Friday 30 September 2016

Fianna Fáil's rebirth puts party back in contention for power

Published 29/02/2016 | 02:30

Mary Butler topped the poll for Fianna Fáil in Waterford. Picture: Patrick Browne
Mary Butler topped the poll for Fianna Fáil in Waterford. Picture: Patrick Browne

Fianna Fáil will have both Dublin representatives and women swelling its ranks when the Dáil returns on March 10.

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Micheál Martin's party is likely to end up with 42 seats when the voting concludes, with all but one of its outgoing TDs returning.

Mr Martin is now poised to try form a government that excludes Fine Gael and Sinn Féin, although party sources accept that this will not be feasible.

The result marks a massive comeback for Fianna Fáil, which collected 24.3pc of first preference votes this time, compared with 17.4pc in 2011.

Mr Martin said the party had fought the campaign on "getting fairness back into Irish politics and getting this Fine Gael-Labour Government out of office".

"We have done that (listened to the Irish people). We have worked very hard over the past five years to listen to what the Irish people had to say.

"We will now listen very carefully to the message they spelled out at the ballot box," he said.

The former minister said the country "comes first in all our deliberations" in relation to the potential formation of a government.

When counting concludes, the party will have six TDs in the capital, compared with none in the outgoing Dáil.

Darragh O'Brien and John Curran will all be returning after losing their seats five years ago, while Jim O'Callaghan, John Lahart and Jack Chambers will be first-time TDs.

Sean Haughey is also all but certain to take a seat in Dublin Bay North.

Mr Chambers, who won back the seat once held by Brian Lenihan in Dublin West, paid tribute to the late finance minister in his victory speech, describing him as "a real patriot" who "inspired my own interest in politics".

"I think Fianna Fáil are back and the Irish people had their say on this government.

"This government wanted a coronation from the start. They had no vision and no energy. They just wanted to be re-elected without putting any positive policy platform forward," he said.

Mr Curran, who is a former government chief whip, comfortably took the third seat in Dublin Mid-West.

"After losing my seat five years ago, today is a good day, both for me personally and the party," he said.

The party also had a major coup in Taoiseach Enda Kenny's Mayo constituency - where it managed to get a second TD at the expense of Fine Gael.

Sitting TD Dara Calleary will be joined in the Dáil by Lisa Chambers while Michelle Mulherin loses out.

"When people stood back, the Fianna Fáil membership in Co Mayo stood up," Mr Calleary said.

Ms Chambers will be among at least five female Fianna Fáil TDs.

In Waterford Mary Butler made a breakthrough, Margaret Murphy O'Mahoney won a seat in Cork South West, Anne Rabbitte will represent Galway East and Fiona O'Loughlin took a second Fianna Fáil seat in Kildare South.

Ms Butler described her achievement of winning 10,603 first preference votes as "incredible".

"This is a great day for Fianna Fáil and I'm very proud that the people of Waterford have put their faith in me," she said.

Mr Martin's success was summed up in his own constituency of Cork South Central, where he and the party's finance spokesman Michael McGrath took the first two seats.

Mr McGrath topped the poll with 11,795 first preferences, while Mr Martin followed closely on 11,346.

The one major casualty of the election for Fianna Fáil was Galway East TD Colm Keaveney.

He switched from the Labour Party after the last General Election but the decision of the party to add Ms Rabbitte to the ticket cost him dearly.

"I'm very proud that I joined Fianna Fáil. My decision to join Fianna Fáil has been vindicated.

"I warned back in 2012 that we were rapidly accelerating to a divided society, that the most vulnerable would pay. What I had forecast in 2012, materialised today," said Mr Keaveney.

"I drove my children to school this week and I realised how big they've grown without me. My youngest is three inches taller since the start of the campaign," he said.

Irish Independent

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