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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: November 15, 2010 @ 11:03 am

    “Donegal is going to puncture a lot of theories about opinion polls”

    Mary Minihan

    Minister of State for Labour Affairs Dara Calleary, recently appointed Fianna Fail’s deputy campaign manager in the Donegal South-West byelection, says he thinks the contest will “puncture a lot of theories about opinion polls”.

    Asked why he was selected to assist Minister for Social Protection Eamon O Cuiv with Fianna Fail Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill’s campaign in Donegal South-West, Calleary says: “Geography. I know the area, I know the organisation”. Fianna Fail is “blessed” with its organisation “up there”, he adds. “There’d be a bit of passion in Fianna Fail about this campaign.”

    The party convention that took place in Glenties recently wasn’t “stage managed”, Calleary insists. “To get 500 people out on the worst weather night of the year for a convention where there is no contest, so it wasn’t a case they were whipped out.”

    Calleary describes Taoiseach Brian Cowen as a “passionate” person. He speaks about knowing “the real Brian Cowen” as distinct from the Taoiseach as portrayed by “the media”. There is a “style issue”, he concedes, “but give me substance any day”. An Ard Fheis, “probably in the spring time”, will “rally the troops”.

    He says Cowen should be given credit for promoting young people. A first-time deputy, 37-year-old Calleary said: “There’s three of us from the class of ’07 in Government. There’s [Ministers of State] Aine Brady and Sean Connick and myself. And that didn’t happen before. Newer people are getting a chance to serve.” He also cites the appointment of James Carroll to the Seanad last year at the age of 26.

    He says an “Ogra generation” of people of “ten or 11 people” he got to know through his involvement with the Fianna Fail youth organisation now serves in the Dáil, mentioning Meath East TD Thomas Byrne (33) and Cork North-West deputy Michael Moynihan (42) by name.

    He has sent a strong message to secretaries general that they must not use the possibility of a change of Government to delay implementing the Croke Park deal, which you can read about here: http://bit.ly/an0CDk

    Calleary and Beverley Flynn are the two Fianna Fail TDs in Mayo, where Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny heads up what Calleary calls “the strongest Fine Gael organisation in the country” in the five-seat constituency.

    “We’re obviously under a bit of pressure there because Enda’s there as leader of the Opposition. You’ve got Michael Ring, an unbelievable worker; you’ve John O’Mahony, who has all sorts of other attractions…in terms of the GAA,” he says.

    “So you’re up against that. But I’m confident we’ll have a good election.” His relationship with Beverley Flynn is “pretty good” and “constructive”, and they work together on projects. “I don’t have time to be bothering about baggage.”

    Labour will run former Independent Dr Jerry Cowley in the constituency. O Cuiv recently predicted Dr Cowley would return to the Dail.

    Calleary studied business and politics at Trinity College Dublin and worked for Chambers Ireland for 8 years. When he was younger he worked summers in a gift shop his mother managed, and also “did the usual teenagers jobs, worked in hotels, that kind of thing”.

    His father Seán Calleary was a TD from 1973 until 1992 and his grandfather Phelim Calleary was a deputy between 1952 and 1969. Both of them retired. “Hopefully I get to do the same,” Calleary says.

    • Catherine b. says:

      Apart from the fact that the Fianna Fail Senator is clearly a man of integrity and vision and imo the best candidate going forward in Donegal SW byelection, it would be wonderful to see the ordinary citizens of Donegal getting a chance to knock the wind out of a puffed up self-obsessed media band-wagon running on nothing but hot air. Even though in a crisis, opinion tends to become polarized, I pray for an overwhelming positive result for the best man for the job, Brian Ó Domhnaill – our Sovereignty is at stake.

    • robespierre says:

      This a delightful puff piece for Zanu FF.

      I look forward to similarly frothy, unchallenged conjecture from the Pinkoes, the Blueshirts and the IRA.

    • Fergal says:

      @Catherine b. Our sovereignty has gone West and, unfortunately, was abused when it still meant something. I don’t know much about the candidates in this by-election and therefore cannot comment on their integrity or suitability for the job however as non-party man i do not believe that it is in this country’s interests to inflate the Zanu FF (as robespierre so hilariously put it) “majority” in Leinster House.

    • paul m says:

      catherine b,
      do you really think a long overdue bye election that had to be forced by a SF legal case in the high court is going to preserve our sovereignty? I think you need to re read the EU membership small print – though shalt not take huge EU subsidies and benefits without expecting to give your sovereignty as a deposit should you fail to meet repayments. You’d think your beloved FF days of the tent at the Galway races would have thought them something – the house always wins.

      We’re not in Kansas anymore Dorothy!

    • El Leader Maximo says:

      It’s all good in Biffostan

    • Mary Minihan says:

      Thanks all for comments so far. I hope tirchonaill, who submitted a thoughtful comment on Donegal South West to my last blog about the constituency [Observe the sons of Fianna Fail marching towards Donegal], won’t mind if I reproduce some of his comment here as it’s also relevant to this post:

      “Many people don’t understand the typical political mindset in Donegal, barely a part of this failed Republic since the beginning.

      “Donegal SW is surely the most neglected constituency in the country, if such a thing could be realistically measured? Civil war politics is still alive and well in the constituency, particularly in the rural areas, and it’s locally focussed. The connection with Leinster House and national politics seems somewhat distant and irrelevant, and is coloured by deep cynicism regarding the overall relationship of the county with central Government, i.e., the periphery v. the centre.

      “I think this explains why there was no pressure for a by-election in the county from the ordinary voters or constituents. The constituency has/had a huge loyal FF electorate (50%+), and that civil war-based loyalty has meant that absolutely nothing has been done for the constituency in terms of jobs, development etc. That’s the reality of the kind of politics that operates here.

      “It’s also a reflection on FF of course, although the whole complex that essentially controls affairs in the county extends well beyond one party. Throw in politicians of all hues, old stock business people, the church, the gardaí. This machine runs the place according to it’s own rules. The Morris Tribunal briefly shed some light into this murky world. People know this, they just don’t understand that it’s not as bad elsewhere in the country, that things have been moving on over the last 20 years. And most importantly, they don’t make the connection between this state of affairs and their elected representatives, especially Dáil deputies, especially those from FF.

      “If the typical Donegal voter mindset has collapsed somewhat, then FF will lose the seat. Young people would lead that change, but with the recent emigration surge, widespread disinterest/disillusionment, plus a Thursday election day, it’s still down to the old die-hards. I don’t bet, but I wouldn’t put money on Pearse Doherty without putting the same on O’Domhnaill.”

      That’s what tirchonaill thinks anyway!

    • Catherine b. says:

      Nice post by tirchonail and by referencing the old túath of Tír Chonaill in his nom de plume clearly someone who has a deep affinity with the history, culture and politics of Donegal. I have many happy memories of Gweedore, Co Donegal since, as children, we were sent there to the Gaeltacht and I only really know Donegal from that perspective (magical, beautiful) which is not a bad thing. It is a pity in a way, in my opinion, that Brian Ó Domhnaill and Pearse Doherty (beautiful names) are going against each other, for I think, given our sad history, these fine young Irish men would have much in common.

    • Desmond FitzGerald says:

      Tirchonail’s comments can be applied to every single constituency in the country – think of Limerick for example.

      The scale of denial among Irish people about how the way they vote – and while the party’s decide what candidates the public get to choose from, it’s the party members who choose those candidates and the party members are a mirror reflection of Irish society – led directly the mess they face today is truely astounding.

      All the stuff that goes on in Donegal, the corruption, the abuse covered up by the church happens because the locals allow it to happen, it’s not the 1950s and they all have access to TV and the internet so they know they have rights and don’t have to accept the way things are – yet they do? Why is that? What is wrong with people?

      Can an entire country have Stockholm Syndrome – the toxic relationship with FF must have affected the mentality of the country, either those who supported them or those who have spent their entire lives fighting against FF and never getting anywhere – until now hopefully.

      If FF win in Donegal, then there’s literally no hope for the country. I think anyone who underestimates FF does so at their meril, especially when it’s cornered like it is now – there are no young people left in Donegal to vote responsibly, those young people who are left are too laxy to get off their backsides or to stop boy racing to cast a vote, so the ultra die hard FFers will all flock to the polls.

    • Simon Tighe says:

      The pro Fianna Fail lobby in Donegal is scarily robust. I’ve only recently heard the first murmurs of discontent with Mary C. which is seems incredible. Still the people of county press ahead with candidates that fix potholes get passports in a hurry and turn up at funerals. I have heard stories that Brian is getting a positive reception at the door steps and promising broadband improvement for votes. Commendable but misguided.

      As a young Donegal man I can’t help but feel the greatest sense of shame, that the county that can possibly sway the future of the nation at this moment in time cannot see the self indoctrinated nature of its relationship with Fianna Fail. Sinn Fein is no answer and although Barry O’Neill isn’t exactly stellar he’s a start, (the less said about the lamentable choice of labour candidate the better).

      Show your fury, don’t be afraid to get a little angry, our soldiers of destiny have led us to the brink and if only for a sense of humility they need to realise that their positions are not birthrights but are conferred upon them by the people.

      Unfortunately for my home county, tradition and tribalism usually win the day and no one excels at either better than FF, though the marriage maybe going through a rough spell, divorce is out of the question.

    • Brian O'Donnell says:

      Last night’s Primetime showed what a lot of hot air F.F. spoke, with the hard neck to think they have any chance of winning the SW Donegal seat. They still have no idea of the anomisity towards the Gov. thinking that ‘all will be OK on the night’. It will not, and I as a NW Donegal voter, will make sure my vote is cast to someone who can Represent me – not just a party mouthpiece.

    • Donegal rose says:

      @ Des Fitz
      Your own ultra die hard Fine Gael, typically negative mentality projects a very unflattering image on to Donegal and if that reflects the attitude of Fine Gael to the people of Donegal then the people of Donegal would be very foolish to vote for an FG candidate.
      Fianna Fail certainly, and also Sinn Féin clearly have a great love for this beautiful county of Donegal, as reflected in the passion and enthusiasm of their respective candidates’ glowing tributes to Donegal; and which great love is emphasized in their sincerity and demeanour.

    • Desmond FitzGerald says:

      Well Donegal Rose, when you’re waving goodbye to family at the airport or when you see family losing their jobs or home, think on and cop yourself on and don’t start any old guff about people who vote or support other than Fianna Fáil being somehow less Irish. How dare you.

      Yeah far better to remain in denial and let the EU/IMF take over and do what should have been done nearly 4 years ago when Northern Rock went bust. Then typical Irish will blame the EU/IMF and put back on the victimhood outfit we wear so well.

      And before we can rebuild this country, the wasters who caused the mess need to admit their role and face up to it – you can’t rebuild a country if the foundations remain rotten to the core, it will just infect the new governance framework all over again in time.

      Brian Cowen and Brian Lenihan took a decision in the middle of the night, they didn’t even have the ethics to have a proper full cabinet meeting with a record kept, to transfer the debt of a private company to the Irish taxpayer and no one, certainly not Cowen or Lenihan,

      Thank God for the EU/IMF I say to stop this nonsense and make Cowen and Lenihan face reality and running the country into the ground even more.

      You’d wonder how far does it have to go for people to face reality, do they need to be sitting on the side of the road before they accept there’s a problem with the mortgage. The longer the Irish stay in denial the worse it will get and the more embarrassed those of us lucky enough to have emigrated and started a new life will feel when we see how Ireland is reported in the international media because we know the stereotype is mostly true and all these honest people we hear about seem determined to never have their voice heard, which leaves a free run for the sleveens and gombeens.

    • paul m says:

      @ donegal rose,

      this is no longer about Donegal its the choice Donegal makes that could have quite serious effects for the whole country. If your FF cadidate had such love for your county (and it is a beautiful county, been there a few times) why is it that they did not call for representation for you for the past 16 months, why did they attempt to block a high court order brought by SF to force the election?

      that doesnt strike me as someone who has any love for their county, more they are a party member acting in the FF’s and not the people of Donegals interest.

    • Peter B says:

      Well it’s fine to boast about the fantastic FF machine in Donegal but there isn’t a much else in Donegal to boast about as far as I can see. It has a very high unemployment rate by national standards and this was the case even when the celtic tiger was at its zenith. So, if the Donegal folks put loyalty to the FF party machine first and foremost, all I can say is that they’re rather dim and foolish – a bit like their current FF TD!! As for the candidates, the SF guy is the only one worth listening to. Pat Kenny asked them why they should be elected and their responses were weak and watery.

    • tirchonaill says:

      Poll results today are giving (first preference votes) Doherty (SF) 40%, Ó Domhnaill (FF) 19%, O’Neill (FG) 15%, McBrearty (Lab) 14%, Pringle (Ind) 8% and Sweeney (Ind) 2%. The poll was commisioned by Paddy Power Bookmakers (between 12th and 16th November, 510 respondents). Any word of this poll is mysteriously absent from the RTE website and RTE news generally (I think it may have been mentioned on “An Nuacht”).

      As far as I know Red C poll using a dummy ballot paper, they certainly measured second preference votes, and astoundingly, Doherty picked up 19% of all transfers, just 10% went to Ó Domhnaill.

      In a general election scenario which was also tested, Doherty receives 31% of first preference, McBrearty 18%, Dinny McGinley (sitting FG), 13%, O’Neill (FG) 12%, Mary Coughlan 10% and Ó Domhnaill 9%, which doesn’t give FF much chance of taking a seat at all.

      Even though a properly conducted poll is supposedly a good barometer at any moment in time, the factors that can’t be measured are surely of enormous importance in a constituency like this one. Turnout of the various age groups has been mentioned before – the FF die-hards will all be out, the youth vote will be weak. The Red C poll might be giving us a reasonably accurate guide to transfer patterns, whatever about the eventual result.

      The FF vote is likely to be stronger in some areas than others; there’ll probably be an urban/rural divide, and possibly a north/south divide also, with the northern half of the constituency tending toward Doherty, the southern half toward Ó Domhnaill, with the exception of Ballyshannon/Bundoran that probably will be stronger for both O’Neill and Doherty. Maybe this is too simplistic a view…

    • Wayne Dublin says:

      @Donegal Rose
      What happens in Donegal is a pivotal point in Irish History. FF have had their chance at this and could not have made worse decisions, and regardless of what rhetoric and nonsense they spout have proven time and time again to be almost hostile to the incoming plight of the average irishman.
      They tried to stop Donegal from having their voice heard, that is unacceptable. Vote for who you believe can make your voice heard but realise your decision has far greater implications then just locally, i wish i had a vote in my area now, and i know who would not be getting my vote.

    • Adrian says:

      I will never set foot in Donegal again if they vote for the FF traitors. I think many people feel the same and there would be no sympathy for the obvious problems that afflict that part of the country if they are voted in.

      But it wouldnt surprise me if FF won again. This is a county along with Kerry that is the most gombeen of them all. And what do these counties have to show for their unqualified support down the yrs – SFA! A road here and there but no strategic solutions towards a viable local economy.

      People in Donegal, wake up and show solidarity witht the rest of the country. Vote these losers out who have been denying you and the rest of the country our constitutional rights. Then lets have a gerenal election and get on with rebuiling our broken country.


    • J Cleary says:

      Bring down the current government, thousands of new people need to fix this

    • tirchonaill says:


      Traditionally, Donegal people have felt an isolation from the centres of power and governance in this country. This isolation is simply the result of Donegal being a rural place, a west-of Ireland rural place, but having the additional “isolation credentials” of being almost “beyond” or “behind” the six counties – from a southern perspective. During the troubles in the six counties of Northern Ireland, travelling to Donegal typically brought southerners closer than they would like to occasionally troubled border areas. Checkpoints, searches etc, all contributed to a lengthening of the distance between “the South” and Donegal.

      Donegal has suffered accordingly in many ways, for example industrial development (lack of), even around it’s stronger resource endowments. In some ways, it could be argued that the county has suffered un-development, i.e., successive waves of national/EU and externally imposed regulation has actually almost eliminated the indigenous economic activities that once contributed to at least partial economic sustenance of Donegal people, particularly in the more remote western areas, e.g., fish, weaving/textiles.

      In terms of politics etc., many people here have been slow to move on from the nonsense of post-civil war entrenchment, perhaps because of being disconnected from the trends and developments in politics and thought in the rest of the country, perhaps also because of their own proximity to “the troubles”. Yes, Donegal has a tendency to elect some of the worst public representatives ever seen in the corridors of power in this country, at local and national level.

      However, the gestures which can initiate a rectification of this situation have to come from the rest of the country, from Dublin, or wherever. It is ridiculous to suggest that Donegal should initiate the process by returning a non-FF person in this by-election.

      A week ago, I would not have put money on Doherty, but I have to say, after the last week, there has been a shift, I don’t think Ó Domhnaill will win, I think Doherty may do it with a fair margin. One danger to this prediction is lack of interest among voters, and a resulting low turnout, caused by a perception that the by-election is a waste of time, given the imminence of a general election. That will play into Fianna Fáil hands…

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