AAA Cork City councillor Mick Barry, 52, was speaking yesterday moments after taking the second seat in a historic breakthrough in the four-seat Cork North Central constituency.
With Ms Lynch’s brother-in-law Ciarán Lynch, chairman of the banking inquiry, having been eliminated in Cork South Central earlier, and following Labour’s wipeout in Cork City Council in the last local elections, Mr Barry’s victory leaves Labour with no political representation in the city.
It was fourth time lucky for Mr Barry in a constituency which still has some of the highest rates of deprivation in the country. One of the city’s leading anti-water charges campaigner, he ran a specific campaign targeting Ms Lynch’s seat.
“Labour came to power in 2011 and there were a lot of promises made and a lot of promises broken,” said Mr Barry. “I feel that Labour betrayed not just the voters who put their hopes in Labour but also their own tradition, the Labour tradition, the Connolly/Larkin tradition.
“I think people want to see a real campaigning left that does not sell out. And I think and I hope that the AAA can be part of providing that. The people have said they are tired of this joyless recovery, they’re tired of a recovery where people are trapped in low pay, on low incomes, where people are haunted and threatened by a housing crisis, and where people are crippled with these austerity charges and they want to see real change.”
Mr Barry was am ong 14 Labour Party members who were expelled in 1989, alongside others including Joe Higgins, Ruth Coppinger, and Clare Daly, all of whom went on to become lead national figures in the anti-austerity movement.
Fianna Fáil’s director of elections Billy Kelleher topped the Cork North Central poll and was elected on the first count on Saturday afternoon, romping home with 14,286 first preference votes — 27.63% of first preferences and 4,051 votes over the quota.
It was one of several remarkable performances by the party, which topped the poll in three of the five Cork constituencies.
“We campaigned and sought a mandate to remove this government from office. Our first obligation is to try and put together an alternative,” the party’s health spokesperson said.
“Our first emphasis will be to organise enough support to have a majority. If that isn’t the case, we are into a period of absolute reflection. Water charges will be a key issue during the discussion, as well as health, education, housing, investment in public services.
“The next couple of weeks will be like the Grand National — there’s a lot of fences to be jumped between now and the formation of a government.”
Sinn Féin TD Jonathan O’Brien held his seat yesterday afternoon, after he secured 3,617 transfers from his running mate, councillor Thomas Gould.
Mr O’Brien said Sinn Féin went into the election in the constituency with the slogan ‘one team, two seats’, but the second seat was just beyond them this time.
“We increased our vote in the local elections, we got additional councillors elected, and we just felt we had to take the opportunity [to run a second candidate],” Mr O’Brien said.
Paying tribute to his running mate, he said: “If we’re serious about getting into government, if we are serious about being a real political force, we can’t rest on our laurels and just run one candidate in each constituency.”
Minster of state for European Affairs Dara Murphy was left battling for the final seat with Ms Lynch. Thanks to 2,853 transfers from running mate Julie O’Leary, he reached 9,256 votes to be elected on the 11th count.
He acknowledged it had been a difficult and bruising campaign but added that, rather than navel-gazing at what went wrong for Fine Gael, the onus is on the party to look at the formation of the next government.
“It looks like we will be the largest political party again but clearly now everyone will have to draw a breath, and consider what the people have chosen,” he said.