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Beezer still smiling 04.03.11

MacLochlainn set for Dail debut next Wednesday

by Caoimhinn Barr, Inishowen Independent

More than two decades after the tragic death of his father Reamonn during a family holiday, former painter decorator Padraig MacLochlainn has fulfilled his political destiny.
Elected to the Dail for the first time last weekend, the affable Buncrana man, known as Paddy or Beezer in his hometown, was quick to pay tribute to his supporters and political inspiration Eddie Fullerton.
An Aston Villa football fan, MacLochlainn left school at the age of 14 before embarking on a political journey, which will make its first stop in Leinster House next Wednesday morning.
A father of one, Dillon (17), MacLochlainn is also a step-father to one; his partner Sinead’s son, Calvin, also 17.
A son of Mary MacLochalinn, Padraig completed a university diploma courtesy of a distance learning facility before becoming a tradesmen. He claims he learned more as a painter on sites than he ever did in politics!
Rarely out of the spotlight, Inishowen’s smiliest TD likes to escape to the cinema where he enjoys the ‘magic’ of movies such as the Shawshank Redemption and Inception.
MacLochalinn also likes to escape to Catalunya in Spain, a ‘distinct and marvellous’ region with which he identifies.
It must be a humbling experience to know that so many people took time out to vote for you last week?
Absolutely. I am totally thrilled. I am very humbled by the ongoing support I receive in Inishowen. There wasn’t a single parish across the peninsula in which we were down. We were up more than five hundred votes on 2007 despite the fact that Fine Gael and Fianna Fail both ran very popular local candidates in Charlie McConalogue and John Ryan. I will work hard to honour the support shown to me.

Did you think you would top the poll by such a wide margin? Did you have any fears that you might miss out again?
Logically, I was expecting to increase our vote considerably from four years ago but there were some doubts for sure. Towards the end you start thinking that maybe people won’t come out to vote. So many people were saying – Padraig’s going to top the poll – that I was afraid they would vote for someone else because they thought I would get in anyway. A lot of voters have told me since that they opted for John or Charlie because they knew I would get elected anyway. It has taken us ten years but we have made it and I am determined too do justice to my party and supporters for the faith they have shown in me.
You must be delighted that the SF vote was strong not just in Inishowen but across the entire constituency?
Yeah it was a great result. The last time [2007] we were strong in Inishowen but only got ten per cent of the vote in Letterkenny and Milford and that wasn’t good enough to get elected. This time I could tell there was a change across the constituency; you could sense a swing towards Sinn Fein. I was blessed with a fantastic election team. I relied heavily on the quality of my canvassers and they did not let me down. Out of 30,000 homes across the constituency I only made it personally to around 2,000. The rest of the homes were covered by an immense election team.
After such a narrow loss in 2007 was your victory this time all the sweeter?
Yes! (laughs). Definitely. After hitting the crossbar the last time, many party members were devastated and in tears. Something clicked with me four years ago after I lost. A calm came over me. Because we were so close I was determined to be gracious in defeat and I knew I would be back. I could see the trajectory was clearly moving up. It means so much for the members and supporters that we made it this time and I’m over the moon for them. It is a huge weight off my shoulders to finally make it over the line.

You will become a new young face on the Dail. Your success did not happen overnight though?
No it hasn’t. We put in the miles and the hard work over the years. After the defeat of 2007 it was like getting to the County Final and losing by a point. We had to get back to training in the pouring rain and do it all over again.
I have secured good national experience in recent years. I led the successful SF campaign against the Lisbon Treaty in 2008 before running in the European elections the following year. I have travelled up and down the country to deal with national issues for the last few years.
Newly-elected TD, Pádraig MacLochlainn from Buncrana warmly greets Mary Nelis at Free Derry Corner.
Your father Reamonn MacLochlainn died in 1985. Eddie Fullerton was shot dead 20 years ago this May. Do you owe a great debt to both?
Yes. My father is the reason I became a politician. He was a republican prisoner and I grew up travelling across England to visit him in jail. I was born into politics. We returned home when my father was release in 1983. Two years later he died in a swimming tragedy when we were on a family holiday in county Clare. I was only twelve years-old and it was a tremendous loss.
Eddie Fullerton was a huge figure for me after that. He was a very warm compassionate man. He worked extremely hard for everybody, regardless of their religion or politics. Eddie would have become a TD. His death had a massive impact on me. I was 17 at the time he was shot. I promised myself then that Sinn Fein would become stronger here and that we would win a seat.
It wasn’t plain sailing though because we lost our county council seat in 1999 and, to be honest, we deserved to lose it because we weren’t working for the people in Inishowen. We forget what Eddie had taught us. After filling his seat in the Buncrana Town Council in 2002 I met Pearse [Doherty] and a group of senior republicans. We came up with a ten-year plan to take Dail seats. We almost did it in five! (laughs). But we got there in the end.

Political differences aside, is it good for Inishowen that Charlie got elected too?
I think so, yes. The people of Inishowen gave both me and Charlie a massive mandate and we will be expected to work together to deliver on important issues. On a personal level I have huge respect for Charlie and no doubt we will form a very good partnership. It is our instinct to represent the people of Inishowen. Charlie is an affable big fellow.

Now that you are in, what will you do for the people here?
My top priority must be the national banking crisis. Sinn Fein will continue to challenge the government not to put one more cent into the toxic banks. If we pay the bond-holders we will squeeze the life out of everything else in the country. We will work to deliver job creation while local issues like the Greencastle breakwater, Cockhill Bridge, A5 and Altnagelvin cancer centre are also high on the agenda.

Will you continue to live here in Inishowen?
God yeah! (laughs). I will be in Dublin from Tuesday to Thursday and here the rest of the time.

Is it Padraig or Pauric?
It’s Padraig. Though people call me Pauric all the time. I also get Paddy and Beezer in Buncrana.
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