herald

Tuesday 24 October 2017

Car mishap became an asset, says FG's Mary

An internal Fine Gael document listing the strengths and weaknesses of the party's TDs ahead of the next general election says Mary Mitchell O'Connor's driving mishap on the Dail plinth may have damaged her.

The then new Dun Laoghaire TD hit the headlines when she drove her car across the Leinster House plinth in 2011.

But Ms Mitchell O'Connor told the Herald she had learned to "get over myself" and the incident "turned into an odd asset".

The confidential Fine Gael strategy document said Ms Mitchell O'Connor used humour well in dealing with the publicity after she inadvertently drove off the low stone platform on her first day in Government Buildings.

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"Her incident with her car may have damaged her with some voters, though she has proven herself able to manage that with humour," said the report.

"The first few days for any newly-elected TD are like a mad grind course," Ms Mitchell O'Connor said this morning.

"You're learning the geography of Leinster House. You're being told how systems work. You're sorting your office and your staffing.

"And, in my case, you're learning how the Kildare Street car park should work. Learning it by trial and error. The error led to me driving down the plinth in full view of spectators and cameras.

"I suddenly realised that the media was all over my piece of creative driving and that the following day I was going to be famous. Or infamous.

"I rang a friend who's worked for decades in politics. Upset doesn't begin to describe how I was when I explained what had happened.

"The last thing I expected, in response, was laughter. When it died down, I was told that driving down the plinth wasn't a crime.

"Sure, there would be coverage, but that, in turn, would allow my voice to be heard on the serious issues.

"The message was clear: get over myself. That's what I did, and what started as the worst day of my political life turned into an odd asset."

aokeeffe@herald.ie

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