Eugene’s emotional success after 31 years in politics
At 3 am last Sunday, there were ecstatic scenes in the Hyde Centre, Roscommon town. The result had not yet been declared, but the supporters of Eugene Murphy, a councillor at the time, had established that the Fianna Fáil man was set to overhaul Fine Gael’s Maura Hopkins and be elected as a TD.
Going into the count, Cllr. Hopkins was leading her rival by 823 votes, but the elimination of Shane Curran, Fianna Fáil’s other candidate, and Sinn Féin’s Claire Kerrane, would see that deficit wiped out.
The Murphy camp had established that 1,599 of Mr Curran’s 2,389 transfers would go their way, while so would 940 of Ms Kerrane’s 3,826.
And so, some minutes before the deputy returning officer, Mary Raftery, had taken to the stage, the Murphy celebrations began.
Surrounded by his wife Linda, son, Rian (12), and his daughter, Nadine (17), Cllr. Murphy was a picture of elation. When Ms. Raftery took to the podium to confirm the result – that Cllr. Murphy had beaten Cllr. Hopkins by 791 votes – even more raucous celebrations took place. After 30 years’ trying, Cllr. Murphy had finally been crowned a deputy.
First elected a councillor in 1985, he had tried continually to become a TD over the following years, but never had the support of the Fianna Fáil members, let alone the electorate.
Last Sunday, his day of destiny finally came.
“It’s a great day – very, very sweet. It’s 3.15 in the morning, but I think the adrenalin will flow for another couple of days,” said the now Deputy Murphy, shortly after the result was declared.
“It’s a great victory for the people of Roscommon-Galway. It’s a great victory for the grassroots of Fianna Fáil and I am so thankful. To come out here with almost 7,000 No. 1 votes and then get the transfer I did, it’s extraordinary.”
Given that he was repeatedly unsuccessful in Fianna Fáil selection conventions, he admitted that he doubted that his long-held dream would ever be realised.
“In recent years, I was saying: ‘Will it ever happen?’” he said. “But I am quite a resilient person. I keep going when others might not keep going.
“But I think it shows the importance of having a bit of fight in you.”
Deputy Murphy had to show that fight again earlier this month when Fianna Fáil enraged him by adding Mr. Curran to its ticket in the constituency, seemingly jeopardising his chances.
Ultimately, though, the former Roscommon GAA goalkeeper helped him to get elected, a point he accepted afterwards.
“Without that transfer, and of course the transfer that came from the Sinn Féin candidate, Claire Kerrane, I would not have got over the line, in my view,” said Deputy Murphy, from Scramogue, near Strokestown.
“I would have been close, but maybe I wouldn’t have got over the line, so I am really grateful for that transfer of votes.”
Last weekend was also a great day for Fianna Fáil, who had been without a TD in Roscommon since 2011.
“It’s the 90th anniversary of Fianna Fáil; it’s the 100th anniversary of The Rising; and I think that the party are rejuvenated by this,” said Deputy Murphy.
He said that, on the canvass trail, he had been struck by the fact that many people in the constituency felt “neglected”.
“We, the politicians, think we know of that neglect, but really until you go on a canvass, you don’t know the full extent of the difficulties we have in a constituency like this – a complete lack of jobs,” he said.
He said that he would seek to address the many issues in Roscommon and east Galway during his term as a TD.