Cork’s only female TD has asked the public to judge her on her ability, and not on her boyfriend.
Social Democrat Holly Cairns was elected to take one of the three seats in the Dáil as a representative of the Cork South-West constituency.
What is unusual is that Cairns’ boyfriend Christopher O’Sullivan is representing opposing party Fianna Fáil and has also taken one of the three Cork South-West seats.
However, Cairns insists she should be judged on her own actions and not by who her partner is.
She said: “It was really frustrating [being referred to as his girlfriend]. Many left out the fact I am a councillor. Sometimes I was the only candidate with my title not listed.
“He was never referred to as my boyfriend in most of the coverage. I don’t think this was intentional, it is just so ingrained.”
Cairns, who works for her family farming business and has a MSc in Organic Horticulture from UCC, is now hoping to make an impact and work to improve the employment opportunities in her home county.
She believes there is great scope for growth in the tech industry, tourism, fishing, and farming.
She said: “There is so much opportunity for meaningful employment in West Cork.
“I left West Cork during the recession and so did most of my friends and I was lucky enough to have my family business to move home to, but that is not the case for everyone and there is an enormous opportunity here for meaningful employment. We just need better supports for all of these industries.
“I feel very excited about all that. West Cork has so much to offer, we just need to provide supports for people to move here, come home to here and stay here. It’s not always easy.”
Cairns will be Cork’s only female representative in the Dáil and is keen to open up opportunities for more women to get into politics.
She explained: “It’s no wonder there are so few women being elected. There’s also no such thing as maternity leave for councillors. There are so many barriers in place which prevent women from getting into councils.
“The main parties aren’t really succeeding in getting more women elected.
“One of the main reasons I joined the Social Democrats was because they have equal representation of men and women.
“Also, if an event is organised by the party, free childcare is provided. This means there isn’t a barrier for women.”
Here is an interview with Cairns shortly after it had been confirmed that she had been elected.