Thursday 15 November 2018

O'Rourke enlists help from the 'Mammy'

Michael Brennan, Political Correspondent

AENGUS O'Rourke is seeking to become the latest addition to one of the country's most famous political dynasties.

In good times, his run for Athlone Town Council would be a formality given the support of his mother, the formidable Fianna Fail TD Mary O'Rourke.

He also has two famous cousins in Finance Minister Brian Lenihan and junior minister Conor Lenihan.

But they are part of a highly unpopular Government and there are 19 candidates running for the just nine seats on Athlone Town Council.

So, during a recent canvassing tour of St Ann's estate in the town, Aengus is keen to persuade each voter that he needs their support. "I'm a newcomer, I'm starting out with no votes," he says.

He has a well-organised canvassing team but the strongest weapon in Aengus's army is "Mammy" O'Rourke, who sweeps houses ahead or behind him like a well-meaning mother hen. "I never beat anyone into submission," she jokes to a voter.

Aengus (40) is the youngest of her two sons and came back from Dublin to Athlone in 2005 with his wife Lisa and their three young children.

He set up a Snap printing business in the town and is now getting involved in active politics for the first time.

The biggest issue on the campaign trail is the lack of speed bumps.

"It's like Mondello Park around here," says one man. And another local, Sheila McCormack, says that she fears for the safety of her young grandchildren.

As he walks from door to door in the estate, Aengus gets many reminders of his family background.

"Most people say to me, 'Oh, are you Mary's lad', and of course I don't deny it. So that's just a fact of life. I don't at all play on it," he says.

He estimates that he needs at least 450 first preferences out of the 10,000 or so voters in Athlone to get a seat on the council.

"There's a lot of demand on public representatives but at the same time I have the advantage of knowing exactly what's involved. I've seen it first hand," he says.

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