Pressure on Kenny after success for Sinn Féin and Independents
FOR the 124,063 people who gave him their first-preference votes across the vast Midlands North-West constituency, Luke Flanagan may be renamed King Ming. The seismic shift emerging in the Irish political lanscape was further confirmed in the Castlebar count centre last night, when the Roscommon renegade topped the poll and was elected after the second count.
This followed the election over the weekend of Sinn Féin poll topper Rose Conway-Walsh in the newly aligned area of West Mayo and a record-breaking return of Castlebar’s Independent Cllr Michael Kilcoyne, who was the first local authority representative to be elected in the country. He received a whopping 2921 first preferences and the highest vote ever to be recorded in the history of Mayo County Council.
With a huge surge in votes for Independents and Sinn Féin, it truly was Shindependence Day in Mayo and across the country.
The one-time Labour Party Town Councillor told The Mayo News: “This result sends a very clear message to Taoiseach Enda Kenny that his government’s policies are not working and he needs to start looking after his own area. I have people coming into my clinics every Saturday who are hungry, and all they get when they call Social Welfare is an answering machine.”
Indeed, Kilcoyne’s views ironically echoed those of former Fianna Fáil TD Beverley Flynn, who said at the count centre that ‘every ballot box in County Mayo showed a clear message that [Enda Kenny] needs to look after his own area’.
“Enda cannot ignore the fact that austerity is not working and that people cannot take any more. Small businesses are closing down all over the town and county, and one lesson we have all learned over the years is that Dáil deputies need to look after their own area. I say that acknowledging that he has a job to do for the country,” Beverley Flynn said.
However, the Taoiseach’s brother, Cllr Henry Kenny, who was the fifth candidate to get elected in Castlebar, strongly challenged the basis for this swing towards Independent Kilcoyne (See Page 4). He claimed the media had delivered his huge vote which, he said, was also facilitated by Kilcoyne’s propensity for sitting on both sides of the fence about issues.
“It’s the media that has delivered that vote to him because he is on the radio every day,” Cllr Kenny told The Mayo News minutes after being elected. “The advantage to him is that he can speak about any matter on any side of the fence, he can raise any matter that he wishes along the way whereas I cannot because I’m tied into the Government party.”
Kilcoyne strongly challenged Kenny’s claims and his accusation that he was a scaremonger.
“I represent people who come to me with the issues. The same media outlets are available to Cllr Kenny. The big difference between him and me is that he signed up to a party pledge saying his allegiances will be to Fine Gael rules no matter who they hurt or leave in pain.
“I have requested that the Taoiseach change the terms of reference of [the national] maternity [services review] to include that the services at Mayo General cannot be downgraded. Enda Kenny may be Taoiseach for all of the country – he acts as Taoiseach for all of Europe – but the people of Mayo are who elected him,” Kilcoyne added.
SHORTLY after 6pm last night the Independent anti-austerity, pro-peat Dáil Deputy from Roscommon, hurtled over the line when Returning Officer, Fintan Murphy, added 5,498 votes to his first-count result, allowing him to exceed the quota of 129,290.
The high mood of the outspoken TD’s impressive win across 15 counties was in dramatic contrast to the low-key concession by veteran Fine Gael MEP, Jim Higgins. How symbolic of what Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams likened to ‘a seismic shift’ in Irish politics when he visited the Royal Theatre count centre on Sunday afternoon, to congratulate his party’s candidates.
When asked by The Mayo News what he would say to Enda Kenny now that he was on his home turf, Mr Adams said: “I think the people have said: ‘Enda, it is time to go’.”
Mr Adams also said: “The last election was a democratic revolution. Well this one is too, this is deep-rooted and there has been a seismic shift in the political landscape.”
By lunchtime yesterday (Monday), Jim Higgins, who was first elected as a county councillor, in the Claremorris area in 1979, had conceded defeat. He had admitted to The Mayo News that Fine Gael needed ‘a miracle’ to elect its two candidates. His first preference vote, in a constituency with an electorate of 1.2 million, was 39,908 – under one third-of Flanagan’s first preferences.
Higgins said there was an urgent need for a Cabinet reshuffle and for a reappraisal of strategy by Fine Gael if it was to ‘have any prospect of achieving that elusive goal of a second term in office’. However, he also said that Taoiseach Enda Kenny had his full confidence and had ‘taken the party from oblivion’ to its great success in the last General Election.
“There is something fundamentally wrong in the way things happen at Cabinet level,” Mr Higgins said, while adding that he did think the Government would see its full term in office.
Less than four hours later, Enda Kenny’s second-in-command, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore had resigned as leader of the Labour Party.