THE Harte name has been synonymous with politics in Donegal for more than fifty years.
Paddy Harte served as a Fine Gael TD for Donegal North-East for 36 years while his son Jimmy, is a former Labour Senator.
Last month, another son Paddy Harte jnr. was chosen by Fine Gael HQ as a second candidate for Donegal, joining Minister of State with special responsibility for Gaeltacht Affairs Joe McHugh on the party ticket.
A political novice, Paddy Harte is determined to be much more than a ‘token candidate’ as the countdown to polling day continues.
“I firmly believe that Fine Gael can return two seats,” he says with the air of someone who feels he has a genuine chance of upsetting the odds come February 26.
It’s Wednesday morning and members of ‘Team Harte’ gather in Mac’s Mace, High Road, Letterkenny, ahead of another long day on the campaign trail.
“My day starts at half eight reading through mail and getting organised. We meet up as a group around ten or half ten for a chat as we can’t really start knocking on doors before 11.30am. We’re out until eight and then it’s back home and, with a bit of luck, get something to eat,” he said.
Wednesday morning is bright and, although cold, it’s dry.
“We’ve lots of very hard working canvassers. We had people out in Inishowen and Letterkenny last night (Tuesday) in what was terrible weather,” he said.
How is the canvass going and what type of feedback is he getting on the doorsteps?
“It’s going well. Inishowen has been very positive and I have to say that I’m very proud that my father’s reputation in Inishowen is still there. Letterkenny is positive but I’ve a lot of friends here who are very supportive while it’s the same in the eastern part of the county where I grew up.
“People are aggrieved at some of the things that happened in the past. In the past four years, coming from a situation we were in, no matter who took on the task would not have got everything right and we have to accept that fact. People are concerned that the recovery may be teetering but most of the people agree that it’s not the time to be changing horses – even if you’re not fond of the horse you’re on,” he said.
While Mr Harte and his team have canvassed in the south of the county he accepts that it’s not possible to get around everyone.
“Dinny McGinley is the outgoing TD and he wants to leave Donegal in as good a shape as he can with two TDs in again.
“Joe (McHugh) is working very hard as Minister and I know that Dinny would like nothing more than for me to go into the Dáil with his seat,” he said.
“Fine Gael will be part of the next government and the question for the people of Donegal is can we call their bluff and return two Fine Gael TDs, allowing Joe and myself to fight for the resources which are needed here in Donegal,” he said.
If the response garnered on a bright, dry morning during a trek through some of his own heartland in Letterkenny can be relied upon, maybe it’s not so fanciful?
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