'Martin delivered and now we'll suffer'
LOSING a seat at the cabinet table is like having daddy's credit card snatched away after years of good times for the people of the south-east.
"He delivered for Waterford," and "the south-east is going to suffer" were common refrains from his constituents yesterday as they digested the announcement that Martin Cullen was not only leaving the Cabinet but quitting the Dail because of ill health.
First elected to the Dail in 1987, after answering a call for candidates by the fledgling Progressive Democrat party, his speechwriter for that first campaign was Eddie Wymberry who described the long-serving politician as "an inspiration" who had achieved much -- locally and nationally.
"It's a sad day for Waterford but it's a sad day for the country too," he said. "You only have to look around the city and outlying areas to see the progress he has made. I think he has been brilliant and, personally, he's a very nice man."
Often described as a workaholic, Mr Cullen enjoyed a cappuccino and a cigarette with friends and associates during his rare "down-time", dropping into places like the Tower Hotel and the Tuck Away Sandwich Bar for a break.
"He'd often come in for a cup of coffee and he'd sit outside meeting and greeting the public as they came along, at the weekend or even during the week if he was around," Aisling Kelly of the Tuck Away said. "He's been great for the area. He will be sorely missed. I hope Waterford doesn't suffer because he's gone."
A cousin of Martin Cullen, Gertie Coady, said it was a "sad day" for the family. "He did a lot for Waterford and we're going to miss him."
When it comes to the bigger picture, mayor of Waterford city John Halligan said he expected Fianna Fail to lose the by-election caused by Martin Cullen's departure.
The independent councillor said that while, on a personal level, he wished Mr Cullen well and had always found him "courteous", he didn't have a perfect record. "The university for the south-east hasn't happened and then the Waterford glass factory closed," he said.