The political Interview
AS election 2007 approaches, Beverley Flynn is in flying form. The Independent Mayo TD and former Fianna Fáil deputy is itching to go before the people once again, confident she will retain her seat in Dáil Éireann. Having ridden a political roller-coaster since her 2002 election, with her expulsion from Fianna Fáil, her high profile RTÉ libel case defeat and the threat of bankruptcy, the Castlebar woman has somehow come sailing through. She puts her current good form down to maturity, motherhood and family contentedness. Above all, she celebrates finally being true to herself.
“I absolutely feel ready. I feel more comfortable going into this election than ever before. I’m looking forward to it and am a lot more relaxed in myself. I’d prefer it if was sooner rather than later,” she says.
It’s impossible not to note her many mannerisms so reminiscent of her father, Padraig Flynn. “Sure we’ll have a chat and see what happens,” she suggests at the outset, arriving with a coffee for each of us, gung-ho, the ever-ready cheeriness evident. Like Dad, too, she sports long black coat tails over her tall, charismatic frame. She still generates a tangible thrill among people wherever she goes, heightened possibly by continually unfolding political dramas, including her expulsion from Fianna Fáil.
“I come from a Fianna Fáil background and am very proud of that. I would still hope to attract a lot of Fianna Fáil votes this time around. My political philosophy hasn’t changed. My attitude is I work with the hand I’m dealt. I’ve been expelled from Fianna Fáil. I’m outside the party. They have selected their team and I’m running as an Independent and the focus for me is to get myself elected in that mode and not to worry about other people’s campaigns. Everyone knows I fought to stay in Fianna Fáil but that didn’t happen. There’s no room for sulking in Leinster House.”
She hasn’t found it all bad on the sidelines, however.
“When you’re part of a political party you’re dividing up areas at election time. This year the whole county is open to me. I can go anywhere I like. I’m not restricted by the issues of the day. If I’m not completely in line with the policy of the party I have the freedom to express my own views. That’s the one thing I’ve really enjoyed over the last few years. You could always fall back on saying you had to follow the party line on issues before but as an Independent I’ve had the opportunity to articulate when I feel the Government has fallen short on promises. I’ve been able to adopt the line I’m happy with myself and people can decide if they agree with the way I’ve handled it. Going in to this election I feel I’ve been true to myself.”
The pulling-power of Independent TDs was directly articulated to Beverley during the recent ‘Bertiegate’ payments scandal.
“An Independent having the balance of power has to be an issue with the way things are at the minute, irrespective of who ends up in government, so that presents an element of excitement going in to the race. There is definitely an opportunity this time round.
“A lot of people said I was probably rubbing my hands with glee over the Bertie controversy but I am not a bitter person and was disappointed for him as it was a difficult time. I know what it’s like to be hounded by the media but I thought he handled it well and bought himself a lot of time. People probably let it go on the basis of a job well done over the last ten years.
“The funny thing was I became central to it as I was the only person asked to support a minority Fianna Fáil government when it looked like the PDs were going to walk. I said yes because I saw opportunities in adopting that position for the benefit of the people of Mayo, but as we know that didn’t come to be. There is no pre-election pact between me and Bertie but it’s no great secret I was talking to him at Christmas time. He did make contact with me and it’s all very pleasant!”
She remains Fianna Fáil through to her bones.
“I am a Republican and that is the whole ethos of FF. I would love to see the day when we have a united Ireland as a political reality. I also support the party’s economic policies. I like to see the development of our society and people becoming prosperous and doing well, but with a social conscience. I also love that everyone is equal within the party, unlike the PDs appealing to the wealthy. As long as I can support their policies, Fianna Fáil has my support.”
At the moment she is critical of the proposed new National Development Plan.
“I am against it for its lack of accountability. The new National Development Plan is worth a massive €184 billion, but we don’t know how that’s going to be spent as it’s a global thing and could be spent anywhere. There is no money ear-marked for the BMW region like before, despite the latest figures showing €3.75 billion still remains under-spent from the last plan.”
She cites infrastructure, health and education among other pet issues and is visibly annoyed about the €500 million still due to be invested in roads in the region.
“What we’re talking about here is infrastructure, the Castlebar–Westport Road, the orbital road around Castlebar, the N26. Mayo is crying out for new industrial jobs but they cannot happen because the infrastructure is so poor. The state of the N5 is putting investors off. It’s rubbish to suggest the NRA has a policy to do one road in a county at a time. The NRA’s job is to prioritise roads that are strategic throughout the country and the priority has not been attached to the west, it’s as simple as that.”
Her Dad is still very much involved in her life.
“I’m extremely close to my father and he is a wonderful sounding board for me. He is still as politically alert as the day he went in to the Dáil. I never saw the day my father would not be involved in politics and it was a shock to find myself going it alone.”
This election is all about ‘going it alone’ for Beverley Flynn but you get the feeling she is most definitely up for the challenge.
On the record
Beverley Flynn on ...
> political ambition
“In my naïve young days I did say I wanted to be a cabinet minister but my ambition now is to maximise my potential and maybe this can be achieved in other ways.”
> Enda Kenny for Taoiseach
“I’m delighted for Enda on a personal note as we get on very well politically. It’s a very ambitious target but there’s no doubt the electorate has him down as having the potential and I’ve no doubt Enda could grow into the office and do very well.”
> media relations
“I accept as a politician you have to communicate with people through the media but I do think you are also entitled to a private life. My family home is my sanctuary and I find the people of Mayo wonderful. They leave us alone when we’re out enjoying family times.”
> RTÉ costs issue
“That is a private matter and doesn’t involve anybody else. What I will say is that my name will be on the ballot paper and people will be able to vote for me as as a TD in Mayo.”
> current health status
“My own health is absolutely tip top. I haven’t one health complaint apart from the odd calf injury after tennis. Sure didn’t I climb Croagh Patrick there a couple of weeks ago!”
> on her home town
“Castlebar is a great shopping town and I love shopping. For me, Main Street will always be the centre of town.”
> on motherhood
“Before Keelin and Harry I might have been more self-centred, with the most important thing being my job and my career. I had come through the controversy with RTÉ and saw then there are more important things in life.
There is talk in Dáil Éireann about improving childcare facilities but there is no creche and very few politicians are women with young children. I have full admiration for any woman who stays at home to look after her children full-time because there is no job so hard. But I don’t think I could do it. I need to escape and go out to work as it is important to me to have a career still.”
> on her mum
“The rock in our house is my mother. She reared us while my father was away so much and had to listen to me as an eleven-year-old telling her she didn’t have a proper job. I used to say ‘I want a real job, not like you’ and she’d just laugh.
“She is a complete and utter lady and one of my best friends. We love having coffee and going shopping together. There is nothing I like better than meeting friends and having my mother with me. She is extremely in tune with everything.”
> on partner Tony Gaughan
Q: “You might tell me to hump off when I ask you this, but are you and Tony going to get married?”
A: “Hump off!”