Wednesday 24 January 2018

Former pupil has a lesson for her old teacher Hanafin

New TD Maria Bailey says former teacher Mary Hanafin has no hard feelings. Photo: Steve Humphreys
New TD Maria Bailey says former teacher Mary Hanafin has no hard feelings. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Deirdre Reynolds

Deirdre Reynolds

Former Education Minister Mary Hanafin could be regretting being quite such a diligent teacher at Sion Hill back in the nineties after being beaten in the race to the Dáil by a past pupil.

Newly-elected Fine Gael TD Maria Bailey denied her former history teacher a comeback in the South Dublin constituency of Dún Laoghaire to become the 100th woman ever elected to Dáil Éireann at the weekend.

Sitting down with the Irish Independent yesterday however, the first-time TD said she was sure there would be no hard feelings.

Ms Bailey (40), who won 10,489 first preference votes, said: "She sent me a lovely text afterwards. She said she was very proud of her past pupil doing so well, which wasn't an easy thing to say, and that she wished she taught all her past pupils so well in history.

"As I said to her, it's not about history now, it's about the future. In fairness, she was very magnanimous about it."

Bucking the national trend for the party, the mum-of-two and her running mate Mary Mitchell O'Connor both triumphed in the hotly contested three-seater, alongside People Before Profit's Richard Boyd Barrett.

Confessing that exit polls had "unnerved" her, the seasoned councillor, who was elected on the seventh count after Ms Hanafin was eliminated, said she was "floored" by the result.

"I can't even describe what that feeling was like, that so many people endorse you. It's still very surreal.

"There were people coming into the count centre on Saturday that weren't part of any political party just to congratulate me. Then I heard that evening I was the 100th woman [elected to the Dáil] since 1918 and that was just the icing on the cake."

The former Aer Lingus customer service representative and her father, John, were both elected to Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council in 2004.

And she joked that dealing with irate passengers was the perfect practice for becoming a politician.

"Customer service is a form of politics. When people are giving out about certain things, it's understanding not to take it personally and to listen. Aer Lingus was a very good training ground for that."

Explaining why she held off running in a General Election until now, Ms Bailey, who is married to engineer James Ryan, revealed: "I would have loved to have run the last time, but my little one, Katie, was only just born, so that was just a choice I had to make. And it was the right choice, because you don't get those first few years back."

And 12 years after swapping planes for politics, she conceded she still hasn't achieved the perfect the work-life balance: "You can plan for everything, but if your child is sick, everything goes out the window. Is it a perfect balance? No - but it keeps you on your toes."

As she heads for Kildare Street, Ms Bailey said repealing the Eighth Amendment is high on her agenda. "That would definitely be something I would pursue. Not that I'm in favour of abortion on demand, but I am pro-choice for families.

"It was a huge issue in this election and I did lose votes because of it. But I have to stay true to me and I'm not going to change because it's going to lose me a vote.

"God forbid, if I was in that position, why should a stranger make that choice for me?"

Irish Independent

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