Independent costs FF a third seat in Clare

 

ANALYSIS: A former Fianna Fáil councillor elected as an Independent in Clare has said he will not be answerable to any political party.

Addressing his supporters at Ennis's Colaiste Muire sports hall on Saturday night, Mr James Breen said his victory was an example of what ordinary people could achieve.

After the formal declaration Mr Breen said: "The people have given me a mandate, and I will work for the people of Clare and I will be answerable to no political party."

In a major upset that shocked his former Fianna Fáil party colleagues and cost the party a third seat in Clare, the Kilnamona farmer topped the poll, securing just under 20 per cent of the vote, and was elected on the second count.

Mr Breen who, after serving as a member of Clare County Council since 1985, resigned from Fianna Fáil in January to contest the election, is the first Independent TD in Clare since the election of the Miltown Malbay bone-setter, Thomas Burke, in 1948.

Occasionally known to break into song in the council chamber, Mr Breen told his supporters: "We are now are sending a message to government that you cannot ignore Clare any longer and you must install proper infrastructure in the county."

With his slogan of 'Give Clare A Choice, Make James Breen Your Choice', he lit up the election campaign with an army of volunteers conducting a massive canvass across the county, focusing on the state of Clare's health services and the Government's shelving of the Ennis bypass.

The impact of Mr Breen's first-preference vote of 9,721 reduced Fianna Fáil's representation in Clare from three to two following the defeat of 62-year-old Mr Brendan Daly.

First elected to the Dáil in 1973, Mr Daly held four ministerial portfolios, including Defence, Marine and Social Welfare, and was returned to the Dáil on eight separate occasions.

The new Fine Gael TD, Mr Pat Breen, said that he would work tirelessly for Clare over the next five years.

Mr Breen, who was elected to Clare County Council only in 1999 and was the first new face added to the Fine Gael ticket since 1982, defeated Mr Daly after securing 4,462 transfers from Senator Madeleine Taylor-Quinn in the fifth count.

The two sitting Fianna Fáil TDs, Mr Tony Killeen and Ms Sile de Valera, were elected without reaching the quota.

Speaking afterwards, Mr Killeen said that Mr Breen's candidature had cost Fianna Fáil the third seat. He said: "We face a situation where Fianna Fáil is going back to government with a Fianna Fáil representation of two, and it will be a lot harder for two people to have the same influence as three."

Overall, the Fianna Fáil vote in Clare was down 5 per cent on the 1997 general election result, thanks largely to the "Breen factor".

Mr Brendan Daly was not the only casualty in Clare, with the election signalling the end of the 20-year Dáil career of the 64-year-old Fine Gael TD, Mr Donal Carey, who was eliminated after the third count after securing the smallest number of votes polled by the three Fine Gael candidates.