The last man standing, Lenihan completes the household names in Dublin West
It was Joan Burton’s day in Dublin West – her turn to glide to a quota-beating first count. “I never count my chickens,” she said, arriving at the Coolmine leisure complex in the early afternoon. But after the early tallies (of votes, not poultry) placed her on 24 per cent, she had been confident enough to take a stroll into town that morning “to do what female politicians do in these situations” – go to the hairdresser. She felt “a little sweetness”, she said, when she was the first TD to be elected to the Dáil on Saturday.
“It is a great pleasure to represent Dublin West for no other reason that you know your fate with great speed,” joked Brian Lenihan later – a good deal later, as the 2007 poll-victor had to wait until the fifth count to add his name to the constituency’s roster of high-profile TDs. It was less than four years since Lenihan was giddily hoisted atop the shoulders of his triumphant supporters, modestly shushing the accurate predictions from his men of an immediate Cabinet promotion.
This time around, everyone agreed that it was Lenihan’s local popularity that carried him over the line. As the only Fianna Fáil TD in the capital not to be rejected by the electorate (assuming Mary Hanafin is too), count wags proposed that the constituency party organisation, Fianna Fáil Dublin West, should now simply rename itself Fianna Fáil Dublin.
Lenihan’s successful seat-clinging, made easier by the fact the constituency has added a seat since 2007, was “more a testament to Brian’s personal vote than anything else”, said Fine Gael’s Leo Varadkar, who came second. “It’s hard to begrudge Brian that. He does have a good personal vote.” In truth, neither Varadkar’s running mate Kieran Dennison nor Labour’s Patrick Nulty ever looked like capitalising on the electoral poison that Lenihan might have suffered from, say, being voted the worst finance minister in Europe by the Financial Times, or, even more dangerously, from being a member of Fianna Fáil.
Lenihan insisted it was national rather than local issues that swayed voters. The third-placed Joe Higgins was eager to make the obvious links between the two. Higgins promised that the United Left Alliance would form a “relentless, unremitting Opposition”, fighting a programme of EU-IMF cuts that could lead to the downgrading of Blanchardstown hospital. Copies of the Dublin 15 freesheet Community Voice were strewn around the gym hall, emblazoned with the headline “Connolly A&E Under Threat”. Lenihan’s departure as Minister for Finance, it was speculated, could hasten the HSE’s axe.
There was one glaring feature of the Dublin West candidate list – it only had one woman on it. “Was there a bit of girl power?” a reporter asked Burton. She agreed there had been. Young women, and young men who appreciated the need for more female politicians, had given her strong support. “And Mario Rosenstock didn’t do me any harm either.”
She had long since left the count centre when Lenihan, explaining how Fianna Fáil would “co-operate” with the election result, could still be heard uttering the words “export-led recovery” down a radio mic.