“It’s unknown territory for everyone the world over,” he said. “I think Ireland has done itself proud and shown real resilience. I also think the Government has done a good job in supporting people and businesses throughout the pandemic.
“I would love to see a zero-Covid strategy pursued but, with tensions in the North at their highest in 20 years, I understand it’s not straightforward. Still, zero Covid is my preference,” he said.
Regarding the impact Covid-19 has had on his first year as a TD, Mr O’Sullivan said it had been “incredibly tough” for everyone, across the spectrum.
“As a TD, travel restrictions mean I’ve been unable to visit parts of the constituency for most of the past year. Zoom meetings have gotten us through, but it’s not the same. While I visited as many places as I could when restrictions were lifted last year, I’m really looking forward to spending time in every parish in the constituency,” he said.
However, he has accomplished a number of things in his first year in Dáil Éireann.
“I’m proud of the work we’ve done on the climate action committee to get Ireland’s climate law on the right track.
“Over the next year I’ll be focusing on that, and also trying to tackle the many broadband blackspots around Cork South West as well as working with communities to get as many of our green, cycle and walkway projects shovel ready so they can avail of Government funding. I think it’s really important, not only for the health and wellbeing of our communities, but it will help reinvigorate our tourism sector as well.
“The August floods devastated our road network and, in response, both the Taoiseach and public expenditure minister, Michael McGrath, visited, leading to a more than €5m response to repair the roads,” he said.
Mr O’Sullivan toldthat being a TD was largely what he expected, but it is clear he had to operate differently to how TDs would have previously.
“It’s largely what I did expect but, of course, nobody could have foreseen the pandemic and the huge impact that would have on how we operate as TDs. The biggest example of that is that we can’t get around the entire constituency,” he said.
“I don’t think anybody could have foreseen what it’s like to be in government during a pandemic, but I’m glad we put our hands up and took on the challenge,” he said.
Mr O’Sullivan was mayor of the county of Cork when he was elected last February and said being a TD did differ from that role.
“It’s also a departure from being mayor, where every occasion was a celebration. I’m here to help people and help the communities I represent. It’s work I really enjoy.
As regards the future of his party, Mr O’Sullivan said “the decency Micheál [Martin] has shown in his time as leader” was something that the party should build on.
“I’ve gotten to know the parliamentary party and, for the most part, they’re a progressive bunch, particularly in the Seanad, where our senators are leading the way with some groundbreaking bills,” he said.
“I’m also impressed with the way the party is putting climate change at the centre of what it does. But we know we have challenges and a job of work to get younger people involved in and working with Fianna Fáil. As Ógra liaison, it’s a challenge that really interests me,” he said.
Regarding his own ambitions in politics, he said he wanted to “remain honest, to avoid populism and headline grabbing, and always try to do the right thing for the people I represent. Re-election is important to me because there is a lot to do”.