Deputy Patrick O'Donovan was first elected to the Dáil in 2011
MINISTER for the OPW Patrick O’Donovan marks 10 years as a TD this month.
“Celebrating” a decade in the Dail is too strong a word. At the beginning there was the Troika and now a global pandemic dominates the politics of the day. But no matter what he talks about on the airwaves he gets an email from a disgruntled Dublin listener.
“Any time I am on a national radio station I routinely get sent an email by a person attacking me over my pronunciation and my diction. At this stage they have nearly become a pen pal of mine. They say my ‘ths’ are poorly put together and they are ‘aghast’ I am a primary school teacher and a national politician,” said Minister O’Donovan.
But the Newcastle West native won’t be changing his West Limerick accent to appeal to Dublin 4 dwellers.
Minister O’Donovan goes back to when he was first elected alongside Dan Neville back in 2011. His late father, John, couldn’t attend as he was very sick.
“On the night of the count I said to him, ‘Dad, the next time I see you, I might be a TD’. He said, ‘Well, if you are, don't ever forget where you come from'. And that still rings in my ears. It is something that I'm very proud of, the family that I come from, the place that I come from, the fact that I'm born and bred County Limerick, and rural County Limerick.”
The eldest of his and wife, Eileen’s three children is named John after Minister O’Donovan’s father who passed away in 2013.
The minister is proud he has come through the ranks without family political connections
“I would not have come through it without my parents John and Nellie and without the family I have, and especially my wife Eileen. We have had three children and three elections.”
Young John has been joined by Mae and Nel. Minister O’Donovan turns 44 this month. Eighteen of those years have been spent in public life between the council and Dail chambers.
“They have flown by. In some ways the last 12 months have been the longest, in I'd say a lot of people's lives too.”
He said his life as a TD in the last 10 years has been shaped by two “terrible things”.
“The collapse in the economy due to terrible banking policy, terrible property policy fuelled by poor leadership. As a generation, all of us will certainly remember when the three literally walked off the stage at a government press briefing, and the three representatives of the Troika walked on. It was almost like there was a handover of power of a democratically elected sovereign government to these people who we know nothing about.
“And then this desperate public health emergency which was nobody's fault and just shows how small the world has become and shows how quickly something can happen in the corner of the world but spread so rapidly in a matter of days.”
Minister O’Donovan said the suffering that was inflicted on people due to the Celtic Tiger bust was “just devastating”.
“Unfinished houses, people you were literally meeting going out the door pulling their suitcases as they were going out to Australia and they were leaving behind elderly parents in floods of tears not knowing if they were ever going to see them again or if they were ever going to see their grandchildren.”
Are we facing into dark days ahead as we begin to count the cost of Covid in the years to come?
“There will and there won't. First of all, all of Europe is in the same boat, all the world is in the same boat. So the world has to address this problem collectively.
“From an Irish point of view, look at how Ireland is the strongest performing economy in the EU this year. Some economic commentators will always look to see the glass half empty, I would look to see the glass half full,” said Minister O’Donovan, who points to the turnaround from the Celtic Tiger crash which “happened way faster than anyone ever thought it would”.
Having served as a minister of State in the departments of finance; sport and tourism and now OPW he wants to play his role in the country’s recovery in a full ministry.
“I don’t see the purpose of going into politics to be sitting on the sidelines roaring and shouting. The point of going into politics at national level is to go in to serve your country, to serve your constituency and to effect change and the way to do that is to try and make sure you can do it at the highest possible level.
“I have been very fortunate that I have served in three government departments and absolutely I would aspire to and have the ambition to serve in government within Cabinet. That's unashamedly my ambition and I hope to be able to do that. And if it happens, it happens and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.”
The next chapters of his political career have yet to be written but Minister O’Donovan wishes to pay tribute to those who have got him to where he is today.
“Myself and Eileen were looking at photographs the other night. I'd like to pay tribute to so many of my team since 2011 that are gone to their God. I have lost an awful lot of them in the last 12 months, and I've lost some of them to Covid, some of my very good supporters and canvassers. It’s terrible. It’s desperate. I know a lot of their families will be reading this article and I want to let them know that I miss theM.
“I thank them so much for what they have done for me and I'll always miss them.”
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