independent

Monday 21 April 2014

Libertas leader threw toys out of election pram

Declan Ganley (centre) keeps an eye on the recheck in Castlebar yesterday. Photo: PHOTOCALL/BRIAN FARRELL

DECLAN Ganley is a spit-the-dummy loser, a spoiled child of a candidate who confronts imminent failure by halting an entire election count for some real or imagined procedural handling of his votes.

He finally faced up to reality in Castlebar last night when he conceded defeat in the North West Euro constituency and vowed to bow out of politics altogether.

But his earlier decision to throw his toys out of the pram in the count centre will not help when he looks back on what is left clinging to the wreckage of Libertas across Europe this morning.

In fact, his insistence on rechecking the numbers actually resulted in his vote being reduced by a further 3,000. His supporters say this "human error" proves their decision to look for a re-check was justified.

But tell that to the likes of Fine Gael MEP Jim Higgins, who described it as the dying kick of a drowning man who should "grow up and admit defeat".

Just a couple of days ago, Mr Ganley had three elected MEPs from Libertas 2009FR, the French chapter of his organisation, and after the election count he has just one: that's a net result of minus two. He has failed personally to take a seat and his organisation in Ireland is now leaderless -- after he pledged to step down from the role.

When he surveys the smoking ruins of Libertas, and his vision that ran from the Atlantic to the Urals fed by the history books that he devoured, he may reflect on what happened in his own backyard.

Will any of his disciples at Libertas ever have the courage to tell him why he failed to take the third seat for the European Parliament in the North West?

If someone tells him straight, it will begin: "Declan, you didn't get elected because you are 'transfer-toxic', which means voters couldn't bring themselves to pass on a preference to you."

This message would be difficult to absorb for anyone with a healthy ego. It's particularly tricky for a multimillionaire who is fundamentally convinced that he is right about everything.

Still, 14pc of the electorate -- an astonishing 67,000 people -- gave him their number one and Mr Ganley will hold up their votes as vindication of himself and his dream.

He is a successful businessman but probably not nearly as rich as his lifestyle and demeanour suggests.

He is very litigious; fiercely defending his reputation when it is questioned or challenged, and he recently fired off a writ to RTE's 'Prime Time' after the programme broadcast a profile of him. He always seems to be having a row with someone.

Much of the fascination about his wealth focused on his company Rivada and its business dealings in the US, Iraq and the Balkans.

He did do a lot of business with the US military, but then so do many Irish companies. And the bulk of his assets came after the fall of the Soviet Union when a Klondike-style rush made many very rich from trading in timber, aluminium and other commodities.

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Europe has an abundance of traditional Catholics unhappy with much of the EU's modern social legislation, a view that Mr Ganley, a man with a similar outlook, endorses and advocates.

He has built a chapel, complete with the Stations of the Cross, pews and a bellow organ in the spacious grounds of his period home near Tuam in Co Galway.

He is a family man who espouses family values and is a conservative and traditional Irish Catholic, although he has a distinct 'Jack The Lad' London accent. He is driven by a fierce ambition and the certainty of his argument. he is vain and the certainty of his self-belief is a monumental conceit. Last night, he told reporters the dedication of his campaign staff and the support he received from ordinary people had made it a "humbling experience". In more ways than one.

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ssmyth@independent.ie

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