Wednesday 22 May 2019

Ireland's latest political dynasty? Sisters are devoted to making their mark

Sisters Kate O’Connell, Mary Newman and Theresa Newman. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Sisters Kate O’Connell, Mary Newman and Theresa Newman. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

Ireland is no stranger to a political dynasty or two - they tend to be durable and astonishingly successful (look no further than the Healy-Raes).

But a new dynasty, born this week, is set to be a first for Irish politics.

Outspoken TD Kate O'Connell, a first time TD in Dublin Bay South, has been joined on the roster of Fine Gael's selection candidates who will vie for a Dáil seat in the next General Election.

Her sister Mary Newman has been added to the party's ticket in Tipperary, alongside Garret Ahearn.

Should she be elected Mary will be the third sister in the corridors of power at Leinster House because Theresa works as a parliamentary assistant for Kate.

There has been some speculation that Theresa herself may run in the local elections next year but she has laughed it off, commenting rhe hasn't considered it, focusing instead on returning her two sisters when the country goes to the polls.

And for Mary it will be no easy feat. Fine Gael returned no TDs in the constituency when the country last took to the polls and it is generally seen as one where the incumbents, among them Michael Lowry and Alan Kelly, will be difficult to unseat.

Mary, a vet who now works in a large multinational firm, believes both her business experience and her farming know-how means she can bring a keen mix to the table.

There has been some concern too among some quarters that she is too close geographically to Garret Ahearn but Mary doesn't buy it: "I've always believed there should be two Fine Gael candidates on the ticket in Tipperary."

She doesn't appear to be too daunted by the challenge, noting that her long term plan had always been to run for public office, even if the opportunity has arisen sooner than she previously might have planned.

"Politics is about timing and opportunity. This is an opportunity I'm going to grab with two hands," she added.

The running mates will sit down to discuss a strategy in the coming days.

Mary is also the first fresh female face to be added to the ticket for the party, at a time when the push for gender equality is top of the agenda across all industries and in politics in particular.

But no woman in any job wants to be seen as a 'token' and the siblings are understandably no different.

"I've never achieved anything in life by being a woman - apart from having four kids.

"Everything I've done in my professional life to date I've done on merit.

"When I was about four years old I remember my father asking who was going to go out and get sticks and I said that was a boy's job.

"My father said 'there is no such thing as jobs for boys and girls, out you go'. That was the last time I played the gender card," she said.

"That's the way we were reared, in a very equal house where what was sauce for the goose was sauce for the gander," she said.

"Politics needs to be shaken up by all types of women," Kate said, noting that the lack of female representation historically has had a reaching effect on society.

Gender quotas are a "necessary evil" she said, and should be seen as a target to be exceeded because at least there would be no confusion.

She said: "There is no woman in Fine Gael lying around doing nothing."

Irish Independent

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