Home We Are Laois Thomasina Connell shares her thoughts on the recent Fine Gael selection and...

Thomasina Connell shares her thoughts on the recent Fine Gael selection and Women in Politics

Thomasina Connell at her desk in her solicitor's office in Portlaoise

Last Thursday, Thomasina Connell, a Portlaoise-based solicitor and 2016 General election candidate for Fine Gael, joined LaoisToday’s newest Unlaois’d podcast for a chat about everything from her decision to withdraw from the recent Fine Gael selection convention for the next General Election, to Laois never having elected a woman.

Thomasina hails from Ballybrittas and has been actively involved with Fine Gael for years.

Fine Gael Selection Convention 

Thomasina shocked the convention when she withdrew herself from the running after hearing there would be three people selected.

“I think on the night of the convention I had put myself forward and made myself available obviously to be a candidate for Fine Gael in the next general election, something I very much was looking forward to but on the night having heard the directive was three candidates I made the decision not to it to go to a vote.

I have a very good track record as a candidate I got 4,000 votes in the last election I think I have excellent qualities as a candidate and I know from the response i got in the room that very much came across. I suppose on the night i made the decision to withdraw my nomination on the basis of the directive being three candidates, and during the night becoming aware further divisions could have been caused within our own party and I would hate to continue to that.”

Thomasina says it was a last minute decision, and why she had an objection with three people was for the good of the party.

“I didn’t want to put the party through the vote and in my own experience that causes a massive divide but I think there’s a lot of promise into the future and I obviously want to represent the people of Laois long term and into the future, so there’s more to come.

“How the cards may have fallen for other candidates I’m not sure that would have improved matters for own party. Obviously things behind closed doors, within the members of every political party there are things we have to do to push forward and to unify our party and I didn’t want to do anything to damage that.

“It was a decision I made that I stand by and that I’m glad I made, we have the future to look forward to.”

Gender Quota’s

Thomasina says she is a firm believer in gender quotas.

“I think in terms of gender quota’s, I’m a firm believer in them. It’s 30% this time, by 2023 it’s going to be 40%.

“Across the board there has been political effort to change this all the way through the 80’s and 90’s, until there was legislation, from Fine Gael I might add.”

Thomasina finds parties have done a lot of work but I think there’s a lot to do in her own party, but also across the board.

“I feel it’s not only women, it’s making it attractive to young people.

Young People in Politics 

“My personal view, I think it would be really positive if we got a lot more young people involved.

“We’ve got fresh idea’s, a lot of people fresh out of college, we’re ambitious, and to make a life in politics, as apposed to it being ‘i just decided to do this.’

“As a young person myself, it was a big step for me to step out of the life I had and put myself out there and put my name on a ballot paper, and I think it can be a scary thing to do.

“Some people understood, I guess I would be savagely perseverant, and most people who know me would know that. You can’t be a quitter in politics. I’m probably a dog with a bone and I probably have that reputation.”

“Do I think my friends thought I was mad? No more often than not they were really proud of me from literally walking out of the life I had to put on my wellies and just start canvassing. By the end of the last election I was canvassing 18 hours a day, rain hail or shine.

Political Role Model 

Thomasina is a pretty big fan of Kate O’Connell.

“She’s a TD for Fine Gael in Dublin Bay South, apart from knowing from various women for election courses I’ve done in the past which are amazing.

“She’s someone who’s at the front of the herd with her idea, and doesn’t care if anybody is behind her. If you have something that you’re really strong on, don’t care if anybody is behind you, because one day there will be.

“She starting canvassing in 2015 in a general election that I guess was divisive in lots of way. She was suggesting that there should be a referendum, we should look to have a vote on this and lot’s of people told her ‘you’ll never get elected like that, look at your colleague Lucinda Cra, ‘she’s this and she’s that’.

“Having an idea, going with it, and really being absolutely relentless, even when it’s an unpopular opinion, and I think you need to have conviction for that.

She agreed with Pauline Madigan when it came to Mary O’Rourke.

“I’ve good time for Mary O’Rourke, I was against her on a debating panel about a year and a half ago about the gender quota and we sort of tore strips off each other. She spoke to me at length after the debate, she gave me a hug and she said ‘you’re not a put on woman.’ I said thank you very much Mary I’ll take that as compliment.

“She told me she actually had to go through four elections before she got on the ticket. She said every time they were driving home and she’d be crying her husband Enda would say ‘don’t this again.’ and she’d said oh I would resolve to retire from all of this stuff and she said and then I’d get a lease of life and I’d go again and she said eventually, I did get there. I think she’s a compassionate woman.”

Future political aspirations 

Thomasina is very interested in becoming an elected representative.

“There has been no convention for that yet but it’s something I would consider putting myself forward for. I’m very interested in representing people.

“Of course in politics there’s good days and bad days but it’s not about me, it’s about other people and getting stuff done.

“I remember we were down around Ballyadams, and I got lost talking to a lady about pensions and the car had sped on and somebody thought I was with somebody else. I was lost in Ballyadams it was about 10 at night, my phone had gone dead, the frost had started to come, I was skating around the roads in Ballyadams and I just thought ‘what am I doing?’”

“I think going forward I am really looking forward to being apart of the political system in Laois/Offaly into the future and I think I’ll do a pretty good job.

“I’m somebody that my ambition about stuff never wains, and so I’m never going to give up on this. I really enjoy the business I have and thankfully things have worked out.

“Although I really love what I do I’m never going to give up on politics, I’m kind of obsessed.”

Women in Laois 

Cathy Honan, Sinead Moore and Thomasina herself are the only women who have made the ballot paper in Laois.

“We’re actually the only county that has never elected a woman.”

“It’s a pretty poor record but I think things have to change and when you look at it it can be very difficult to actually get on a ticket, and to actually get through a convention, it’s in favour of incumbence, and maybe if you don’t have the right last name it can be even more difficult. Of course when you’ve a name like Tomasina, it can make things a bit easier.”

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Siún Lennon joined LaoisToday in a full-time capacity after studying Journalism and New Media in the University of Limerick. She hails from Rosenallis and her interests vary from news, sports and politics.