Native Irish speaker wins seat as Tory in London local elections

Maria Pearson from Gaoth Dobhair says she had to explain the Irish border to electorate

Maria Pearson (right) won a seat as a Tory on the Brentwood Borough Council

Maria Pearson (right) won a seat as a Tory on the Brentwood Borough Council

 

A native Irish speaker from the Donegal Gaeltacht has won a seat as a Tory in the UK local elections.

Standing for the Conservatives, Maria Pearson, from Gaoth Dobhair, was elected to Brentwood Borough Council, an area in the London commuter belt.

It was her first time running and her success came despite losses for the party in polls nationwide.

“It was a personal vote I think, and I have to say that I’m very proud of the result,” she said.

Ms Pearson said she had gotten to know a lot of people in the area as her Scottish husband owned a pub there.

“People gave me a vote who would never normally have voted Tory, and indeed never had,” she told RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta.

Following her election, Leas-Cheann Comhairle of the Dáil Pat “the Cope” Gallagher, from Burtonport in Co Donegal, tweeted his congratulations.

“Comhghairdeas. Every success,” he posted.

Ms Pearson responded: “Go raibh míle maith agat Pat.”

The newly-elected Tory councillor said she had spent much of her campaign explaining the Irish border to voters as she was “eaten alive” over Brexit.

“Over here, in the papers and on the radio, nobody was talking about the border and what was going to happen in Ireland, something that was of huge importance to me,” she said.

“They don’t understand the border. They think it’s like something they’ve seen on TV with guards walking up and down patrolling.

“I was explaining how there are houses that straddle both sides of the border, and they found it hard to believe.

“But it’s something that’s so important to me personally, and to everyone at home in Ireland. When I explained the implications to them of a no-deal Brexit, then they began to understand and to come around to my point of view.”