‘I’ll get a seat this time bar a mistake’

NIALL Ó BROLCHÁIN is confident, exceedingly so.

It is, of course, in the nature of politicians to be bullish about their electoral prospects. But Ó Brolcháin is more than bullish. He is absolutely convinced that when the votes are counted after polling day, he’ll have won a seat in the Galway West constituency.

This is his second tilt at the Dáil. On the first occasion, in 2002, he polled a reasonably impressive 2,193 first-preference votes, but was eliminated on the 14th count.

Two years later, however, he was elected to Galway City Council, where he is currently mayor. His profile has risen substantially since 2002. He says he needs 4,600 first-preference votes to be guaranteed a Dáil seat. “The latest poll before the water crisis gave me about 5,500 first preferences, so it’s achievable,” he says.

“I think there are clear indications that I’ll get a seat this time unless I really make a big mistake somewhere along the line, and I’m trying to make sure I don’t.”

So is such confidence justified? His party certainly thinks so. After their six sitting TDs, the Greens believe Ó Brolcháin is their best electoral prospect.

He is unquestionably a strong candidate. He is young, bright and photogenic. He is a family man, being married with five children. He knows how to run a campaign, having helped get several Green candidates elected, including Eamon Ryan, to the Dáil five years ago. He knows policy, having written the party’s health manifesto. And he is not afraid to speak his mind.

He derides, for example, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern’s recent attempts to pass himself off as an environmentalist of long standing.

In February, Mr Ahern told an Ógra Fianna Fáil conference in Galway: “Remember this, ladies and gentlemen: we are the green party in more ways than one.”

“Get out the sickbags, really,” says Ó Brolcháin of that speech. “Because while Bertie Ahern has some sort of credibility in saying he’s a socialist — some sort of credibility — he has absolutely none whatsoever as a green.”

Or this, talking about certain members of Galway City Council: “There’s one or two politicians who I think are overly provocative and maybe not as skilled as politicians as I’d like to see, because politics isn’t all about shouting — one has to build alliances.”

He is also candid enough to admit that the water crisis may actually have helped him politically.

“People are telling me that it’s done me no end of good, this particular thing, because it’s heightened my profile at a national level, and it showed me to be fairly competent at dealing with these things at a political level. But that’s a matter for you guys to judge, it’s not for me,” he says.

Ó Brolcháin believes the Greens could win up to 12 seats in the election, and if Fine Gael and Labour do their part, the rainbow coalition will happen. And at this point, his faith in his own abilities resurfaces. Asked whether he would be seeking a junior ministry if he is elected and the Greens get into government, Ó Brolcháin says the answer is yes.

“In terms of junior ministries, I think there’s plenty of room, plenty of scope, for us to have a number of junior ministries. So I would be hopeful that that’s achievable in this term.”

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