Éamon Ó Cuív’s decision to stay in Fianna Fáil “for all its faults” was hardly surprising given his family lineage and lifelong involvement with the party founded by his grandfather.
Although reared and educated in the heart of Dublin 4, ‘Dev Óg’ settled in Connemara where he developed one of the country’s most successful political machines that has seen him top the poll in Galway West and build a reputation as the champion of rural Ireland.
He first ran for the Dáil in 1987. He was unsuccessful then and again in 1989.
The up-and-coming politician went about building a support base in parishes across Connemara that was to become unbeatable in years to come.
He was first elected to the Dáil for Galway West in 1992 and played second place to constituency colleague Frank Fahey before eventually overtaking him and topping the poll with 20% of the vote in the 2002 general election.
Out of the 20 years he has so far spent as a member of the Dáil, 14 of those have been in either a junior or senior ministry associated with Gaeltacht and rural affairs.
He served just five years as a backbench TD before he was given the position of junior minister in 1997, serving as minister of state for arts, heritage, Gaeltacht and the islands, serving under his cousin Síle de Valera, who was the senior minister at the department.
In 2001, when he was junior minister, he admitted he had voted against the Nice Treaty in that year’s referendum.
Instead of disciplining him, then taoiseach Bertie Ahern promoted him ensuring he voted yes on the second referendum on Nice.
This appointment to a full cabinet position was made in 2002 when he became minister for community, rural and Gaeltacht affairs.
Holding this position throughout the boom years, he was able to pump money into rural projects and development of the Irish language.
He stood for leadership of the party when Brian Cowen stepped down in 2011, but was beaten by Micheál Martin.
The relationship between the two has never been easy and Ó Cuív eventually stepped down as deputy leader of the party in February because of his opposition to the party’s position on the EU fiscal treaty.
This did not put an end to the tension with further disagreement arising over the extent to whichÓ Cuív should be allowed to campaign against the treaty.
While the Galway West TD vowed not to canvass door-to-door, his party leader believed he should also be prevented from conducting radio and TV interviews.
Ó Cuív’s supporters were concerned that Sinn Féin’s TrevorÓ Clochartaigh would secure all of the local media exposure in Galway West in his campaign for a no vote, allowing him to steal some of his support.
But they said they did not see Sinn Féin as a long-term political threat to Ó Cuív and would be shocked if he ever walked away from the party — especially when he appears to believe he might some day lead it.
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