Fidelma Healy Eames has expressed surprise at her massive drop in support in Galway West – to the same level she achieved when she first campaigned for the Dáil fifteen years ago.
Polling just 1,394 first preference votes in the constituency last weekend, her support collapsed by almost three-quarters.
As a Fine Gael candidate in 2011, she polled 5,046 first preference votes – taking 7th place after the first count out of 17 candidates.
However, this year, she dropped to 14th place out of 20 candidates.
She told the Connacht Tribune: “Look, it wasn’t to be. I’m disappointed obviously. The people have ultimately decided. I respect that completely.”
On the 72% drop in support, she said she was “surprised”.
“To be honest with you, that was [a surprise] because I had over 7,000 votes in 2011 and lost my seat by 45 votes, but this wasn’t my day. There’s really no more to say.”
Asked about her future in politics, she said she has not made a decision.
“Well, I’m still in the Seanad, I’m not going to make any big decisions today. Obviously it’s a conversation for another day.”
She was eliminated in the fifth count, with just 1,657 votes. In 2011, she was eliminated in the 11th Count – after her request for an entire recount of the first 10 was granted – and finished up on 7,024 votes.
Senator Healy Eames had called the recount despite instructions from Fine Gael officials regionally and nationally not to do so, but she claimed at the time she had their full backing.
She also ran an unsuccessful election campaign in 2002, when she took 1,320 first preference votes (leaving her in 15th place of 17 candidates).
Her support increased for Election 2007, when she took 3,904 first preference votes (7th place out of 15 candidates), but again failed to take a seat.
She has also served two terms as a senator – she was expelled from the Fine Gael party in 2013 after voting against the Government on abortion legislation, and became an Independent.
TALLIES: Half of boxes open in City West
With half of the boxes in Galway City West tallied, the state of play in the six-seater is:
Donal Lyons (Ind) 23%
Pauline O’Reilly (Greens) 14.75%
Niall McNelis (Lab) 11.89%
John Connolly (FF) 9.86%
Pearce Flannery (FG) 9.48%
Peter Keane (FF) 7.3%
John Crowley (Soc Dems) 6.3%
Clodagh Higgins (FG) 5.9%
Salthill and Taylor’s Hill boxes being tallied now
Left and right find middle ground
There is a tired old cliché about people singing from ‘the same hymn sheet’ – but despite their diverse political backgrounds, it could certainly be applied in the case of Galway city’s two new TDs.
Because Fine Gael’s Deputy Hildegarde Naughten and independent TD Catherine Connolly hold common ground when it comes to a lot of issues relating to Galway city.
For example, in the aftermath of the general election they both agreed that University Hospital Galway should be moved to a greenfield site at Merlin Park. They also articulated this view on the first day of the new Dail last week.
And, separately, they were both in favour of the provision of dedicated bus lanes throughout Galway city with the acceptance that there will be no outer bypass for at least another decade. Deputy Connolly believes that the current proposal is simply “a cul-de-sac” and should never have been progressed.
Left-leaning Independent TD Catherine Connolly and right-leaning Fine Gael TD, Hildegarde Naughton, both believe UHG is at saturation point and are committed to the development of a new public hospital at the larger, more accessible site east of the city.
This, along with the promotion of public transport initiatives to help end traffic chaos in the city, is one of the common policy objectives the two new women TDs share.
They are only the second and third women TDs ever in Galway West, following in the footsteps of former Fianna Fáil minister, Máire Geoghegan Quinn.
Fianna Fail attempts to woo Grealish again
Pressure is mounting on Galway West TD Noel Grealish to join Fianna Fail as the party attempts to be part of the next government.
The Fianna Fail organisation in the constituency are now convinced that Grealish may provide the party with the answer to winning a second seat in Galway West. And the organisation are disappointed that veteran TD Eamon O Cuiv has not delivered a second seat in the last two general elections. If Fianna Fail assume power, it is very unlikely that the Cornamona man will have a place at the front bench.
The party organisation in Galway West are now anxious that Grealish becomes part of their fabric and particularly as he is a proven vote-winner.
Grealish is part of an unofficial grouping in the Dail who are currently engaged with the two major parties with a view to forming a minority government.
The fact that the Carnmore man has been a TD since 2002, it is likely that he could be part of the front bench in the next government if he agrees to become part of the support that Fianna Fail require.
It was revealed last week that he had been approached by Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin to join up but he was not to be drawn on the issue.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.