Sunday 21 January 2018

Social Democrats retain seats, take a foothold and target local elections

Róisín Shortall with Dara Baxter (2), son of her niece Sarah Baxter (on left) and her husband Séamus O’Byrne
Róisín Shortall with Dara Baxter (2), son of her niece Sarah Baxter (on left) and her husband Séamus O’Byrne

Barry Lennon

The Social Democrats made an impressive General Election debut as their three co-leaders all topped the poll.

However, while the party performed well in several constituencies, it failed to get more than just its three sitting TDs elected.

Gary Gannon looked set to take the last seat in Dublin Central, but was beaten at the final count by Independent Maureen O'Sullivan.

Elsewhere, Glenna Lynch was in contention until the end in Dublin Bay South.

Outside Dublin, Niall Ó Tuathail also performed well for the party in Galway West.

Mr Gannon said the "integrity of the three leaders shone through on the doors" as he canvassed in his first General Election.

He added that he had "enjoyed the experience" but would be disappointed to miss out by a fraction.

The party will also be disappointed not to have added more TDs to its three poll-topping leaders when they walk into Leinster House next month.

However, strong local performances will provide the Social Democrats with the opportunity to grow in time for the next local elections.

Róisín Shortall said it would have been "wonderful to put up more candidates" but the party, which was only set up last year, had limited resources.

"This morning, I'm thinking it would have been great to contest every constituency, but there simply wasn't time," she said.

Ms Shortall performed better than her former colleagues in the Labour Party.

She said she was "sad" to see Labour doing so badly, with many sitting TDs losing their seats.

"I felt I had no choice but to resign from the party when I did," she said.

"It (the Labour Party) was a proud party. It's very sad that it has come to this."

While the weekend's result provides a "platform for growth, the Social Democrats also answered questions about sharing power in a coalition.

Catherine Murphy said the party would "take stock" of the result before accepting any invitation to form the next government.

The Kildare North TD added that sharing power with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael would not be her favourite choice after those parties won the most seats in Friday's vote.

Ms Murphy also said that she would not favour a second election if a deal could not be done.

Her colleague Stephen Donnelly was also wary of doing a deal after he won the first seat in Wicklow.

Mr Donnelly said he would not do business with the two biggest parties if doing so meant "maintaining the status quo".

"I don't like Fine Gael's Ireland," he insisted, when asked if he would work with that party.

"I was told Fine Gael's Twitter budget in the past week was bigger than our entire election budget," he added.

Before being elected, Mr Donnelly hit out at Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael for contemplating sharing power after they had previously said they wouldn't.

He tweeted: "Is it just me, or is FF now talking about sharing power with FG? But they promised, unequivocally, that they wouldn't. They. Promised."

Irish Independent

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