Tuesday 12 December 2017

Voters have given us a 'very clear' message, says Kenny

FG’s Gabrielle McFadden with Enda Kenny at the Longford/Westmeath count. Photo: Damian Eagers
FG’s Gabrielle McFadden with Enda Kenny at the Longford/Westmeath count. Photo: Damian Eagers


TAOISEACH Enda Kenny last night admitted the people have given the Government a "very clear" message as the Coalition parties began licking their wounds in the aftermath of the devastating local and European elections.

Mr Kenny was speaking in Keenagh, Co Longford, where Fine Gael's Gabrielle McFadden looked set to take the seat in the by-election resulting from the death of her sister, Nicky, in March. Although his own party lost up to 90 seats in the local elections, Enda Kenny instead preferred to focus on Labour's woes.

"The people have given a very clear message to government which I understand," he said. "It's been a very disappointing day for the Labour Party. I would say that when we came to power, the country was standing on the edge of an economic cliff and the Labour Party stood up to be counted.

"I believe we need to redouble our efforts. There's a lot of frustration," he said.

The first count in the Longford/Westmeath constituency was not complete until 7pm last night, but it confirmed tallies that placed Ms McFadden her well ahead of her nearest rival, Fianna Fail's Aengus O'Rourke.

Ms McFadden polled 25 per cent of first-preferences, with a total of 12,365 votes. She was followed by Mr O'Rourke at 18 per cent (8,910), Paul Hogan (SF) at 15 per cent (7,548) and Independent candidates James Morgan 12 per cent (5,959) and Kevin 'Boxer' Moran 11 per cent( 5,629).

After the fifth count, Ms McFadden was at 14,390, followed by O'Rourke on 9,763.

Labour's poor showing nationally was reflected at the count centre in Keenagh, Co Longford, with Denis Leonard – who only joined the race 12 days prior to polling – securing just under 7 per cent, or 3,290. He was eliminated after the second count.

Six years of austerity, coupled with the "fiasco" of the medical cards scandal, the "ham-fisted" introduction of water charges and the housing crisis had led to the party's demise, sitting Labour TD Willie Penrose said.

He added: "The pips are squeaking, there's no more left to give. You can't take blood out of a turnip.

"The people have given enough. If there's no blip in the growth rate, it's time to start handing back," he said.

The by-election arose following the tragic death of 51-year old Nicky McFadden in March this year from Motor Neurone Disease.

Her sister Gabrielle , 47, the current Mayor of Athlone, was widely expected to take victory from early in the campaign, with bookies putting her at 1/6 on. While the election was expected to be a straight fight between Gabrielle McFadden and Aengus O'Rourke, son of former Fianna Fail minister Mary, other candidates also gave strong performances.

Independent James Morgan, the only Longford-based candidate and a first-time runner, polled well in Longford, and many of his transfers were expected to go to Ms McFadden.

Sinn Fein had a good showing, with Paul Hogan – who ran in 2011 – making significant gains on his previous performance. "Our vote is up 50 per cent on what we received in 2011, and we're very happy with that," he said.

"Locally, it looks like we've made significant gains and that a number of our councillors will be elected.

"If I was to say this morning that we would have increased our vote in the by-election, and would have a number of councillors elected in Longford and Westmeath, I would have been very happy."

The final three candidates, all independent, were James Fagan who took 8.5 per cent (4,195), John McNamara (1.7 per cent or 869) and Donal Jackson (0.5 per cent or 238).

The quota was 24,502, meaning no candidate was elected at the first count. Turnout was 55 per cent, lower than the 67 per cent in the 2011 General Election.

Both Mr McNamara and Mr Jackson were eliminated after the first count.

Sunday Independent

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