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Charlie: Council to Dáil in 629 days 04.03.11

by Caoimhinn Barr, Inishowen Independent

FROM the Public Services Centre in Carn to the Dáil in only 629 days, Charlie McConalogue has rocketed through the Fianna Fáil ranks.
One of only 20 Fianna Fail TDs nationwide, the affable Gleneely man begins life in Leinster House next Wednesday morning.
Aged just 33 and only a councillor since 2009, McConalogue said he is still coming to terms with the fact that he is a TD
The son of the late Willie Joe McConalogue and Mary (nee) Bradley, Charlie has two brothers, William and Hugh, and three sisters, Maria, Margaret and Catherine.
A former pupil of St Boden’s National School, Culdaff and Carndonagh Community School, he completed a degree at University College Dublin, before returning home following the death of his father.
A fan of Liverpool, McConalogue is a keen reader and sports fan. His favourite book is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. He also enjoys TV shows, The Sopranos and West Wing.
His ambition and focus now is to excel in his role representing Inishowen and Donegal North East in the Dáil. “I want to do my best and do a really good job for the area,” he said.
It must be a humbling experience to know that so many people took time out to vote for you last week?
It is a very humbling experience to have people put their faith in you and to endorse you to go forward and represent your local people and your local area at national level. I feel very honoured to have gotten that mandate from the people of the constituency to represent them.

After only becoming a county councillor in 2009 can you quite believe you are a TD already?
The fact that I am actually a TD is only starting to sink in now. It all happened very quickly. It is only just a little over four weeks since I was selected as the candidate. So, it wasn’t even clear until very recently that I would have the opportunity to be a candidate never mind a TD.
I am absolutely delighted to get this opportunity at a relatively young age, at a time when I have the energy and time to devote to the job. I definitely didn’t expect to have the chance to be a TD so soon after being elected to the council.
Did you think you would make it? Did you have any fears that you might miss out because of FF’s unpopularity nationwide?
I always knew it would be a big, big challenge to win a seat. From the outset, I was of the view that I would be in a 50/50 battle for the third seat. I knew very much that the party nationally was very unpopular, understandably so, and in many ways that represented a difficulty and an obstacle for many people to voting for me. So I knew it was going to be tough. But at the same time, I put forward my case as to why I felt that I was a candidate who could do well for the area and also in terms of what I represented by bringing new and fresh energy to the Dáil. I am just grateful that enough people had faith in my ability to represent them and voted for me.
On count day itself, I felt I had a strong fighting chance of taking the third seat when I heard the tally figures from the Inishowen ballot boxes but I didn’t take anything for granted until the actual declaration on Saturday night. I was really heartened by the strong vote the people of Inishowen gave me despite the fact that my party nationally is very unpopular and has lost so many seats across the country.
After only becoming a county councillor in 2009 can you quite believe you are a TD already?
The fact that I am actually a TD is only starting to sink in now. It all happened very quickly. It is only just a little over four weeks since I was selected as the candidate. So, it wasn’t even clear until very recently that I would have the opportunity to be a candidate never mind a TD.
I am absolutely delighted to get this opportunity at a relatively young age, at a time when I have the energy and time to devote to the job. I definitely didn’t expect to have the chance to be a TD so soon after being elected to the council.
You will become a new young face on the Dail. What will you do for the people here in Inishowen?
My job is going to be to represent the area as strongly as possible on the issues that are important to the people of the area. The number one issue for our area, the same as many other areas, is to try and encourage businesses and job growth and to develop policies that will help that to come about. I know that every other area will be trying to do the same but for us particularly it will be trying to build up the infrastructure in terms of roads, broadband, schools in our area. I want to be a very credible and effective voice at national level to try and ensure that the projects get moved and progressed in our constituency.

Is it good for Inishowen that Pádraig got elected too?
Inishowen didn’t have a TD based in the peninsula for the last four years so I think we are getting the bounce of the ball this time in terms of having two TDs now. This can only be a good thing for the peninsula. Obviously we will all have to work to represent the constituency but it is encouraging and a boost for the peninsula to have two TDs for the first time.

Who is likely to replace you on Donegal County Council?
That is a matter for the Fianna Fáil organisation and membership in Inishowen. Once the council seat, held by a particular party, becomes vacant the party is charged with nominating a replacement. The party members will meet in the next couple of weeks to decide. It is very much up to the members of the party to decide who will replace me on Donegal County Council.
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