Pádraig O’Sullivan: Every coalition possibility must now be considered

Pádraig O’Sullivan: Every coalition possibility must now be considered
Cork North Central By-Election; Newly elected TD, Padraig O'Sullivan after the result of the tenth count and the elimination of Thomas Gould, confirmed his election to Dail Eireann, at the count centre at Nemo Rangers GAA cub on Saturday. Pic: Larry Cummins

AFTER winning the Cork North-Central by-election in November, Pádraig O’Sullivan barely had time to take down his posters before they were going back up again.

And with the results of last weekend’s general election, he’s not sure if there’s any point in taking them down now either.

Whatever happens, he will be knocking on doors again soon as he seeks to establish himself as an active representative for Cork North-Central.

“Given the volatile situation that we’re in, God knows how long we’ll be there," he said. "We’ll start working like we haven’t stopped. The office was open Saturday and it’s open again.

"We’ll keep working and doing what we’re doing.

“I’ve had three elections in eight months. The uncertainty around these elections, who knows when the next election might be.

“We’ll continue in the same vein. We’ll probably go out canvassing again next week and meet people and listen to people in the constituency, because one thing that did resonate in Cork North Central was people didn’t feel they were getting good representation." 

With two TDs leaving the constituency last year – and a longer scandal of absence with one of them – many northsiders felt that they didn’t get the representation they voted for in 2016.

Mr O’Sullivan said it was something he was very aware of from his by-election run through to last weekend.

“Before I was elected in the by-election, we were adamant that we were going to keep Billy Kelleher’s office open because it was one of the only full time constituency offices in the entire constituency," he said. 

“It serves a purpose and a lot of people use it. But that’s as good as it got for a lot of people in terms of representation.

“The Dara Murphy issue, it was very prominent on the doors. To be fair to Colm Burke, he hasn’t let it faze him. 

"He’s gone off and he’s fought for his seat, against the curve. But the Dara Murphy factor was felt on the doors." 

Part of his answer to the problem was to hit the ground running during his brief time in the 32nd Dáil, speaking several times and asking a number of parliamentary questions.

And while that was enough for him to win a seat in his own right after finishing out Billy Kelleher’s term, he was unable to bring either of his running mates with him.

“We’ve maintained our 2016 vote share, more or less," Mr O'Sullivan said. "In contrast nationally, that we can be proud of.

“We’re happy we kept the vote share albeit we’re a bit disappointed that we couldn’t put a second seat over the line.

“In hindsight, better vote management might have helped. The fact that we had an independent Fianna Fáil candidate in the running as well was unfortunate." 

And with 38 seats to Sinn Féin’s 37, complicated coalition talks have already begun.

Mr O’Sullivan said that every possible arrangement needs to be considered.

“Depending on government formation, coalitions, confidence and supply, whatever will come out of the result of this weekend, I suppose we keep all cards on the table," he said. 

“One in four people voted for Fianna Fáil, one in four people voted for Fine Gael, one in four people voted for Sinn Féin.

“So, that’s a message in itself, that politics is very fractured. Ultimately, that’s democracy.

“Obviously, my preference is to be in government. If we’re on about enacting some of the legislation we want to do, if we’re on about representing the northside to the best of our ability, we have a better chance of doing that in government than doing it outside. So, genuinely, every option needs to be looked at." 

He said that whatever government gets in will have to deal with the same issues, so everyone in the Dáil needs to find a compromise that will work.

“The national issues are well versed," he said. "Whatever government goes in, whether it’s Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, or Sinn Féin, people have had enough of trollies. 

"They’ve had enough of homelessness. It’s not acceptable.

“Locally, there are big infrastructure projects needed. Everybody quotes the Dunkettle interchange and the north ring road, but those projects need to be progressed." 

And if the country is to go back to the polls, he hopes it isn’t anytime soon as this election came just short of the birth of his second child.

At the count centre, he was joined by his wife Bernie and baby Paudie Óg, who was none too impressed when he was hoisted up in the air with his father when the votes came through.

“He’s normally very happy, but the second you put him in front of a camera he cries," he said. "We’re due another baby in April, so thankfully the election fell before the second baby arrived.

“My family are brilliant. My mother and sisters were canvassing. Traditionally, they never canvassed so they had to learn very quickly. My brother was doing posters. My cousins were helping out.

"It was a family affair as much as the Fianna Fáil membership." 

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