Love blossoms for Helen as she walks in her dad's Dail footsteps
Last Tuesday was a bittersweet day for new TD Helen McEntee, formally taking the seat vacated after her father's tragic death – but a blossoming romance has helped her find her feet.
The pretty 26-year-old, who swept to victory in last month's Meath East by election, said filling her dad Shane's seat left her with "mixed emotions".
She said she was relieved there were no "mishaps or hiccups" but it was a "very tough day" for her and her family, particularly her mother Kathleen.
"It was a very tough day, my mum had just flown in from Boston so she was tired but she wanted to be there," she said.
Helen also said she wasn't sure whether she would have to make her maiden speech.
"I was told that I was going to, then I was told I wasn't, so I wasn't sure, but it was grand.
"I just kept my eyes straight as I went into the chamber," she said.
Despite having worked as a Dail assistant for her late father, she said it was "very different" being on the other side as a TD.
But it seems a new romance is helping Helen cope with tragedy. It has been confirmed that the new TD has been seeing Fine Gael activist and parliamentary assistant Paul Hickey for several months, and the pair were spotted together around Leinster House during the week.
Mr Hickey works as an assistant to Donegal TD Joe McHugh and holds a first class honours degree in history and political science from NUI Galway.
The Roscommon native is a popular figure in the party and is seen as a rising star within Fine Gael. He is currently studying for a Masters in economic policy studies at Trinity College Dublin.
She said this weekend that she has already settled into her office and is in the process of appointing her parliamentary staff and is relishing the challenge of being a TD.
"I have already met with the Pyrite Action Group and other groups from the constituency, but it may be a couple of weeks before I can hold clinics.
"But it's been a great week," she added.
Helen impressed many by her calmness during the campaign and by the manner and choice of words to the media as she arrived at Leinster House.
"I drove down to the graveside this morning and had a few words. I think he called into Michael Collins the morning of his first day, so I called into my hero," she said.