Friday 20 September 2019

Meath East: ‘Comeback kid’ Thomas Byrne (FF) succeeds in retaking lost seat as Fine Gael hang on to two

Newly elected Thomas Byrne Credit: Gerry Mooney
Newly elected Thomas Byrne Credit: Gerry Mooney
Helen McEntee celebrates as she is re-elected

Deirdre Reynolds

Grand coalition came to life in Meath East after two Fine Gael TDs and one Fianna Fail TD were elected to the 32nd Dail at the weekend.

Ireland’s youngest female TD Helen McEntee was re-elected without reaching the quota after ten counts at the count centre in Ashbourne.

But it was Fianna Fail ‘comeback kid’ Thomas Byrne who topped the poll just five years after losing his seat in the last general election.

Cheered on by his wife Ann and their three children, and dozens of supporters wearing ‘I’m Backing Byrne’, the outspoken Senator was elected on the first count with 10,818 first preference votes - 470 more than the quota.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, Mr Byrne said he was “delighted but exhausted”: “It definitely didn’t happen by accident. I’ve been pushing away for the last five years.

“In the last year, I’ve been walking every lane and every road and every estate in Meath East.

He continued: “It’s been a huge work of rebuilding the party over the past number of years - the local elections and now this. But it’s not a project for the party, it’s a project for the people and that’s what we’re about.”

Conceding “it was always going to be a dogfight for the last seat”, Fine Gael TD Regina Doherty ultimately pipped Sinn Fein’s Darren O’Rourke to the post.

Scrapping it out for the final seat however, Ms Doherty confessed the party had botched the #GE16 campaign.

She said: “I think there’s a lot of lessons to be learned both personally here in Meath for me and obviously nationally for Fine Gael.

“I think we got our message wrong and I don’t think we engaged emotionally on a level with people. Telling them that the economy had recovered when for an awful lot of people it hadn’t just was too far of the mark and I think we got that seriously wrong.”

Meanwhile, former Labour TD Dominic Hannigan was a no-show at Donaghmore Ashbourne GAA Centre after being eliminated on the eighth count half a decade after topping the poll in the constituency.

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