THE greater part of County Kildare has been left without a Fianna Fail TD for the first time in over 60 years as the party haemorrhaged support throughout both constituencies in the General Election.
Only Kildare-town based Sean O Fearghail TD was re-elected by voters in Kildare South after a marathon count which ended early on Sunday morning (February 27) at Punchestown, Naas, and he needed the support of ousted colleague Sean Power.
This means the major population centres of Naas, Celbridge, Maynooth, Newbridge, Leixlip, Clane and Kilcock do not have a locally based Dail representative.
Fianna Fail coughed up three seats in an electoral meltdown which was even more pronounced in Kildare North where poll topping Minister of State Aine Brady saw the number of people who gave her their first vote fall by 57%.
This massive drop in support was reflected in the reversal of fortunes suffered by running mate Michael Fitzpatrick, who fared marginally worse – a decline of 59%.
The unprecedented scale of the rejection will cause concern within the ranks of the party, especially in the north.
Outgoing TD Fitzpatrick told the Leader on Saturday (February 26) that Fianna Fail needs to regroup locally and get more young people to join.
He also criticised what he felt was a lopsided effort by the party to ensure that Brady retained her seat. ”I had little contact with the Director of Elections before the election. I spoke with him once during the campaign. When I was Director of Elections previously I would contact the candidates every 2 or 3 days and this did not take place on this occasion,” he said.
He added “The Director of Elections was closer to her (Brady’s) camp than mine.”
The Leader was unable to make contact with Kildare North FF Director of Elections Frank O’Rourke yesterday (Tuesday).
Fianna Fail were feeling the pressure in the run-up to polling day.
A final letter delivered to voters’ homes in the Naas area by Brady claimed credit for securing E7.4m for the Nas na Riogh housing project and school developments. It added - ”I have worked with local food companies to enhance their growth potential.”
It also added that companies like Green Isle “have created new employment”. However employee working hours at Green Isle were cut from 40 to 30 hours last May.
She further claimed to be “the first TD ever to resign their teaching post” and “I have worked hard to protect and improve the lives of older people.”
Remarkably, she stated neither Labour nor Fine Gael would reverse any decisions made in the controversial Budget.
Most of Fianna Fail’s lost votes were hoovered up by Fine Gael’s veteran TD Bernard Durkan, whose support jumped by a massive 90% and his 10,168 first preferences almost exceeded the quota on the first count.
Durkan’s barnstorming performance – he was first elected in 1981 – was of little help to election débutante Anthony Lawlor, who nevertheless polled well in his own right. Kill man Lawlor won almost 7,000 first preferences and this ensured that he stayed ahead of Labour’s John McGinley in the race for the final seat.
He campaigned heavily in Naas and in the latter days of the campaign the perceived need for a TD in Naas became his main campaign theme
Catherine Murphy, who held the seat until the 2007 general election, having won a bye-election, was returned to the Dail along with seasoned campaigner Emmet Stagg on the 3rd and 5th count respectively.
Sinn Fein candidate Martin Kelly, another participating in his first national poll, will take heart from the outcome. His 2,896 first preferences put him comfortably ahead of Fitzpatrick and compares with the 1,100 votes garnered by Cristin McCauley, who contested the 2007 election for Sinn Fein.