There were smiles, handshakes, and cheers as the newest member of the Dáil was welcomed into Leinster House yesterday.
Fine Gael parliamentary party members sent up a yell of support hailing the arrival of newly crowned TD Helen McEntee through the Kildare St gates.
Nearly four months to the day since the death of her father, Shane McEntee, which led to the by-election in Meath East, Ms McEntee was surrounded by her new political family.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny yesterday welcomed the 26-year-old into the Fine Gael family on Leinster House’s plinth, assuring the young deputy she would receive much support.
“I’m quite sure that you will do justice in the tradition of the McEntee family, particularly of your late dad, and that you will represent the people of East Meath with vigour, absolute conviction and that you’ll do a wonderful job,” said Mr Kenny. “And if it’s your wish, I know that you’ll be in the house for a very long time, depending on your love of the game when you get used to it.”
Ms McEntee, surrounded by her family, spoke briefly.
“I’ll do the best that I can to continue the work that my father did,” she said.
She said she had stopped by the graveyard where her father is buried at home before coming to Dublin.
“I had a few words. He called in to Michael Collins on his first day so I called in to my hero.”
In a statement later, Ms McEntee said she was up for the challenge of working as a TD.
“In particular, as the youngest female TD in the Dáil, I want to work on behalf of the young people in Meath East, to ensure they have a voice at national level.”
Ms McEntee said she had spent the last fortnight meeting local groups, attending AGMs, and getting her constituency operation sorted.
She said she wanted to focus on a mix of national as well as local issues.
“During the campaign. I heard many stories about the difficulties people are facing due to mortgage arrears, unemployment, and emigration. I also want to focus on local issues such as the state of the roads, pyrite, and the continuing campaign for a Slane bypass.”
She received a standing ovation from all sides as she entered the Dáil chambers.
Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett wished Ms McEntee a “productive and happy time” as a TD.
Mr Kenny said she would make a fine representative, while Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore wished her a productive membership.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said she would be a “capable legislator”, and Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald warned that it was never sweet in the chambers but it was also never bitter.
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