Friday 19 January 2018

Independents’ Day: flood of new TDs off to Dáil

Non-party TDs to make up 10pc of the 32nd Dáil

Mattie McGrath kisses his wife Margaret after his election
Mattie McGrath kisses his wife Margaret after his election
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

The surge in public support for Independent candidates showed no sign of abating as votes continued to be counted last night.

Non-party candidates are on course to make up one-tenth of the Dáil as a raft of new Independent TDs prepares to enter Leinster House for the first time.

The swing towards Independents had been well flagged in opinion polls but it was believed by some that the vote would eventually be dispersed into the establishment parties during later counts.

However, as votes were counted over the weekend, the Independent vote held strong in a number of constituencies and resulted in some big-name casualties.

The most significant Independent win was for the Healy-Raes in Kerry, where brothers Michael and Danny controlled a massive 38pc of the first preference vote and made history by securing two seats for the famous political family.

After the brothers' win, Michael Healy-Rae rounded on the "smart alecs in Dublin" who he said had "picked on" him.

"Well, you know what? They'll have to pick through him to get to me," he said, referring to his brother Danny.

Michael Lowry topped the poll in the newly formed Tipperary constituency.

The win means that Mr Lowry has contested eight successful General Elections, despite a number of controversies surrounding the Independent TD.

Fellow Independent Mattie McGrath will also return to Leinster House after getting elected on the fourth count in the same constituency.

After his win, Mr McGrath said he was "open for business" should any of the big parties come looking for him when efforts to form a government get under way. "My door is always open," he added.

Katherine Zappone, who came to prominence through her activism on the marriage equality referendum, recorded a surprise victory in Dublin South West.

She edged out Fine Gael councillor Anne-Marie Dermody at 3am on Sunday after a re-check of the ballot.

Another surprise winner was 'No Doctor, No Village' candidate Dr Michael Harty, who upset the main parties in Clare to take a seat at the expense of outgoing Labour Party TD Michael McNamara.

Mr Harty, who has worked as a doctor in west Clare for 31 years, said his "one regret" in securing a seat was that he "will be no longer be treating my patients and I think the feeling is mutual. I have mostly an elderly population - people with complex illnesses.

"To move into an area looking after people in a different way will be strange for me, but I feel I can do it and I feel that we have a message that is worth fighting for," he added.

In Galway West, Catherine Connolly, a former member of the Labour Party, took a seat as an Independent.

Ms Connolly left Labour in 2006 after she had not been put on the ticket with Michael D Higgins for the election the following year. She has ruled out a return to the Labour Party.

She said that she was delighted to win a seat, having lost out by such a small margin last time out.

"I think it is also revolutionary to put an Independent female TD in the Dáil for the first time from this constituency on the anniversary of 1916.

"I'm looking forward to representing the people of Galway, the Aran Islands, Connemara, south Mayo and all the other areas," she said.

In Cork South West, Michael Collins dislodged sitting Fine Gael TD Noel Harrington to take a seat.

Mr Collins said he felt that his election sent a message to the political parties and he vowed to be the Healy-Rae of west Cork.

"This is a massive victory for the people of west Cork, who have been ignored for far to long.

"I want to do for west Cork what the Healy-Raes have done for Kerry and I promise I will work tirelessly to achieve this up in Dáil Éireann," he said.

Former property developer Mick Wallace also secured his seat in Wexford but did not take the massive vote which saw him top the poll in 2011.

Elsewhere, Mr Wallace's parliamentary colleague Clare Daly also won her seat in Dublin Fingal, as did Denis Naughton in Roscommon-Galway, Noel Grealish in Galway West and Maureen O'Sullivan in Dublin Central.

Irish Independent

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