Wednesday 21 February 2018

Parish-pump politician in game for half a century

Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

VETERAN Fine Gael TD PJ Sheehan (77) is the archetypal parish-pump politician. He is renowned for knowing every nook, cranny, pothole and political issue in his sprawling west Cork constituency.

Normally, the father of four avoids the headlines except when a Fine Gael heavyweight visits the constituency -- and then Paddy is pictured, smiling as always, enthusiastically showing the dignitary around.

The last time Paddy Sheehan was at the centre of controversy it was a good-humoured clash in the Dail chamber with then Taoiseach Charles Haughey in the Dail.

Within local newspapers, he became famed for his habit of ringing the newsroom to promote a favoured press release with the opening line: "This is Deputy PJ Sheehan ringing from Dail Eireann."

Mr Sheehan has now been involved in politics for almost 50 years.

An auctioneer, shopkeeper and farmer by profession, he was first elected to the Dail in 1981 and established himself as a tireless campaigner for rural rights.

His wife, Frances, has been a key part of his political machine and, over the past 20 years, has been by his side for most major functions and political events.

He successfully held his Dail seat for 21 years until narrowly losing out in FG's disastrous 2002 General Election performance.

But Mr Sheehan refused to consider retirement -- and won back his Dail berth at the 2007 election, re-entering Leinster House at the age of 74.

He was first elected to Cork Co Council in 1967. His son, Cllr Dermot Sheehan, is seen as a natural successor in the Dail, though FG's strategy for the next election in the constituency remains unclear.

Irish Independent

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