Brassil finally in the driving seat

Donal Nolan

The Kilgarvan-bound cavalcade made one of the most impressive sights leaving Killarney, but the one bearing up from the south on Ballyheigue told its own historic story - a resurgent Fianna Fáil in Kerry on the back of a rejuvenated organisation and candidates of real appeal.

With the John Brassil jeep on point on the hard shoulder beyond Farranfore, the supporting cars pulled in one after another behind to take off as one northwards with gusto.

The victory was a sweet one for the Ballyheigue pharmacist after trying to get the party nod for years. He finally broke the hold of the Fianna Fáil dynasties of North Kerry in the convention of March of last year to get the selection.

A BS-free zone, his sharp and calm, matter-of-fact approach came to be seen as the party's only hope in North Kerry of recouping all Fianna Fáil lost in its 2011 annihilation.

John Brassil was elected to the fifth seat of the new constituency on the last count on Sunday - under quota on 12,792 votes, having polled 8,156 first preferences. No small feat for a Fianna Fáil man amid the ex-Fianna Fáil Healy Rae tsunami.

His 45 per cent transfer from south Kerry running mate Norma Moriarty after her elimination on the ninth count spoke volumes of a resurgent Fianna Fáil still adept in managing the vote.

It also came as validation of a vote strategy some feared might prove too evenly -split geographically for either candidate to get enough.

"I always had the belief that if I was given the opportunity it would be more difficult for me to get out of the party than it would be to get elected by the people. The convention was extremely difficult to win, my geography wasn't helpful of course, not when you've the Atlantic Ocean at your back, but I won strong support in Tralee and Listowel."

The Deputy elect is unequivocal on the purpose of his new job: "From now on the people of Kerry will be judging me on my performance and I'm only going up there to do the job for them. Getting better services for Kerry after years of cuts to rural services will be my main focus, it's what I've campaigned on and I'm only going to Dublin in order to find solutions."

"Fianna Fáil has been given a substantial boost, we're now very close to being the biggest party and we have the right to nominate Mícheál Martin for Taoiseach."

When it comes to forming the next government, Brassil believes Mícheál Martin's vision of a cross-party system has a lot of merit, but he personally has 'no problem' with sharing power with Fine Gael should the Civil War officially come to an end.

"I think the electorate are telling us they want politicians to do things differently, instead of the usual Government versus opposition way. Everything a government proposes can't always be wrong and every act of opposition can't always be right," John Brassil said.

Right now though, John Brassil is as mindful as ever of his late father Noel's legacy - on whose shoulders he said he stood in building his own political career. "A lot of people remember my father, he had a great way with people and I wish he had passed more of that onto me."

His mother Mary too is foremost in his mind. In his victory speech he wished that the end of their hard campaign on his election would signal the start of her recovery from a recent period of ill health, paying a glowing tribute to her.

As for his council seat? The Ballyheigue man will soon suggest a number of names for party top brass to consider. He says he will have a big input in the succession but that it will be up to party HQ to give the nod. "I genuinely don't know at this point who will be taking the seat," he said.