Historic Homecoming to Newcastle West by new Minister of State Patrick O’Donovan TD

Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Patrick O'Donovan TD pictured with his brother Stephen, sister-in-law Anne Marie, uncle Stephen O'Donovan, wife Eileen and son John at his constituency office in Newcastle West on Thursday night last. George Daly Historic Homecoming to Ncw by new Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Patrick O'Donovan TD

Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Patrick O’Donovan TD pictured with his brother Stephen, sister-in-law Anne Marie, uncle Stephen O’Donovan, wife Eileen and son John at his constituency office in Newcastle West on Thursday night last.
George Daly Historic Homecoming to Ncw by new Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Patrick O’Donovan TD

Limerick County Fine Gael TD Patrick O’Donovan has said he is honoured and delighted to be appointed as Minister of State for Tourism and Sport by An Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Speaking at his homecoming to the constituency in Newcastle West on Thursday night last, where a large crowd of well-wishers had gathered, Patrick O’Donovan thanked his supporters, family and friends together with the people from County Limerick who had voted for him and supported him. “Without the support and work of voluntary supporters I would not be in a position for the Taoiseach to consider appointing me as a Minister. I am so grateful to everyone who has helped me along the way in my career to date and I am really looking forward now to taking on my role as Minister for Tourism and Sport.”
Patrick O’Donovan, who was first elected to the Dáil in 2011, made history when he was appointed Minister last Thursday becoming the first Fine Gael TD from the old constituency of Limerick West and the first TD from the current constituency of Limerick County to be appointed to that position. He takes on full responsibility for both the Tourism and Sport sections of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. Speaking after being appointed to his new role, Minister O’Donovan said he was “absolutely thrilled with the role.”

Patrick O’Donovan has come a long way since he was first co-opted to the old Limerick County Council to replace Michael Finucane in 2003. He was re-elected in 2004 and again in 2009 and served on the Local Authority until being elected a Dáil Deputy in 2011. “There was a speed bump along the way when I stood for the Seánad and did not get elected. It was a very lonely time,” the new Minister told the

Weekly Observer on Friday.
“I spent most of my first term in the Dáil as a member of the Oireáchtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport during which time I gained a valuable knowledge of the area. I believe that this experience will be of huge value to me in my new role as Minister for Tourism and Sport.”

The Limerick Deputy may have missed out on a senior ministry but he has been appointed to one of the top junior posts, a stand alone ministry with a big budget with a number of very big sporting events on the immediate horizon like the European football finals and the Rio Olympics. He plans to hit the ground running in his new brief “2016 looks like being a fantastic year for Ireland in terms of tourism numbers and comes after a record year in 2015. I’m looking forward to leading the Government’s approach to the industry both at home and abroad and working to ensure that more people look at Ireland as a place to holiday in and to visit. Tourism is of massive importance to Ireland, during the economic collapse we reverted to looking after two industries that have really been forgotten about, tourism and agriculture. Those two industries have helped no end to bring the country back and I am very anxious to work with all of the people involved in the tourist sector to ensure that we continue to develop the product we have here in Ireland.”
The new Minister said that a number of very important national and international sports events will take place in the coming months which will showcase Ireland and Irish sport, but he was keen to point out the importance of participation at all levels across the country. “We have seen over the last number of years the Government investment in developments in local sports facilities across the country and I hope as Minister to be able to continue that work into the future.”

Minster O’Donovan maintains sport has two impacts, the national pride and secondly, a more important impact which is the health of the nation. “The Minister for Health, Simon Harris is very keen to discuss with me how we can increase participation, it won’t always be about gold medal wins or winning All-Irelands. It is about giving every child especially the opportunity to participate in sport or a recreational activity that they can enjoy. It is about ensuring that the infra-structure and coaching is in place and the people are in place and that there is an element of enjoyment in it.”

When asked how he would like to make his mark in his first 100 days in office, the Minister said “in the area of tourism I want to listen to the people at the coal face of the industry and see what are the areas in which we can improve. We have to look after our tourism jewels but there are undiscovered gems in counties across the country that we need to look at. We are right to promote the usual places because they are the trademarks in which you can build the product going forward, but I would like to see other parts of the country that have not got the same level of attention through the various agencies getting a chance to promote themselves as well.

“Regarding sport, my first priority will be to sit down with the sporting organisations of which there are very many and some of whom have been in touch with me already and to understand where they are coming from and what their aspirations are.”

Patrick O’Donovan is a member of a minority Government, a relatively new concept in this country and which will call for special skills, “First of all as a Government we have to accept that we not going to win every vote, but that is not the end of the world. It means we have to do things differently, we have to build consensus and that is something I learned in Limerick County Council working with other parties. The University of Politics really is a local authority and I have great experience from Limerick County Council of working with other political parties as group leader of my own party. In my new job I will have bring people with me and to listen to other political parties and see what their priorities are and what they want to see done and develop policies and a vision for the development of sport and tourism in Ireland.”

Life is going to be in the fast lane for the new Minister for the foreseeable future and the work load and travel is certain to impact on family life. The father of a young son, John, Minister O’Donovan feels he is lucky that wife Eileen is a big supporter of the job he does. “She comes from a political family; her father is Cllr Stephen Keary. She has worked with Fine Gael previously and is very much aware that with politics comes sacrifice and with becoming a minister even a bigger one. There will be opportunities to enjoy the job I have. It is a long way from Churchtown to Rio, but it will not be all about high flying. I know exacly where I have come from. I am the first Fine Gael from west Limerick to become a Minister. I am Limerick through and through but I have a national responsibility but I hope to continue to represent county Limerick as I have done up to now and maybe do it a bit better,” Minster O’Donovan concluded.

Patrick O’Donovan is the first Minister from the old West Limerick constituency since Gerard Collins served as Minister for Foreign Affairs in the Charles Haughey Government of 1989-1992.