PolL-topper Emmett O’Brien says he has no intention of returning to the Fianna Fail fold following his successful run as an Independent candidate in the Adare Rathkeale area.
The Pallaskenry-based barrister was a member of the Fianna Fail national executive up to the selection convention for the area in December, but after failing to get on the party’s ticket, decided to make a solo run.
It was a decision that paid off handsomely; he easily topped the poll with 2,270 first preferences, more than 500 votes above the quota.
Speaking immediately after his election, Mr Fitzgerald said he would not be returning to the Fianna Fail party.
“That’s not going to happen,” he said emphatically. “A, they’re not going to ask me and, B, I’m not going to return for the following reasons – there is a breach of trust there fundamentally but secondly I’ve given my word on numerous occasions. My word is my bond and I am a man of principle.
“My motto is youth, credibility, integrity and if I return to Fianna Fail, not only would I have broken my word but would have no credibility if I did that. It would also alienate at least half my supporters who are Fine Gael or who are non-political.”
Mr O’Brien’s decisive victory should certainly give Fianna Fail strategists plenty of food for thought. Ahead of last December’s selection convention, party headquarters opted to select candidates based on a geographical spread across the area. This meant that three of the four candidates on the ticket were selected without a vote (Richard O’Donoghue in Ballingarry, Seamus Sheahan in Croom and James Cavanagh in Adare). A ballot of local members then took place to decide the final slot, which resulted in Mr O’Brien losing out to Kevin Sheahan. However, there was anger over how the ballot was conducted, with only party members from a specific geographical area allowed to vote.
Mr O’Brien subsequently claimed that he had been given assurances by senior party officials that he would be added to the ticket but when this did not happen, he resigned his position on the national executive and declared himself as an Independent candidate.
Ironically, the biggest beneficiary of Mr O’Brien’s large surplus was Kevin Sheahan, who received 105 transfers from the candidate he defeated in the Fianna Fail convention. Mr Sheahan was subsequently elected on the eighth count, along with Richard O’Donoghue. However, there was disappointment for the party’s two other candidates, Seamus Sheahan and James Cavanagh.
One long-standing member of the local Fianna Fail organisation who was observing the count closely dismissed the notion that Mr O’Brien could have won a third seat for the party had he been added to the ticket.
“If you look at where he got the votes from, they weren’t Fianna Fail votes. He got a lot of Independents and Fine Gael voters who would not have voted for him if he was running for Fianna Fail,” he said.