Taoiseach, Enda Kenny and other Oireachtas members were in Co. Roscommon last week to witness one of their newest Fine Gael councillors becoming the party’s by-election candidate for Roscommon/South Leitrim.
30 years old, Cllr. Maura Hopkins became the party’s choice, when the two other candidates, Sean Finan, and former councillor Michael McGreal pulled out of the race on the night, thereby ensuring no vote was needed.
Ballaghadereen based Cllr. Hopkins previously worked as an Occupational Therapist in St. James Hospital, Dublin before returning to Roscommon to fight the recent Local Elections, where she became one of the county’s three FG councillors.
Fine Gael got 10 councillors elected in the 2009 elections, but two defected, following the government’s decision to close Roscommon’s Accident and Emergency unit in 2011. Cllr. Hopkins was newly elected in 2014, alongside Cllr. Michael Creighton and Athlone’s Cllr. John Naughten.
“This is a by-election we can very much win, and it’s a great privilege to be the candidate and I’m very proud to fly the FG flag, but we do need to work together as a team in this campaign and the crowd here is hugely encouraging,” said Cllr. Hopkins, to the gathering, at the Percy French Hotel, Strokestown. “We have a very strong team in Roscommon/South Leitrim, and I will be giving all of my energy to it.”
She acknowledged the Taoiseach opening the Ballaghadereen bypass road earlier that day.
“I’m a young person, ambitious for our future, and my parents instilled in me, an ethos of hard work, and honesty,” she said. “I started to create a life and home in Dublin, but I came home to Co. Roscommon to run for the council, and to represent our constituency. Too many young people have been forced to leave with no options, which are a direct legacy of Fianna Fail’s recklessness in government.”
She told two anecdotes about spending time recently with former Roscommon TD, Joan Burke, who represented Fine Gael in Dail Eireann between 1964 and 1981, and about her grandmother’s first cousin being the late Monsignor James Horan of Knock.
“I spent time with Joan Burke last week, and she spoke about the strong support she received, and I am reminded of Joan’s message, which was ‘teamwork is the key to success,” said Cllr. Hopkins. “My grandmother’s first cousin, Monsignor James Horan was a man with a vision of positivity, who saw how Knock Airport would develop.”
Taoiseach, Enda Kenny said that the Minister Michael Ring, who also chaired the convention in Strokestown would be the Director of Elections for the by-election.
“Ring will be outside your house at 6.15 in the morning wondering why you weren’t canvassing,” said the Taoiseach to laughter from the gathering. “We’ll have an office in Roscommon, and everyone will have an equal part to canvass.”
Speaking directly to Cllr. Hopkins, the Taoiseach said that Maura has personality, and is professional and articulate.
“You have understanding, and are exactly the type of candidate that politics needs, and you speak for a different generation that you understand better than others,” said the Taoiseach. “Let candidates be judged on their merits, and we are going to win this by-election because the people will see that we have the best candidate for the future. I heard you at the FG Ard Fheis, and I said, there is a candidate with a future who believes in herself and what she says.”
The Roscommon/South Leitrim and Dublin South West by-elections are believed to take place on Friday, October 10th.