FIRST PAST THE POST Fine Gael’s Michael Ring and Sinn Féin's Rose Conway Walsh greet each other at the count centre as it was about to be announced that they were both elected on the first count. Pic: Conor McKeown
Edwin McGreal and Anton McNulty
Mayo’s newly elected TDs are at odds over how the next Government should be formed.
After an extraordinary election weekend, two of the Mayo TDs just elected to the 33rd Dáil – Fine Gael’s outgoing Minister for Rural and Community Development Michael Ring and Fianna Fáil’s Deputy Leader Dara Calleary – have both thrown the gauntlet down to Sinn Féin to form a Government.
However, Sinn Féin’s newly elected TD for Mayo, Rose Conway-Walsh, says both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil should talk to Sinn Féin about forming a coalition.
Sinn Féin received the highest percentage of first-preference votes in the election, securing 24.5 percent of the vote nationwide. Fianna Fáil follow on 22.2 percent, with Fine Gael further back on 20.9 percent.
However, the final composition of the next Dáil is still being decided, and at the time of going to print it remained unclear which party would have the most seats.
Speaking at the count centre on Sunday, both Michael Ring and Dara Calleary challenged Sinn Féin to try to lead the next Government.
“I have issues with them as a party, I want to be very clear on that,” Dara Calleary told The Mayo News shortly after being elected. “They have indicated they are going to prepare a programme with other left-leaning parties, so let them off and prepare that programme. They have been given a mandate for government, so they should work with other left-leaning parties to prepare that.
“We stood into the gap in 2016 and stood up to the mark, and we provided stability to the country at a vitally important time. While that hasn’t provided electoral reward that was the right thing to do. Let others now fill the gap and others who have got the mandate today to seek to use that mandate to deliver on housing and health and the issues they had the answers to,” he said.
Both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael were adamant before the election that neither party would go into government with Sinn Féin, and Michael Ring said this would still be his preferred position. He called on Sinn Féin to deliver on what they promised to the people before the election.
“I listened to people on the doorsteps, and I don’t know how every issue they wanted resolved is going to be done. The people were looking for change, and I hope the party [Sinn Féin] they voted for will go into government.
“This is one thing I am looking forward to. I do not know what the formation of the government [will be] but I am looking at party who for the last ten years have been a party of protest, and I hope they will be a party of government. They have told the people they will do everything for them, and I hope they will be in government,” he said.
‘Looking to talk’
However, Sinn Féin’s Rose Conway-Walsh said Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil need to talk to Sinn Féin about forming a government.
“Mary Lou [McDonald, Sinn Féin party leader] will be looking to talk to all the other party leaders. I believe the other parties cannot ignore the mandate Sinn Féin have got. There is an onus on the parties to respect that mandate and to respect the people who voted for Sinn Féin,” Deputy Conway-Walsh told The Mayo News last night (Monday).
She said that people were looking for a different approach but that she hoped the Mayo TDs would ‘work together’.
“I think people have run out of road with Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. It is clear people are not happy with the status quo. People are saying the economy didn’t feature in this election but it did at a macro level. Farmers, fishermen and small business owners are hurting from Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil policies,” she argued.
“I’d like to congratulate the other three TDs who were elected, and I look forward to working with them to progress Mayo. It is not about party politics but a programme for Government and a programme for Mayo.”
Conway-Walsh said at the count that this election has altered the Mayo political landscape irrevocably.
“I think it changes it and changes it forever,” Conway-Walsh said. “Now it will be up to me to work very hard and my team to continue to work very hard, but it does change it.
“It is great because one of the great faults of rural Ireland all the time was that people were so predictable. You could go into villages and say 82 for you and 79 for me. Why would you bother investing in an area like that if you were a government making decisions? We need to be more unpredictable, and certainly this time Mayo people have been unpredictable,” she said.