The Late Popular Nicky McFadden TD

Nicky McFadden with Jimmy Reilly on a visit to Loughloe House nursing home, Athlone in August 2010.
Nicky McFadden with Jimmy Reilly on a visit to Loughloe House nursing home, Athlone in August 2010.

She was the highest votecatcher in the history of Athlone Town Council/UDC. Now that record won’t be beaten because the Town Council will be abolished in May, and that record vote of 974 from the local elections ten years ago, will remain hers.

Nicky passed away on the afternoon of March 25th, at the age of 51 years, after battling the horrific illness, motor neuron disease. It is often said that some politicians are popular, and with Fine Gael’s Nicky McFadden, that couldn’t be overstated. She had the common touch with people, and was genuinely passionate about her hometown of Athlone.

Nicky’s late father, Brendan was a Westmeath County Councillor and Athlone Urban District Councillor for almost 25 years, so she saw local political life from a young age. However her first attempt at gaining a place in Athlone politics failed in 1994, when she ran for the UDC. However her 200 odd votes did help re-elect her father, and her political colleague Cllr. Mark Cooney. Brendan retired off the UDC in 1999, so it undoubtedly helped Nicky achieve 558 first preference votes, which put her ahead of better known local politicians, to top the poll.

Fine Gael chose Nicky to contest the General Election for Westmeath in 2002. It was a dramatic election due to the loss of Fianna Fail’s then Minister Mary O’Rourke’s seat.

While not coming close to taking a seat, Nicky got more than five hundred votes higher than the previous two South Westmeath Fine Gael contenders, one of which was her father Brendan.

Nicky’s 2004 Local Election poll-topping results in the town (974 first preference votes) and county (1,901 first preference votes) elections proved that she was no fluke in local politics.

Working in the health care sector as a receptionist in a doctors’ surgery helped Nicky built up a great base of popularity, which no doubt helped with her poll topping in council elections.

Nicky, who was a mother of two grown up children, Caren and Eoin often had people calling into the pet shop, ‘Paws’, that she ran with her aunt, Kathleen McFadden to talk business.

It was long believed that the Fine Gael candidate for South Westmeath would not, despite the double poll-topping, be Nicky, but her colleague, Cllr. Mark Cooney. It was thought that the Cooney name (he is son of former Minister Cooney) would be strong enough to pull in Fine Gael votes in Longford and North Westmeath. However Cllr. Cooney stepped aside in favour of Nicky.

She was a member of Westmeath VEC for about eight years, until after the 2007 General Election, which saw Mary O’Rourke return to Dail Eireann with a seat for Athlone. Nicky didn’t win that election but contested the following Seanad Eireann election and topped the poll in the Administrative panel, and became a Senator.

Her sister, Gabrielle McFadden won a seat in the town and county councils in 2009, and became the town’s Mayor in 2013. Nicky had previously been the town’s Deputy Mayor in 2002.

Nicky was a popular Senator in Athlone for almost four years, when she was chosen to contest the General Election 2011. She got 6,129 votes and got massive transfers from the other Athlone candidates, Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran, Paul Hogan and Mary O’Rourke, to become the new Athlone TD.

She was just over a year into her job as TD, when motor neuron disease struck. She is survived by her daughter Caren, son Eoin, sisters Gab and Aine, aunt Kay (Baba), brother in law Brian, good friend Jenny, niece Katie, nephew Luke, Caren’s partner Shane, beloved grand daughter Matilda, cousin Velma, relatives and an extraordinary circle of friends and colleagues.

Nicky McFadden died as a Fine Gael TD in her hometown of Athlone.

Ar Dheis De Go Raibh Anam Dhilis