Mother of Donnchadh and Jade and daughter of her late parents Denis Keating and Hannah Hale and sister to Alfie, Liz, Alison, Denise and Louise, Stephanie Keating is a Fianna Fáil Councillor in Waterford City East. A lecturer in SETU’s School of Business and a “favourite aunt to loads”, Stephanie has a pet dog called ‘Mister Pal’ and a cat, ‘Rua’.
Life in a Day
During term time when I am lecturing it’s up early, cup of tea and out the door to SETU. My working day usually entails preparing and delivering lectures, researching up to date changes in the world of work, particularly focussing on HR topics, such as industrial relations and employment law.
Over the last two years I was seconded to the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) and inputted to the merging of HR policies from Carlow IT and WIT, and that involved a lot of meetings and negotiations. The most significant one for me was the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) policy, which is now in place.
Since being co-opted to Waterford Council in October, I also now fit in dealing with queries and representations from people in the community. Some days I also meet with people who need the services of a Peace Commissioner (I was appointed in 2021 by the Minister of Justice to this role) and sign documents.
Most days I would also spend some time discussing issues and working with the other committee members of Helping Hand, an organisation that supports and provides hot meals to the homeless and vulnerable in Waterford.
What school did you go to?
Our Lady of Mercy Secondary School in Ozanam Street.
What teacher do you remember most vividly?
Three teachers I remember vividly. Michael Heffernan (Science), Michael Lane (English), and the late Pat Dalton (Maths). Up to the time of his death I often met Pat with Michael Lane going for a coffee in Costa, Ardkeen and would have a chat. He had a keen interest in politics and would love the catch up! All excellent teachers and very supportive. God help them dealing with us teenage girls in an all-girls school!
What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?
Well as my 15-year-old self knew everything I’m sure she wouldn’t listen! But it would be along the lines of don’t worry about whether or not you are in the ‘cool gang’. Be yourself, establish your own values and stand up and befriend the unpopular or isolated one.
How do you relax?
I find it hard to switch off but I get to Woodstown Beach with the dog as much as I can. I love Friday evenings and kick back and relax with a takeaway, wine and Netflix.
What is your favourite film and piece of music?
The film that moved me the most was ‘Philadelphia’ (1994) with Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington. Loosely based on a true story about a young lawyer (played by Hanks) who had AIDS and had kept his homosexuality hidden from his employer, he was dismissed and hired a homophobic lawyer (Washington) to sue for unfair dismissal. There is an opera scene with Maria Callas singing ‘La Momma Morta’ and it just gave me goosebumps. It is all about the acceptance of death and enjoying living in the moment. I enjoy most types of music. If I had to pick a favourite, I think it would be ‘Both Sides Now’ by Joni Mitchell.
When was the last time you cried?
I shed some tears when I learned of the death of Cllr Davy Daniels. I had the pleasure of sitting next to Davy at Metropolitan meetings. Only a few weeks previous, the Council attended midnight mass in the Cathedral and again I was sitting next to him. He was smiling and pointing out to me some of his grandchildren and telling me their names as they were passing us going to communion with such great pride. They came into my thoughts immediately when I heard the sad news and I thought of the immense loss to his family.
What has been your happiest moment of recent times?
Without a doubt being co-opted to Waterford Council to represent Fianna Fáil and the people of Waterford City East. I was a candidate in 2004 and 2009 for the local elections. I did well enough but wasn’t successful. I then played a strong role in Fianna Fáil and held positions locally. I was elected to the Ard Chomhairle and enjoyed that. I supported FF candidates in local, Dáil and Seanad elections. I never thought an opportunity would come up for me to be a councillor again. The joy for me, my children and my family and friends was incredible. I felt very honoured.
Do you pray?
I do pray.
What is your biggest fear?
Like all parents my biggest fear is something happening to my children. You worry about them when they are small and you worry about them when they are adults. They don’t understand and laugh at me. Just wait until they have their own children!
What is your most treasured possession?
A 1926-27 soccer medal won by my grandfather, Alfie Hale Senior, with Shamrock Rovers. He gave it to my late Mother (his eldest daughter) on her 16th birthday in 1945. She wore it around her neck on a beautiful chain that my late Dad bought her when visiting my late uncle Dixie Hale in Swansea. I inherited it and now wear it daily. I absolutely adore it and what it symbolises.
What is your favourite thing about Waterford?
The beaches with Benvoy being my favourite in the summer. The coastal drive going there. The people. The sense of community.
If you could change one thing about Waterford, what would it be?
I would love the city centre to become more vibrant with more small shops. There are many challenges for small businesses, particularly since Covid and the move to online shopping as a new business model. But city centres and supporting local is so important to keep small businesses thriving.
In conversation with Dermot Keyes