Kenny out of options, but refuses to quit
Kenny out of options, but refuses to quit


With all of the first count results in the 26 County general election concluded, Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s government has suffered a resounding defeat but he has ruled out resigning as leader of Fine Gael.

“I have a duty and responsibility to work with the decision that the people have made and provide the country with a stable government and that I intend to do fully and completely,” he said. “Clearly the option of a majority government is gone. Clearly, the option of a Fine Gael-Labour government is gone.”

He was easily re-elected in Mayo, despite the late campaign controversy in that county when he lashed out at Mayo’s “all-Ireland whingers”. The Fine Gael leader also refused to be drawn on the prospect of a pact with traditional adversaries Fianna Fail, which polled almost as highly, both parties receiving almost 25%. He said that his “job and duty” is to attempt to provide a government “for the people”.

“Ireland needs a government,” he said. “Whatever parties are in position after the election are going to have to consider whatever options are available.”

Asked if he could govern with some Fianna Fail support, Kenny replied: “You mean some kind of Tallaght strategy?” (referring to the 1987 minority government when Fine Gael leader Alan Dukes supported Fianna Fail Taoiseach Charlie Haughey). “We would like to wait and see (what happens) in other constituencies.”

But some of his own party appear to have also already turned against him. Outgoing Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald, interviewed on radio, repeatedly refused to deny that there would be a challenge against his leadership. Asked if she would be interested in running for leader herself, she answered: “I’m not saying anything else now, we will leave it at that.”

Outgoing Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney conceded that it had been a poor election for Fine Gael and that the party was likely to lose over 20 seats, but he said he did not believe there was an appetite for a challenge to Enda Kenny’s leadership. He also insisted Fine Gael would win more seats than Fianna Fail and remain the largest party, which is still an open question.

“I don’t get the sense that there is going to be any leadership challenge in Fine Gael. We will win in or around 50 seats and we will be the largest party and Enda Kenny will be the leader of the largest party.”

“He will obviously take on his responsibilities of bringing the party forward. I don’t get the sense that there is any panic or anything like that. People are disappointed. They are frustrated. A lot of very good people are going to lose their seats.”

However, Labour Party leader Joan Burton is certain to face a leadership challenge after the party’s support collapsed, from 19.4% percent to around 6.6%. However, there are no clear candidates so far to take her place. Under Labour’s constitution, a leadership contest must be held within six months of failing to get into government.

Prominent left-wing independent Mick Wallace, who is expected to retain his seat in Wexford, welcomed the prospective Fianna Fail-Fine Gael coalition. saying it would “clean up Irish politics”.

“They are two right wing parties. The only difference between them is the civil war. Next time we will have a proper left-right wing divide,” he said.

Fine Gael’s Minister for Health Leo Varadkar said he did not favour such a coalition, claiming it would not be good for either party and would not last long. “I do not trust them [Fianna Fail] and it would open the door to Sinn Fein as lead of opposition,” he said.

Sinn Fein deputy leader Mary-Lou McDonald said that she expects her party will be putting leader Gerry Adams forward to be the next Taoiseach.

“It’s early in the day but I think if this election demonstrates anything, it is that there is now, or should be, no sense from Fine Gael and Fianna Fail that they have some divine right to govern - they don’t,” she said.

Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness says the left-wing parties must now consider their options about forming a government, and that the people of Ireland do not want a second election.

Mr McGuinness said the story of the election would be the rise of the left-wing parties. He said that the election had been a good one for Sinn Fein, especially having to face competition from the established parties.

Mr McGuinness was asked about parties working with each other after the results are counted and pointed to how he had worked with Ian Paisley in the North. He also said that lessons needed to be learned that the crisis in the North could not be used as “political weapon” against parties.


In early confirmed results from the count centres, there were early breakthroughs for Sinn Fein in Dublin Midwest, where party intellectual Eoin O Broin was elected on the first count, and in Wicklow, where councillor and tenants-rights activist John Brady was elected on the second count. He became the constituency’s first republican TD since Robert Barton in 1923 after polling in second place with 11,151 votes.

In Laois, Brian Stanley, easily passed the quota on the fourth count with 10,092 votes, and he was hoisted aloft holding a starry plough flag by his jubilant supporters. Also comfortably re-elected were the party’s enterprise spokesman Peadar Toibin in Meath West was returned on the second count and the party’s deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald, who topped the poll in Dublin Central and was elected on the 6th count.

The party missed out in Dublin West, however, where Sinn Fein’s Paul Donnelly was edged out by Joan Burton and sitting socialist TD Ruth Coppinger of People Before Profit/Anti-Austerity Alliance.

Outside of Dublin, the party made significant gains in Waterford where David Cullinane was finally elected after several close calls in previous elections, and in Carlow-Kilkenny, where Kathleen Funchion took the seat she had staked out in last year’s by-election.

Speaking at the RDS count centre Ms McDonald said the outcome from the electorate is that “the government has been sacked by the electorate”.

“They’ve sacked Fine Gael and Labour”, she said. “That was the first conclusion. The second conclusion is that politics here has changed. The old tweedledum and tweedledee between Fianna Fail and Fine Gael is now over. Politics is much more diverse. I think that’s a really healthy thing.”

In an indication of the general political tide, two of Kenny’s most controversial Ministerial appointments lost their seats, Alan Shatter and James Reilly.

Shatter was one of the first big-name casualties, losing his seat in Dublin Rathdown after a series scandals over police corruption and his handling of his department generally. Paying the full price for his indiscretions, his seat went to the previously unknown Catherine Martin of the Green Party. Her election marks a return to the Dail for the Greens after a period of purdah since their disgraced coalition with Fianna Fail collapsed following the ignominious IMF/EU bailout in late 2010.

Labour Ministers of State Alex White and Kathleen Lynch have also lost their seats, as well as former Fianna Fail Minister Mary Hanafin and, almost certainly, Lucinda Creighton. Creighton is leader of the new right-wing Renua party which is unlikely to any seats in this election.

In contrast to Renua, the new left-of-centre Social Democrats party has already won three seats and is likely to increase that total, winning 3% on their first time out, while People Before Profit and the Anti-Ausrterity Alliance won 4%.

However, the big winner of the election was Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin, who arrived at the Cork city election count centre to rapturous applause after his party polled an unexpected 25% in first preferences, its best election result since the 2008 economic collapse.

“We had faith, going way back to 2012, and we were consistent and the local elections gave us a great platform,” he said. “I think our message resonated with people. We kept our feet on the ground, we kept connected to communities. And that will be the strongest challenge - to stay connected to the realities on the ground. I think the government lost touch too quickly. And we, from way out, could see a two-tier economic recovery evolving. We could see that many people didn’t get the rhetoric of the recovery in their own daily lives - and the regions didn’t either.”

He added: “And I think we, in terms of our core message of quality jobs, cutting costs for families, resourcing and strengthening communities, reasserting the principle of home ownership and ending the scandal of homelessness - they were key pillars of our platform that really struck a chord with people on the ground and on the doorsteps.”


OVERALL RESULT - First Preferences (compared to 2011 general election)


Fine Gael 25.5% (-10.6%)
Fianna Fail 24.3% (+6.9%)
Sinn Fein 13.8% (+3.9%)
Labour 6.6% (-12.8%)
People Before Profit/Anti-Austerity Alliance 3.9% (+1.7%)
Social Democrats 3.0% (+3.0%)
Green Party 2.7% (+0.9%)
Renua 2.2% (+2.2%)
Independents and Others 17.9% (+4.7%)

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