THE winners and losers of General Election 2011 last night contemplated the new political landscape that unfolded in count centres across the country yesterday.
Fianna Fail TDs were candid about their disappointment at the party's disastrous performance yesterday. Brian Cowen, the outgoing Taoiseach, spoke of the difficult day for the party but said it was determined to be "relevant in the future".
Michael Mulcahy, who was set to lose his Fianna Fail seat in Dublin South Central, said: "It's a very difficult day. We're not surprised by it. When you take difficult decisions you're not expected to be top of the pops. I don't think it's all a disaster. I think there are bright spots around the country. I think, we will regroup after this . . . there is anger, understandable anger."
Noel Dempsey, the former Transport Minister, who decided against contesting a seat in Meath, said: "It was a very difficult sell. I think if we hadn't even some of the serious decisions that we had to take over the last couple of years, this election would have been the same for us all."
But Conor Lenihan was among the first Fianna Fail TDs to concede defeat, losing his seat in Dublin South West. "Unfortunately we are going to lose both of our seats here. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Brian Hayes and of course Sean Crowe because both of them were in the losers' enclosure in past contests," he said.
"It is tough. It was a difficult election. It was a national election. Much of the good work that I did and Charlie O'Connor, my running mate did, was simply ignored because voters were very much focused on the national issue. No matter how much work you did on the ground for the constituency that was not being taken into consideration on this occasion."
Peter Power, who conceded defeat in Limerick, said: "Naturally, we are disappointed. Many many people who came to the doorstep said 'Peter, we like you, we respect you and would like to vote for you, but on this occasion we're voting for change. This is the story of the 2011 election. People want change after 14 years. I accept that with good grace.'"
The Greens also nursed their wounds. Eamon Ryan, the former Energy Minister, conceded defeat early in Dublin South. "You can never rule it out until the transfers are worked through, but at the moment it doesn't look likely. I got about 5,000 first preference votes it would seem from the tally. Every one of them your heart lifts. You represent still those 5,000 people and the faith they have in you and that cheers you up even we you're not going to win a seat. For the Green Party, it's going to be a sad and difficult day. We will rebuild. We will get over this difficult day and come back. For the Green Party, it's a sad, sad day."
The winners included Mick Wallace, the left-wing developer who is €40m in hock to the banks. He tried to explain his extraordinary success after topping the poll in Wexford. "Some of my fellow candidates were very keen to describe me as a celebrity candidate which, from my point of view, I am not," he said. "I have been working in the community through the medium of football for over 20 years."
"I didn't promise people anything at the doorstep. I told them I couldn't make them any promises. I told them that I wouldn't fix their potholes, I wouldn't help them dodge queues for hospital beds for hospitals or for houses. I told them I was standing for a national parliament and that I was going to work on a national level."
Alex White, who was expected to win a seat for Labour, said: "The reality is the Labour Party has done extremely well. I think it's the case that you have to go back to the election before the Civil War to see that kind of an outcome, if the exit poll is correct. We're going to do really well in Dublin. Many constituencies are contention for two seats."
Gerry Adams, who topped the poll for Sinn Fein in Louth, took a shot at the incoming government. He said: "My big concern is that we are going to see the same failed policies of Fianna Fail being implemented by a Fine Gael and Labour coalition. "Sinn Fein will be there to oppose and put forward constructive solutions to the bad bits."
Most jubilant of all was Fine Gael. The party's director of strategy, Phil Hogan, pointed out misconceptions about the party leader: "Everyone . . . underestimated Enda Kenny. It was the big lesson for the media, a big lesson for the general public, that you underestimate Enda Kenny at your peril. He has led from the front, has been very decisive, has a good team around him. He lets the team get on with the job; that's his style."