The political journey of Déirdre de Búrca

IN theory, Déirdre de Búrca’s decision to run in Dublin in last year’s European elections shouldn’t have caused much of a stir, given that she had grown up in Loughlinstown.

In fact, it proved a disastrous decision, because by the time her European campaign was launched last March, de Búrca, 46, had lived in Wicklow for many years and established her political base there.

She was a member of Wicklow County Council from 1999 to 2007 and hoped to use that platform to win a seat in the Dáil.

She ran first in the 2002 general election. Five seats were up for grabs in the Wicklow constituency, but de Búrca finished seventh.

Nonetheless, her 3,208 first-preference votes were considered a promising first effort, and by the time the 2007 general election swung around, de Búrca was regarded as one of the Green Party’s best prospects for success.

But for the second time in a row, she failed to win a seat, although her first-preference tally improved to 4,790.

In the wake of the election, the Greens famously decided to enter coalition with FF, and Bertie Ahern, who as Taoiseach had the right to appoint 11 of the 60 Seanad nominees, agreed to give two places to his coalition partners.

De Búrca became a senator along with Dan Boyle, and strongly backed the Green leadership on the numerous difficult decisions that arose as a result of being in Government – supporting Lisbon and NAMA for example.

When dissident voices arose, de Búrca was one of those who would defend the leadership.

In one notable instance, she hammered Patricia McKenna after the latter quit the party last May. “The pity about Patricia McKenna’s move is that she did not do it at least a year ago and spare herself and her party colleagues a lot of time-wasting and strife,” de Búrca said.

When it came to running in the European elections, it seemed that Ireland East (formerly Leinster) was the obvious constituency in which to run, given de Búrca’s Wicklow base. But the calculated political decision to run in Dublin because the Greens were traditionally best supported there misfired, and de Búrca not alone failed to win a seat, but suffered the humiliation of coming behind Independent McKenna. De Búrca also failed to win enough votes to secure the return of her election deposit, and overall was believed to have taken a substantial financial hit as a result of her unsuccessful campaign.


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