CHILDREN’S MINISTER DR James Reilly has lost his seat in Dublin Fingal, after being defeated by Sinn Féin in the battle for the fifth Dáil place.
Speaking after the result this afternoon, he said it had been a tough day for a lot of his colleagues in Fine Gael and Labour.
In comments to TheJournal.ie and other media outlets, as workers were dismantling the count centre around him, the Fine Gael deputy leader said he would be considering his future role in the party and in politics.
As to whether his career as a public representative was over, he said he was a big believer in “never saying never”.
Reilly said he felt Fine Gael and Labour had left the country in a better place economically.
He added that he accepted the result from the Fingal voters, remarking:
The thing with democracy, we take it for granted sometimes and we need to nurture it.
There are those who would be very concerned about that. There’d be those who’d be very concerned about any other combination. But in the interests of the country people are going to have to roll up their sleeves and come to an arrangement because another election is not something I think that people want or the country can afford.
When asked by RTÉ whether his defeat and Alan Shatter’s loss in Dublin Rathdown were bad news for Enda Kenny’s leadership, he said the incumbent Taoiseach had to focus on leading the country forward instead of on Fine Gael’s losses.
So what happened?
From early yesterday, it was apparent the Fine Gael deputy leader would be in a battle to take the last Dáil place in the five-seater.
In later counts, his Sinn Féin rival for that seat, Louise O’Reilly, pulled further ahead.
Reilly ended up with 6,215 and Louise O’Reilly 8,771 by the time the results of the 10th count were in. At that stage, the Fine Gael deputy leader’s party colleague Alan Farrell, Labour’s Brendan Ryan and SF’s O’Reilly were all deemed elected.
Fianna Fáil senator Darragh O’Brien topped the poll yesterday, and Socialist-turned-independent Clare Daly took the second seat at around 10pm last night.
O’Brien’s FF running mate Lorraine Clifford-Lee had looked to be in the mix for that fifth seat last night, but was eliminated one round before Reilly this afternoon.
Speaking to RTÉ Reilly said people might have thought he’d be safe because of his profile, but that it was clear Fine Gael hadn’t made an “emotional connection” with people on what the “recovery meant” for them.
That message didn’t get across. The future for this country is bright if a bit uncertain at the moment. I hope that everyone pulls together.
Farrell paid tribute to Reilly following his colleague’s elimination. Asked what he thought went wrong for the former health minister, he said he though Reilly had been a “lightning rod for an awful lot of discontent in regards to the Department of Health”.
“The ministry clearly hurt him. It caused him to question his role in politics as we all know and I can empathise with that I can understand.
It’s a thankless job. It’s a job that he wanted and sadly he simply just didn’t get the budget for it and the rest is history.
Sinn Féin’s big three
SF heavy-hitters Martin McGuinness and Mary Lou McDonald showed up in the count centre in Swords just before midday to lend their support to their candidate.
McGuinness said the win was another triumph for “strong republican women” in Irish politics. McDonald also paid tribute to the work O’Reilly had been doing in the sprawling north county constituency.
Later on, Gerry Adams turned up too – paying a whistle-stop visit to the north Dublin constituency on his way to the RDS. An upbeat Adams said the win was “absolutely brilliant”.
“She did sort of keep us hanging in for a wee while … but that’s women for you.”
He said there had been a great team effort in the area, and thanked the voters of Dublin Fingal for showing faith in the party’s candidate.
For her part, the newly-elected TD said she had been feeling confident all weekend.
We knew the support was there. It’s not a protest vote, it’s not a negative vote, it’s a very very positive thing and today you can see our party… transfer friendly, we were very transfer friendly.
Updated at 4.20pm