Stephen Donnelly: ‘I don’t like Fine Gael’s Ireland’

It was a case of the last shall be first in Wicklow-East Carlow as Stephen Donnelly, who took the final seat as an Independent in 2011, topped the poll to take the first seat with a surplus as a Social Democrat this time out.
Stephen Donnelly: ‘I don’t like Fine Gael’s Ireland’

The trend continued with Sinn Féin’s John Brady taking the second seat after he lost out to Donnelly by just 112 votes in 2011.

The make-up of the five-seater has now changed from three Fine Gael seats, one Labour and one Independent to two Fine Gael, one Sinn Féin, one Social Democrat and one Fianna Fáil.

The survivors of the shake-up were Donnelly, Minister Simon Harris and his Fine Gael colleague, Andrew Doyle, the former poll-topper who began his victory speech with the telling: “Could I just start by saying: ‘phew’.” The casualties included Labour’s Anne Ferris whose loss will be felt sorely by the party in a county where it now has no public representatives, having previously lost its councillors.

Her departure also returns the constituency to an all-male zone for the first time since 1992 when her party colleague Liz McManus made her breakthrough.

The other big name departing the Dáil is Billy Timmins, who retained his seat for Fine Gael in 2011 but ran this time for Renua.

For much of the count it was a three-way battle for the final two seats but Timmins’ luck ran out as he proved less transfer friendly than Doyle and Casey.

His departure marks the end of almost half a century of a Timmins seat in Wicklow, his father Godfrey being first elected in 1968 and serving almost continually until Billy took over in 1997.

It also marked the end of the brief Dáil life of Renua Ireland of which he was the last remaining hope of a seat.

Andrew Doyle paid tribute to his former colleague. “It was him or me at the end. It’s something that’s bittersweet for me,” he said.

It was all sweet for Glendalough-based hotelier and councillor Pat Casey who won back the Fianna Fáil seat Dick Roche lost in 2011.

It will be interesting to see if his attitude to forming alliances is reflected in the party’s national policy.

“I will work with anyone to get results for Wicklow,” he said.

Minister Simon Harris was also talking alliances and the youngest member of the Government, at 29, called on all TDs to be “grown-ups” in the tricky days, weeks and possibly months ahead.

“We are going back to a very different Dáil, a very fragmented Dáil, but there’s a duty and onus on all of us in that Dáil now to act as grown-ups. The people of Ireland have made their decision, they’ve dealt us the cards and we have to play the hand they’ve dealt us.”

Poll-topper Stephen Donnelly wasn’t around for the final declaration — such was the unprecedented speed with which the notoriously slow constituency completed the count — but he said on his election the Social Democrats would talk to any group interested in change.

“We don’t like what Fine Gael are doing. I personally don’t like Fine Gael’s Ireland. So there will be no conversation about maintaining the status quo,” he said.

Things are slower in Wexford and Dublin South West where full recounts are to start today.

The recounts were called after Fine Gael’s Anne Marie Dermody lost out to Independent senator Katherine Zappone by 152 votes in Dublin while in Wexford, it was Johnny Mythen of Sinn Féin who made the request after coming within 52 votes of the final seat.

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