McDowell loses and quits politics
IT was a day of shocks and surprises. But the biggest one was the dramatic end of Michael McDowell's political career, who turned from PD to P45.
Despite being one of the most high-profile candidates as both Justice Minister and leader of the Progressive Democrats, he lost his seat in Dublin South-East by just 300 votes.
His loss and his decision to retire from politics marked the end of a bitter day for the Progressive Democrats who were largely trounced at the polls.
It was clear from early on in the afternoon that McDowell would have a battle on his hands. The knife was further twisted in the wound with the knowledge it could slip into the hands of John Gormley of the Greens, who last week accused McDowell of spreading "lies" about his party's policy.
Last night Gormley admitted to having felt "glum" over the past few days, fearing that voters would presume he was favourite and would be a shoe-in.
But Mr McDowell bowed out before the final count, conceding to the man who managed to provide one of the funnier moments of the campaign when he hijacked McDowell's lamp-post stunt.
McDowell is loved and hated in equal measure. First elected in 1987, he sat in the Dail until 1989, when he lost his seat. He sat in the Dail again for five years, from 1992. He also served as Attorney General from 1999-2002.
The PD tally of eight seats for the 29th Dail was a doubling of their 1997 total.
Just a few months ago Mr McDowell believed they could repeat that performance by hitting the 16 mark this time.
However his controversial Criminal Justice Bill and flip-flopping over Bertie Ahern's explanation for his personal finances did little to endear him to some members of the public.
While he held firm on issues such as tightening of bail laws, he proved changeable when it came to deciding whether to stand by the Taoiseach.
One minute he was ready to walk, the next minute he was satisfied.
And the voters didn't like what they perceived as game playing.
The Progressive Democrats lost not only their leader but also their deputy leader, Liz O'Donnell. And things were not looking good for party president Tom Parlon.
Mary Harney will now likely pick up the reins and take over as leader of the party once again.
On the popular website mycandidate.ie, Mr McDowell's demise from politics was summed up simply: "Eliminated".
Last night, Mr Parlon admitted he heard the cheer in a pub in Birr, Co Offaly when it was announced that McDowell had bowed out.
But, he said,Mr McDowell had not sought popularity. His firm stance had cost him his seat.