Sunday 21 January 2018

Ex-Cork hurler revels in election underdog label

Diarmuid O'Flynn in Ballyhea, Co Cork. Photo: Mark Condren
Diarmuid O'Flynn in Ballyhea, Co Cork. Photo: Mark Condren
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

Nothing energises a former Ballyhea and Cork hurler more than being labelled the underdog.

Diarmuid O'Flynn (62) won't just smash the old Civil War stranglehold in one of Ireland's most conservative constituencies if he takes a Dáil berth in Cork North West this month - but he will make political history in the process.

It's a challenge to relish for a father of two who takes pride in defying conventions and expectations.

A former land surveyor, engineer, sports journalist and hurler - he is very proud he played his last county championship match at 50 years of age - he entered politics almost by accident when he was so irate over Ireland's economic meltdown he helped found the famous Ballyhea Burn the Bondholders campaign group.

They've protested all over Ireland, Europe and North America about the manner in which Irish taxpayers were left to pay the draconian price of the banking collapse.

Next March, Ballyhea will mark its fifth anniversary of protesting.

"I never in a million years thought I'd ever enter a political campaign," Mr O'Flynn said. "I ran in the European Parliament elections for Ireland South two years ago as part of the bank bailout protest campaign. I thought that would be my first and final campaign."

Once considered one of the most conservative constituencies in Ireland, Cork North West also stood out as boasting one of the most efficient Fine Gael electoral machines in Ireland.

For decades, Fine Gael defied a smaller poll than Fianna Fáil to walk away with two of the three seats thanks to skilled vote transfer management, in part due to the Creed family which has supplied TDs here since 1965.

Sinn Féin is now expecting a poll boost but consider being in contention for the third seat as a bonus.

The primary focus will be on independents, including Cork Mayor and County Councillor John Paul O'Shea and Mr O'Flynn.

Both pose a serious threat to Fine Gael's second seat in a constituency where vote transfers will prove crucial.

Prediction: Fine Gael (1), Fianna Fáil (1) and Independent (1).

Irish Independent

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