Newly elected Senator Maura Hopkins has pledged that she will use her new platform to be a voice in national politics for young people from the West of Ireland.
She also confirmed that she will provide ‘ambitious’ and ‘sincere’ representation at Oireachtas level for the 7,000 Roscommon-Galway voters who gave her their No.1 votes in the recent Dáil election.
Senator Hopkins stormed to success with the highest vote in Ireland achieved by any of Fine Gael’s 38 candidates in last week’s Seanad Éireann elections. At the first count last Thursday, Maura Hopkins received 117,000 votes and was comfortably elected later that day, ending up on almost 156,000 votes. In contrast, outgoing Minister of State and former Senator Paudie Coffey, who was also Fine Gael candidate on the panel, received just 53,000 votes and was not elected.
Speaking following her victory, Senator Hopkins said “Ireland is going through a period of political uncertainty. Political parties need to show leadership. Ireland needs Fine Gael to be stronger and, to achieve more support, Fine Gael needs to be better. As Fine Gael’s new Oireachtas representative in the Roscommon-Galway, I will work hard to ensure that Fine Gael is better and stronger. And I will be a voice in national political debate for young people from the West of Ireland.”
Senator Hopkins also looked back on her political career to date and the path which led to her being elected last Thursday. “Two years ago, when I accepted the Ballaghaderreen Fine Gael branch’s nomination to run in the Roscommon County Council elections in the spring of 2014, I didn’t realise what I was actually signing up for! Political circumstances since then have meant that I’ve been a candidate for Fine Gael in four different elections in just 23 months: the Council elections in the Boyle electoral area; the 2014 Roscommon-Leitrim bye election; last February’s Roscommon-Galway general election; and now the Seanad election. It’s been a whirlwind, gruelling and at times very difficult period in my life.”
“Not being elected in last February’s general election was disappointing. I was proud that 6,812 people in Roscommon-Galway deemed me worthy of their No.1 votes, in what was a challenging election for my Party. And it was uplifting to receive a further 2,500 transfers; we counted out with 9,313 votes. Losing by just 700 votes was disappointing.”
“In the days after the general election I threw myself into my County Council work, and my plan was to focus on my responsibilities as a Boyle Electoral Area representative, as well as resuming my work as an Occupational Therapist. However, my thinking changed when I was invited to a meeting on a March Sunday afternoon in Roscommon town. The meeting was a gathering of a small number of Fine Gael members from across the constituency, and we were in a hostelry whose owners have been very good to me in my time in politics. The message given to me that day was – that Fine Gael should have a representative in the Oireachtas speaking up for Roscommon-Galway; that the almost 7,000 people who thought me worthy of their No.1 vote in the general election deserved to be represented in Leinster House; and also that young people in the west of Ireland should have a voice in national political debate.”
“I reflected on that for a few days and then outgoing Fine Gael Senator Michael Mullins (Ballinasloe) told me that he would step down and give me his full support if I’d go forward on behalf of Roscommon-Galway. That was key. I’m hugely grateful to Michael and also to Fine Gael Councillors in this constituency Michael Creaton, Peter Keaveney, Tom McHugh, Aidan Donohue and Michael Finnerty for their active personal support and votes.”
“I received phone calls from across the constituency encouraging me to go forward, and I was then nominated by the Roscommon-Galway Fine Gael constituency organisation. We visited every corner of every county in Ireland; I was accompanied every day on the campaign trail by individual Fine Gael members from across Roscommon-Galway. To supporters from Frenchpark, Glenamaddy, Kilmore, Boyle, Roscommon Town, Athleague, Castlecoote, Breedogue, Granlahan, Castlerea, Creagh, Ballinasloe, Loughglynn, Ballaghaderreen, Clontuskert, Williamstown, Fourmilehouse, Dunmore, Kilteevan, Ahascragh and elsewhere who travelled the highways and byways of Ireland with me, I am deeply grateful.
“I was also given very strong and influential support by a number of Roscommon and Galway natives who are now living in other counties and who remain interested in what’s going on at home. Their support was crucial in parts of Ireland where I was a stranger before this spring.
As well as the manner of Maura Hopkins’ victory the win was also significant in terms of female representation in the Oireachtas as Roscommon hasn’t been represented by a woman at National level since Tulsk’s Joan Burke retired as a Fine Gael TD in 1981, and north Galway has never had a female representative in the Oireachtas. These facts were not lost on Senator Hopkins who said “I spent an evening with Joan Burke some months ago. She will be at the front of my mind in the months ahead. And the late Peggy Farrell, who was an employer and women’s activist in Roscommon town, was a Senator from 1969-’73: I will be thinking about her legacy also.”
She concluded by saying “I pledge that I will provide sincere and ambitious representation in the Houses of the Oireachtas, and I will work hard to ensure that Fine Gael provides stronger and better political leadership in the coming months.”
Meanwhile, local Fine Gael Members will meet later this month to selected a candidate to take the Roscommon County Council Seat vacated by Senator Hopkins.