Wednesday 23 October 2019

'It's awful losing your seat, it's a very public humiliation...'

Losing a Dail seat is worse than being ejected from any other job, say those suffering the pain of rejection. Barbara McCarthy looks at some examples.

Liz O'Donnell
Liz O'Donnell
Paul Gogarty
Barbara McCarthy

Barbara McCarthy

"Its awful. Losing your seat. It's a very public humiliation," former TD Liz O'Donnell informed Ryan Tubridy about the despair politicians feel when they get voted out, during an interview on the Late Late Show.

The former deputy leader of the now defunct Progressive Democrats said she almost cried during an interview on the Nine O'clock News with Brian Dobson shortly after losing her seat. "I was biting my lip, thinking don't cry."

O'Donnell isn't the only one to suffer the despair of losing a seat. "I went into a state of shock," former Meath county councillor Noel Leonard said when he lost his seat last year. "I avoided people and even went to mass in the next town, so I wouldn't have to explain myself," he says.

"I was one of the oldest candidates, so ageism played a part," says the 74 year old. The €34,000 parachute payment he received didn't help him feel less rejected. "I wasn't in it for the money. 90 per cent of politicians aren't, despite what people may think."

Former Mayor of Co Cork, Fine Gael councillor Barbara Murray says losing her seat in May 2014 was 'just terrible.' "Not long after I lost my seat, the Evening Echo called me and I burst into tears. I'm 58 years of age, so reinventing myself is hard. Before I was on a treadmill, the phone was hopping. The day after the election it stopped ringing. I was a full time councillor, so I didn't have a career to fall back on. I can't get social welfare, can't get on back to education, and can't get a pension."

Murray is doing a lot of voluntary in the local community, but nothing that pays.

"People say you'll have so many contacts from working as a councillor you'll find something no problem, but it's not that simple. I know one person who lost their seat was looking for housekeeping work."

Leader of the Green Party, Eamon Ryan, says he felt bad for his staff when he lost his seat in the 2011 General Elections, receiving 6.8pc of the vote. "I had an incredible team of around fifty to sixty people who were flat out walking from one house to another. We were in a very difficult time economically in Ireland, so there was no shortage of abuse. It takes a certain type of person to be able to go door to door."

Ryan called for a recount in the European Elections in May 2013.

"It looked like I was going to win. All signs were there; even the experts alluded to it. Then at 4am it all changed." There were just 1,149 votes separating him and Fine Gael's Brian Hayes. "That one was tough. It took a few days to get over."

Martin Coughlan, who lost his seat in Cork in June 2014 after being on the council for 20 years, was short only 50 votes.

"Its easier losing your seat with 500 points than just a few. As a politician you can get back up but it takes a while. I'm still involved with voluntary organisations. People keep asking me, will I run again, but sure who knows what will happen in five or six years time."

"It's not a great day when you lose your seat, but I've had worse," said Charlie O'Connor, former Fianna Fail TD for Tallaght. "I took advice from now leader of Fianna Fail Michael Martin, who said. 'Trust your community, keep a routine,' so I went to church and went to a soccer match the very next day."

"What I found interesting was the amount of people who said they voted for me. You never meet anyone who tells you they didn't." O'Connor says losing his son last year means he knows there are worse things than losing his seat.

"It's hard to keep going after that, and in comparison losing my seat was nothing."

None of the political parties we spoke to have systems in place to support politicians on their way out. According to the press office at the Oireachtas, its concern is with existing members. "Once there is dissolution of the Dail, its all systems go for next year. We induct people in the quickest possible time, so the new politicians can hit the ground running. We don't really concentrate on the ones who are gone. Sounds cold, but that's how it is," a source said.

Green Party TD Paul Gogarty lost his last seat amid the Green party wipe-out in the 2011 General Election. "It's damaging to the ego, but you have to be philosophical. I enjoyed the time out with my family and spent time on my music." He wrote numerous songs including Molly is a Liar. Molly is a US slang term for MDMA, the active chemical in ecstasy, which is often associated with dance music. Gogarty thought the song would be a warning to young kids about the dangers of drugs.

He was called 'crap,' 'boring,' and 'self absorbed,' when the song came out. "I'm no virtuoso, but I like writing songs nonetheless. In the words of Madonna; 'Poor is the man who depends upon the permission of another'," he says. "I ran for local elections again in 2014 as an Independent and got in. Now the naysayers can think, there's that idiot who thinks he's a rock star."

John Drennan's Guide to Politics - Spring 2015

The next election will change your life. In a special supplement with the Sunday Independent, John Drennan presents his guide to Irish politics.

Sunday Independent

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