LIBERTAS leader Declan Ganley dramatically quit politics last night in a move which could affect the forthcoming Lisbon Treaty referendum.
The failed European candidate confirmed he would be taking no part in the 'No' campaign and left the future of his Libertas organisation in doubt by declaring he would no longer be its leader.
Mr Ganley said last night he would be going "back to work" in the private sector after failing to secure a seat in the North West Euro constituency.
"I have said I would seek a mandate. It's pretty clear that I did not get that. I can take no for an answer, I'm a democrat," he said.
Mr Ganley had demanded a re-check of the bundles of votes at the count centre in Castlebar, Co Mayo, because he was concerned that up to 11,000 votes could have been mistakenly allocated to another candidate.
But the re-check revealed that he himself had got 3,000 votes in error from independent candidate Fiachra O Luain and this cut his first preferences back to 67,000. This put him 13,000 votes behind the three front-runners.
Mr Ganley, who had pledged not to lead Libertas if he was not elected, accepted that this meant the end of his political career. He said he had got a "very clear answer" from the people of the North West.
"I applied to them for a job and I didn't pass the application. The majority of people voted for the incumbent situation and I wish them well. That's the people's wish and I respect it," he said.
Mr Ganley's admission of defeat means that it is now a certainty that independent MEP Marian Harkin, Fianna Fail candidate Pat 'the Cope' Gallagher and Fine Gael MEP Jim Higgins will take the three seats in the constituency.
However, Mr Ganley's decision to bow out of the Libertas political movement he founded leaves a major question mark hanging over its future. Although some MEPs have been elected under the Libertas banner across Europe, it is far from the 100-plus number he had targeted.
When asked what would happen, Mr Ganley said that Libertas "was not about me".
"That is something that I will confer on with the members and supporters of Libertas all across the European Union and discuss what it is they want to do next," he said.
He showed a flash of anger when asked how much he had spent on his campaign. "No, I don't know the answer to that. You know what, I'm out of this game now. The same old boring questions and the same boring answers," he said.
Mr Ganley singled out his supporters for particular praise, saying he appreciated the "prayers and Masses" they had said for him.
"It was a hard-fought fight, it was uphill all the way. I'm humbled to have worked with people like this. They are the best and the bravest and this has been a real honour," he said.
And he also referred to his wife: "Delia has made huge sacrifices. It's difficult, the things you go through, and it was tough on her and the kids," he said.