conachy

TD Aine Collins was only 20 when her daughter Ciara was born, and they have always been there for one another. That isn't to say that they don't drive each other mad too, of course, but Aine says that her 25-year-old daughter has the kindest, warmest heart, and is very good with people.

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Ciara was born while Aine was living in London with her boyfriend Dermot. She worked in finance and studied at night, and then got unexpectedly pregnant. Ciara was born in September 1990, in London, and Aine came back home to Knockbrack near Banteer in Cork a month later. Sadly her relationship with Ciara's dad broke up the following year, but her family were amazingly supportive.

"Ciara was the most beautiful baby," she recalls. "I had never spent any time around babies, but I was very lucky as my parents, Teresa and Timmy, were both retired so I had a lot of help. Ciara slept on her grandad's lap every day, and she was spoiled rotten. I got a job as a trainee accountant and qualified in 1996. I felt very passionate about going back to college and getting my exams, as I needed to be able to earn a living to support myself and Ciara and buy our own house."

Ciara was seven when her dad Dermot sadly passed away aged 31. She still has a great relationship with his lovely mum, her grandmother Eansie, and sees her every week. She also says that Aine (46) was a "brilliant mother." As the youngest of Teresa and the late Timmy's six children, Aine grew up as a tomboy on their farm, doing everything her four brothers did, like driving tractors and picking cabbage.

She got her interest in politics from her dad, who was chairperson of the local branch of Fine Gael although she never saw herself becoming a politician. Her intention when she left school was to get into car sales, so she embarked on a year-long course in automobile engineering at CIT. "I would say my mother prayed every day for me to give it up," she laughs, "as there was this idea that the car business wasn't a place for a girl."

After having Ciara and qualifying as an accountant, the entrepreneurial Aine opened her own practice in Millstreet and it was very successful.

A year later, she bought a pub, which was known as Aine's bar. She also opened a restaurant, but it wasn't a success and closed within nine months. Aine eventually sold her accountancy practice as she decided she didn't want to be an accountant forever, and went to work with South Western Services for four years.

In 2001, Aine met her banker husband, Paul Cassidy, while away for a break in Kilkee with friends. They were married in 2003, and have two children, Thomas (8) and Lilly (7). Lilly was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis at four months, so Aine took some time off work. Her little girl is on a new drug, Kalydeco, which improves the quality of life for those eligible to take it, and also allows them to live longer. "Having a child with CF changes your life and your outlook on everything else," she says. "While Lilly was ill before Christmas, she has grown, put on weight and her lungs are doing well."

Aine was on the national executive of Fine Gael for three years, and was approached by the party to see if she would stand for election in 2011. "I really thought about it, as I knew that if I did it, I would have to give it 110 per cent," she says. "Paul was very supportive, as he knew things would have to change if I entered politics."

Aine decided to run for the Cork north-west constituency, and she was successfully elected. She has thoroughly enjoyed the past four years and has a very good track record in the Dail. Even the infamous incident in 2013, which showed her party colleague Tom Barry pulling her on to his lap during a debate on the abortion legislation, didn't faze her.

Is it harder bring a woman in politics? "You certainly have to fight harder and there are a lot more men around than women, but I had four brothers and was always around men," she says. "You have to fight your corner but that is part of any job. You wouldn't survive very long if you were sensitive and took too many things on board. But I really have fantastic colleagues. The country was broken when I was elected, and people are in a far better place now and are more secure around work. I love my job and am very passionate about it, even though there are times that it has been like a rollercoaster and very difficult. You come in very excited and want to change the world, but then you realise things are very hard to change and you have to work around the system. It is busy, frustrating and rewarding and you go through every emotion."

While Aine changed career direction a few times, so did Ciara, who boarded at Newtown School in Waterford for her Junior Cert cycle, and did her Leaving Cert at Millstreet Community School. She tried hairdressing, make up artistry and studied social care, and ended up living in Australia for two years where she worked in traffic control. She is now studying HR in Cork and loves it. She is also helping out with her mum's forthcoming election campaign. "I like the door-to-door stuff and am a people person so I enjoy it," she says. "I go canvassing with Mum's friend, Noel Buckley, and we make it such fun."

Having much younger siblings is also great fun for Ciara, and it was handy for her mum having a ready-made babysitter there, when required. Aine says that Ciara "rises mayhem" at home but she'd be lost without her. "Thomas and Lilly are brilliant," says Ciara. "They look up to me and drive me mad, I drive them mad and we drive mum mad together. Mum has a great heart, and is brilliant with people. I was delighted for her when she got elected, as it's a great achievement. It's not an easy job, as she is always busy and is away a lot and then she is on the phone at home so people are always pulling at her. I am very proud of her."

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