'Things will never be the same again': Sinn Féin herald new era ahead of formation talks

'Things will never be the same again': Sinn Féin herald new era ahead of formation talks
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Cavan-Monaghan was the final constituency to elect their TDs last night with the final two seats in the 33rd Dáil going to Fianna Fáil.

Former Minister for Agriculture Brendan Smith took the fourth seat with 11,004 votes, being elected on eleventh count.

His party colleague Niamh Smyth took the final seat on the same count, polling a total of 10,951 votes.

Minister for Business Heather Humphreys was elected on the first count but beaten into second place by Sinn Féin’s Matt Carthy.

Mr Carthy brought through his running mate, Pauline Tully, who was elected on the second count, courtesy of a heavy transfer from the Sinn Féin MEP - some 3,291 votes, or almost 77% of his surplus, which travelled across county lines from Monaghan to Cavan.

In his speech following completion of the count, Mr Carthy spoke of a “seismic shift” in the politics of the State “that we have not seen in many decades”.

“Things will never be the same again,” he said. “All of us have a responsibility to try and ensure the change people demanded last Saturday is implemented.”

He paid tribute to retiring Sinn Féin deputy Caoimhghín ó Caoláin, who has served the constituency since 1997, a sentiment that was echoed by all elected TDs, across party lines.

Ms Humphreys said he had been a “great representative for many, many long years.”

The Sinn Féin victory came following a campaign directed by the party’s first TD of the modern era, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin.

Speaking at the count centre, before the final result was announced, Mr Ó Caoláin said the general election “is the coming of age of Sinn Féin, in terms of contemporary relevance in politics in this state”.

“It’s the shaking of a tree that hasn’t been really rattled over the decades before; the Tweedledum and Tweedledee dominance.

"Different attempts have been made to impact on that, but I really do believe this time something very different has happened.”

Mr Ó Caoláin, who is retiring from elected politics after this election, said the door had been closed on Sinn Féin entering into government throughout his time in the Dáil.

He said this was primarily due to “a wish on the part of those who have dominated the political landscape in this state since its formation to maintain the status quo”.

“But that is now going to change.”

“I do regret the fact that I didn’t have the opportunity to be part of a government experience.

"I would have liked to take on the challenge of a portfolio responsibility, I would not have shirked or baulked at the idea, I would have been open to it,” he said.

He said Sinn Féin’s association with physical force republicanism and the IRA was historical.

We are talking about a period of time now decades past; a new generation of young people that never were a part of, in any shape or form, all of that.

“It’s only through dialogue and engagement that we can hope to find a formula that will allow us to move on from the entrenchment of the past into a new and fertile future, where really and truly, and maybe for the first time, all the children of the nation will be cherished equally,” he said.

He defended Sinn Féin Waterford TD David Cullinane after a video of him saying “Up the ‘Ra” emerged following his election.

Shown the video of Mr Cullinane, he said “I don’t think that it is the offensive reference you’re suggesting in the wider context.”

“It’s not something I think is as inappropriate in terms of the context where people were celebrating success and it has to be seen in the context of that; it’s language, it’s reference and it’s historic.

"It’s historic. Not contemporary and that’s very important to make that distinction.”

He said the 2020 election “Opens up new opportunities, and with that, as I’ve already acknowledged, new responsibilities, and this party, Sinn Féin, under Mary Lou McDonald is up to the task.”

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