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Poll-topper predicts rise of major new political force

NEWLY-ELECTED TD Shane Ross last night said that a group of up to eight "like-minded" Independent TDs would be prepared to support an FG-led government, in a potentially significant offer which will put pressure on Taoiseach-elect Enda Kenny.

On RTE News throughout yesterday a consensus was being promoted that a Fine Gael/Labour coalition was effectively a fait accompli, an opinion which many Fine Gael TDs eventually seemed to be prepared to accept.

While Mr Kenny himself is determined to keep open his options, only stating his desire to form a stable government, his finance spokesman, Michael Noonan, along with Leo Varadkar and Brian Hayes seemed to support the consensus.

The intervention of Mr Ross, who has put himself forward as a power broker between a group of centrist Independents and Fine Gael, is bound to open up the debate within Fine Gael as to where it should now turn to form a government.

Mr Ross, who topped the poll in Dublin South with a massive vote of over 17,000, a clear demonstration of his mandate, said the people had voted for a radical and reforming government.

He said that there would be around eight Independent TDs prepared to form a group to negotiate with FG to form a government, a statement which may appeal to a broad sweep of a buoyant Fine Gael parliamentary party.

He identified the Independents as Wexford poll-topper, Mick Wallace; Maureen O'Sullivan (Dublin Central); Finian McGrath (Dublin North Central); Noel Grealish (Galway West); Luke 'Ming' Flanagan (Roscommon/South Leitrim); and Stephen Donnelly (Wicklow).

Mr Ross, Sunday Independent Business Editor, said he has no interest in returning to Fine Gael, but said he would be willing to do a deal.

"I think we are going to have to look at the possibility of unleashing a new force in Irish politics," said the senator, one of a large group of Independent TDs elected to the new Dail after a series of stunning successes by a disparate collection of candidates. "We want change but we want a new politics."

The new Dublin South TD added: "I have no interest in rejoining Fine Gael or having anything to do with them on that basis. I would have an interest if they looked like being the major force in government, as they are, in saying to them 'Look we have some really radical ideas, if you implement these ideas, we will support you', but only in that situation."

Ross shook traditional parties by topping the poll getting more than 23 per cent of first-preference votes.

Others who were polling well or looked certain of seats included Seamus Healy in Tipperary South, while Mattie McGrath was in for the third seat in that constituency.

In Donegal South West, former SF candidate Thomas Pringle was elected as an Independent. He and FG's Dinny McGinley joined Pearse Doherty of Sinn Fein as TDs.

In Roscommon-South Leitrim long-time cannabis campaigner and local activist Luke 'Ming' Flanagan was expected to take the third seat there, while former FG minister Michael Lowry put in his usual strong performance in Tipperary North, getting 29 per cent of the first preference vote, the same as he polled in 2007.

In Galway West, Catherine Connolly and Noel Grealish looked like getting two of the five seats there, while in Kerry North, Michael Healy-Rae was in a tight battle for a seat.

The Socialist Party's Joe Higgins also polled extremely well in Dublin West, and while Richard Boyd Barrett of the People Before Profit/ULA group must await a recount today in Dun Laoghaire, the Socialist Party's Clare Daly looked likely to take the third seat in Dublin North.

Others who seemed likely to join the new Dail included Finian McGrath in Dublin North Central, while Maureen O'Sullivan in Dublin Central was hoping to hold on to her seat.

In Kildare North, Catherine Murphy, a former member of Democratic Left and the Labour Party was doing well, while Stephen Donnelly in Wicklow was in the shake-up for the final seat.

Sunday Independent