Sunday 17 December 2017

No sisters in arms as Mary Hanafin gets back in game

Dun Laoghaire - Rathdown

Fianna Fail candidate for Blackrock Mary Hanafin celebrates her win with her mother Mona Hanafin at the count in the City West Hotel, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Fianna Fail candidate for Blackrock Mary Hanafin celebrates her win with her mother Mona Hanafin at the count in the City West Hotel, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Kate Feeney is cheered by her supporters after winning her seat in the Blackrock area of Dun Laoghaire County Council. Photo: Michael Chester
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

MARY Hanafin pulled it off with a mixture of shoe leather and tenacity. Constituents reported that she had virtually camped outside the schools in Blackrock.

And as the media engulfed her once again after a three-year absence, swooping with notebooks and cameras, Ms Hanafin all but embraced the scrum, beaming in welcome.

"I missed ye – I missed ye all," she said impulsively.

Later, seat confirmed, she wept for a moment in sheer relief, before recalling: "Politicians are meant to compose themselves."

She had spent the hours beforehand visiting her father in hospital, she told the Irish Independent afterwards. He was "thrilled" with her victory.

On the weekend of the nominations fiasco, he had suffered a stroke, waking up paralysed on the Friday morning, she revealed, adding that he has since regained his movement.

He had been "not furious – but very hurt" by Fianna Fail's treatment of his daughter.

"It really hurt him, that weekend I was being pushed around," Ms Hanafin revealed.

"He told me that I could not back down. I was worried about him being sick – but my gut was saying 'stay.'"

After the high-profile row in Blackrock, there were only two ways to play it for the pair of Fianna Fail candidates as the count progressed.

Option one was for both sides to brave it out and advance brandishing a laurel wreath, to rejoice amid triumphant scenes of mutual glory and adulation.

Mary Hanafin and Kate Heeney – sisters in arms.

It would have been the photographic coup of the election – but could the other party be relied upon to co-operate satisfactorily, given a complete lack of communication between the camps? Tricky.

Option two was to pass miraculously like ships in the night, while paying dutiful lip service to the other's success, at a safe distance.

Bitterly disappointing, of course, for the observers who had been hoping to bear witness to the catfight that lay behind the dogfight that never really happened.

We could only marvel at how they had managed to pull off such a spectacular sleight of hand amid a backdrop of violent skulduggery and utterly disastrous PR. We hoped to at least witness a public rapprochement through gritted teeth.

But Ms Feeney had been warned by party cogs to stay well away from the Citywest count centre until the result was certain.

She was dispatched to feed ducks in St Stephen's Green with fellow candidate James McCann for the afternoon, only landing in the centre after 10pm and raised aloft in exhausted triumph at midnight following the fifth count.

By then, of course, Mary Hanafin had long since left the building, having soaked up copious amounts of life-giving electoral oxygen.

"Mary will come when she wants to come. She marches to the beat of her own drum," a party worker had observed darkly, as we waited for her to show up earlier in the day.

Her return to the political stage inevitably provoked ire among some who are still bearing the wounds inflicted by her government.

But now she is home and dry, gratefully grasping the mandate she wrestled from the jaws of her own party.

She was so clearly ecstatic and visibly glowing that even her worst critics would have to give her some kudos. At the age of 55 and after all the triumphs and disasters, she is right back to where she was at the tender age of 26 in 1985, over the moon with a relatively humble seat on a local council.

Though, apparently with her ambitions only more keenly sharpened.

Asked how she felt about going back to grassroots level politics, Ms Hanafin paused.

"Before I was ever elected I taught at schools so I don't mind – I'm still Mary Hanafin," she said. "I'm still the person I always was."

She had kept busy over the past three years. There was a term teaching marketing and ethics at Notre Dame College in the States. Her American students had been "fascinated" to have a "practitioner who could teach". She had also taken part in an educational seminar in Abu Dhabi and New York.

Last year, she had taken a course in American Studies at the Clinton Institute in UCD just to do "something different". Four of her class members had since come out to canvass with her, she revealed.

She had also occupied herself with a spate of voluntary work at a day-care centre.

"I was busy – but not as busy as I'd like to be and not as busy doing what I like best – public service," Ms Hanafin finished.

There won't be a pothole left unplugged in the ward of Blackrock. And then, of course, there is the minor matter of a Dail seat to target.

Councillor Mary Hanafin is back in the game.

Irish Independent Supplement

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