Who’s sorry now?
When the result of an election becomes obvious early on the day of the count, the lower-polling candidates had better watch out lest they become the talking point of the day. Step forward Fine Gael candidate Gay Mitchell.
His no-show at the final declaration in Dublin Castle on Saturday evening was widely denounced as ‘bad form’. It fell to Taoiseach Enda Kenny to thank Mr Mitchell’s campaign team members for their hard work.
No-one in the party wants to publicly kick a man who is already down, but many are expressing disgust that Mr Mitchell did not stand on the platform with the other defeated candidates.
The unwritten protocol of election counts dictates that the unsuccessful candidates present themselves to hear the winner’s victory speech, and Mr Mitchell, a politician of many years experience, knows that to be so.
Despite this, he told the Six One RTE news that criticism of his non-attendance was “nit-picking”, given that he had already presented himself for the first count on Friday. He also correctly said his integrity had never been called into account, adding that he was “extremely tired”.
Expect further recriminations within Fine Gael – not a party noted for doing its business in private - where emotions currently range from “disappointed” to “going beserk”. One senior source said: “It was a big mistake. It looked bad. I presume he’s sorry now.”
Independent candidate Mary Davis, who polled lowest of all seven candidates, adopted a much more contrite tone. Like Mr Mitchell, she attended the first count on Friday but said she had made a mistake by not turning up on Saturday and felt bad about it subsequently. “I was genuinely unaware of the protocol or my duty to be there. I thought Saturday was the stage for Michael D, Sabina and their family. I didn’t realise others would be there,” Ms Davis said.
“It was only later when I saw it on the news I thought, gosh, I should’ve been there. I did feel bad about it. It was a total mistake on my part rather than a feeling that I didn’t want to be there.”