Thursday 19 October 2017

Independents' day in Tipp forces Kelly to limp home with fifth seat

Michael Lowry celebrates after winning the first seat at the Tipperary count centre. Photo: Frank McGrath
Michael Lowry celebrates after winning the first seat at the Tipperary count centre. Photo: Frank McGrath
Mark O'Regan

Mark O'Regan

Three independent candidates swept to power in the Tipperary constituency - casting aside two outgoing Fine Gael TDs.

It meant Labour deputy leader Alan Kelly was forced to limp home, scrambling enough votes for the fifth and final seat.

Perennial poll-topper Michael Lowry once again headed the field with Mattie McGrath following behind.

Following their election, speculation immediately turned to the approach the Independents may take towards future government formations.

Mr McGrath was quick to point out "he is open for business" should any of the big parties come looking for him .

"My door is always open," he told the Irish Independent.

But he also insisted a prerequisite for any new coalition deal involving Fine Gael would require the resignation of Enda Kenny as party leader.

Meanwhile, Mr Lowry said Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil must now set aside "historical differences" and form some kind of coalition.

He insisted the two main parties must act for the greater good of the country.

"Their job now is to forget about their own political interests," he said.

A tearful Mr Lowry was visibly overcome with emotion following his victory.

"This is a very special election. It's a very sweet election for me. It's special because I've done it five times in a row. It's also special because I have my own thoughts in my head, which are private.

"And it's special for my family. We've taken a lot of criticism. we've been subject to a lot of public scrutiny and I'm so pleased my family have been able to come through it.

"Nobody goes on forever but if there's an immediate election following this one then obviously I'll contest it again."

Referring to Labour and Fine Gael's dismal performance at the polls, he said he always knew they "hadn't a hope in hell" in getting re-elected.

The tone was set for Independent domination when maverick McGrath surprised both pundits and critics by coming in behind Lowry in the crucial first preference vote.

He was comfortably elected on the third count, as an all-out battle emerged for the remaining three seats.

Independent Seamus Healy, who has built up a strong local support base in recent years, also made it over the line.

And as part of the nationwide Fianna Fáil recovery, the party also bagged a seat with Jackie Cahill, a first-time Dáil candidate, in the newly amalgamated electoral area.

Deflated

The final result leaves the constituency without any Fine Gael Dáil representation, with Tom Hayes and Noel Coonan losing their seats.

Deflated after his party's bruising defeat nationally, Mr Kelly, meanwhile, said the party faces a monumental task to rebuild.

"We need to organise, rebrand and redevelop our message. Of course, I felt under pressure to retain my seat.

"It beholds all of us, the party, to reflect. We put the country first five years ago and I think it's now time we looked at what we need to do to rebuild the party.

"It's 100 years since the Rising. Civil war politics is over. Fine Fáil and Fine Gael need to cop themselves on and form a government for the next five years.

"Pretending that there are massive issues between them is rubbish. They need to come together, work together and put a government in place for the good of the people.

"That's the only stable government I believe can be formed."

Irish Independent

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