New kid on the block has ambitious plans

Blaine Gaffney hopes to get ticket to run in local elections ’19

Perched on a bar stool in his 1970’s themed pub ‘Lillies’ Blaine Gaffney reveals perhaps more than a future politician should.

Immediately likeable this 29-year-old Sligo town man is not afraid to speak candidly about his own life from a personal as well as professional point of view.

The son of Declan and Mary, Blaine’s parents split up when he was just 12. On the cusp of his teenage years, it was not great timing for him as he explains: “I was the youngest of two. For my brother and me it was tough. My Dad who was the authority figure left and I wandered off track, finding it really difficult to settle in Summerhill.”

He says he subsequently didn’t reach his potential and it was only after a dismal leaving certificate and a series of menial jobs that he finally decided to return to education, enrolling on a PLC course which led him to achieving the academic success he was always capable of, an MA in Irish Politics from Queens University.

The emotional toll of his parent’s separation was still evident last year when Blaine married his childhood sweetheart Danielle.

He says: “It still is difficult emotionally. My wedding was the first time my Mum and Dad were in the same room together since I was 12-years-old.”

Despite the ‘bad break up’ Blaine is a firm believer in ‘people doing what they have to in order to be happy.’ And what puts a smile on this ambitious young man’s face is politics – preferably of the Fine Gael variety.

The FG Area Representative who in addition to running the pub, works as Deputy Tony McLoughlin’s parliamentary assistant. He was first drawn to the party in 2008.

“I was a student at GMIT when I joined young Fine Gael. The country was falling down around us, I had worries about paying my fees,” he recalls.

Generations of men in the Gaffney family had marched towards Finner Camp to sign up as soldiers and although Blaine considered military life, he has now missed the deadline of age 26 for the cadets.

“I had no family link to Fine Gael. My Granddad, dad, uncles and cousins were all soldiers in the army,” says Blaine, “I still wonder will not trying for the cadets be one of the biggest regrets of my life.”

After graduation in 2013, Blaine was down to the last two candidates for a job with Twitter. He was devastated when he didn’t get it. But within a few days he received news that MEP Mairead McGuinness was looking for a hard-working assistant. There followed six months living in the ‘Brussels bubble’ as her right hand man.

Then he moved on to work for Tony McLoughlin where he took on the role at a precarious time in the politician’s life, as Blaine recalls: “The day I started with Tony was the day he was diagnosed with cancer. I did not know him personally at the time in September 2014.”

Fortunately for Blaine the working relationship flourished and four years on he is still by his side through thick and thin.

“It is enjoyable, rewarding but damn hard. If I did not get on well with Tony I wouldn’t be able to work with him,” he explains, “I spend more time with Tony McLoughlin than my new wife. It is kind of upsetting to hear me say that!”

He admires Tony’s strength of character, how he got over his brief illness and how hard he works for the local community. As for highlights Blaine says: “Working behind the scenes on the fracking bill was amazing. It is probably the biggest thing Tony will ever do, a small office stopping multi-million euro mineral drilling companies in their tracks, there is a great kick out of delivering real change.”

Blaine believes being part of the fresh young Fine Gael we see at the moment is in itself exciting: “There is a definite trend for change in Irish society and Fine Gael. We have a very youthful cabinet.”

His immediate political plan is to put his name forward to contest the ‘Sligo -Strandhill’ Fine Gael Convention for the 2019 Local Elections. He is confident of his party’s support and of course that of his boss. “There will likely be seven of us vying for 6 seats. We were decimated the last time dropping from 12 to 3. We want to go from at least 3 to 6 seats this time around,” he stresses.

Does he feel at a disadvantage being young and inexperienced? Definitely not. “I will also be the most enthusiastic and ambitious,” he says.

And will those ambitions bring him all the way to the cabinet table one day? “If I was to be successful both in business, my marriage and as a local councillor, then if the opportunity arose, I would like it,” he says. And if he doesn’t get on the ticket, he has already made a promise to himself not to live with resentment.

Sligo Champion