Deputy Tom is fired up for the challenge

Tom Neville TD on his Campaign trail in Rathkeale Picture brendan Gleeson

Limerick Post journalist, Alan Jacques, joined General Election 2020 candidate Tom Neville TD, Fine Gael, on the campaign trail while he canvassed in Rathekeale, County Limerick.

THE Limerick Post was a real draw on the streets of Rathkeale last Thursday morning as we waited to join local Fine Gael TD Tom Neville on his election campaign trail.

Outside his office on the Main Street, curious passers-by were very interested in our reason for loitering about the place. I almost felt like a newfound unicellular organism, seen under a microscope for the first time.

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I had the sense that anything could happen on the campaign trail today.

“Are they not there yet?” one man asked after shuffling past us a couple of times.

“Stand in there out of the cold,” another person, cocking their head out of a nearby doorway, offered.

“What time is he due?” another man inquired gleefully.

When the West Limerick politician finally arrives a few minutes later in his tartan overcoat and Doc Marten boots, looking like one of the Bay City Rollers, he is bobbing and weaving like a prizefighter, fired up for the task at hand.

And while political commentators and opinion polls might make out that Fine Gael are in real trouble going into General Election 2020, Deputy Neville has a lot of fight in him when we meet.

He admits that the election will be “hard fought” and is not taking anything for granted. But he is fired up for the challenge.

When I ask him how he is feeling about the canvass so far, he tells me: “I am feeling upbeat and energetic. I grew up with elections every two years since I was 10 so this is part of the course for me.”

He is quick out of the corner and comes out punching as he lands blow after blow with his election manifesto. He is in election overdrive and is all geared up for the hard sell.

I am dizzy from the experience.

“I am passionate about developing our county and country. Continued job growth and protection of our most vulnerable is a top priority for me. I believe in advancing rural Ireland and sustaining agriculture while fostering new directions are key to our future.

“General/Mental Health improvements and suicide prevention are a major focus for me. The arts and sport are areas I want to promote for the better of our community. Our environment is also something I want to protect and cherish.” he declares.

Son of former Chairman of the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party, Dan Neville, Tom is a passionate individual with an interesting curriculum vitae. A former teacher, DJ and county councillor, he has also appeared in ten movies to date. I ask about his fascinating CV and he doesn’t miss the opportunity to ply his wares.

“I want to use all these experiences, to draw on them and give 100 per cent commitment.”

When I point out that political commentators are talking of a ‘disconnect’ between Fine Gael and the electorate, he is quick to react.

“I don’t believe there is a disconnect. I am available to people all the time, and am all about the individual and working with people one-to-one to get to the nuances of an issue. That is always how I have done my business for constituents in the county.”

As we set off down the Main Street in Rathkeale, it’s hard to keep up with the dapper young TD. He takes off with a pep in his step, completely focused on the job at hand.

In one neighbouring business, we ask a number of staff members if they will stand into a photograph with Deputy Neville.

“I would be hung, drawn and quartered if I was seen in that photograph,” one woman boldly confesses.

The pace picks up as we make our way around Rathkeale, so I decide to hang back to chat with some of those canvassing with the Fine Gael TD.

Rodge Kenihan admits to being a ‘blueshirt’ all his life, but hastens to add that he’s not answering any questions about his age.

How do you expect Deputy Neville to do in the election?

“We expect him to win. We don’t believe in coming second. First in again,” Mr Kenihan demands.

This seasoned campaigner is equally irreverent when I ask about the reaction on the doorsteps from the electorate.

“We are getting the same old jazz. People are keeping their cards close to their chest. You would have to get them half cut before they would say anything and you mightn’t like what they have to say then,” he says.

Deputy Mayor Adam Teskey is also out canvassing with his party colleague.

Cllr Teskey, another young and ambitious Fine Gael politician, doesn’t hold back when asked about his party’s record in government.

“They have got an awful lot right and an awful lot wrong. I spoke to one woman who spent six days on a trolley out in the hospital recently and the only food she had was an egg sandwich. As a public representative, I find this very hard to accept. It is not good enough,” he declares.

With such dissent coming from within the Fine Gael party and some of its dyed in the wool members, it is clear to see why the outgoing government gives the impression of being on shaky ground during this election campaign.

Deputy Neville is as battle-readied as a spooked kitten backed into a corner. But much of Tom’s fighting spirit will be needed by the leaders of his party in the coming days if they are to have any chance of regaining power.

More Limerick Post General Election 2020 coverage.