Independent newcomers prove once again that all politics is local

 

ANALYSIS/New Independent TDs: The next Dáil will have several Independent TDs, of whom the following will be new to the Dáil:

Neil Blaney

Donegal North East

Mr Blaney succeeds his father, Mr Harry Blaney, who has retired from the Dáil. He is a nephew of Mr Neil Blaney, the former Fianna Fáil minister who split with the party in the aftermath of the 1970 arms crisis and subsequently sat in the Dáil and the European Parliament as an Independent Fianna Fáil member.

The new TD may be wooed by Fianna Fáil, but he is unlikely to take the party whip. Given that Fianna Fáil has the other two seats in the constituency, taking the whip would mean the party having all the seats in Donegal North East, an untenable position in the long-term.

James Breen

Clare

Another Independent whose return to the fold would restore Fianna Fáil's representation in Clare to three deputies. However, after his election, Mr Breen insisted that he would remain as an Independent.

Mr Breen had failed to get a Fianna Fáil nomination and announced last January, after much local speculation that he intended running as an Independent.

A farmer, he has been a member of Clare County Council for 16 years. One of his campaign issues was the upgrading of Ennis General Hospital to an acute medical and surgical hospital. He is likely to find common ground with the candidates elected on health issues, as well as with Mr McHugh and Mr Jackie Healy-Rae, who ran as Independents after failing to get Fianna Fáil nominations.

Paudge Connolly

Cavan-Monaghan

The lack of facilities in the hospital in Monaghan town emerged as a major election issue in the constituency. The speculation was that it would put pressure on the outgoing Fianna Fáil TDs, but voters decided to elect Mr Connolly at the expense of Fine Gael.

Mr Connolly, a psychiatric nurse, ran exclusively on the hospital issue. As chairman of Castleblayney town council, he was not without experience of public life. His first involvement in politics was through the campaign to conserve Lough Muckno.

He said that he had been asked to stand by consultants and GPs in Monaghan town. He claims the hospital has been losing services since the early 1970s.

Dr Jerry Cowley

Mayo

A Mulranny-based family doctor, he is well known for his work on behalf of the elderly and Irish emigrants in Britain.

From early in the campaign, he was seen as a strong candidate and likely to take a seat at the expense of Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael.

He has spearheaded a campaign for emergency helicopters to move trauma patients speedily to hospital.

His "Safe Home" programme has assisted 30 long-term emigrants to return to Ireland and has a waiting list of over 350.

He is also recognised for his work in taking elderly people out of institutional care.

Dr Cowley is chairman of the National Federation of Group Water Schemes.

Marian Harkin

Sligo-Leitrim

The election of the Sligo schoolteacher was widely predicted. After an impressive performance in the 1999 European elections, Ms Harkin set her sights on a Dáil seat, and during the campaign it emerged that Fine Gael's Gerry Reynolds was most vulnerable to her challenge. A long-time champion of western development, she is likely to be vocal on the issue in the Dáil.

Finian McGrath

Dublin North Central

The only candidate running under the banner of the Independents Health Alliance to be elected, he was a formidable candidate in his own right.

Even before he joined the alliance, he was regarded as a strong favourite to take the seat of Labour's Mr Derek McDowell.

Ideologically, his sympathies would be left-wing, and he is likely to find common ground with the other health-issue TDs, as well as Mr Tony Gregory, Mr Seamus Healy and Mr Joe Higgins of the Socialist Party, who sits on the Independent benches.

A teacher, he contested the 1997 election, securing 1,551 first preferences. He continued to painstakingly cultivate the constituency and was elected to Dublin City Council in 1999.

Although running as an Independents' Health Alliance candidate, he campaigned across a wide range of social issues.

Paddy McHugh

Galway East

Mr McHugh, an architect, had hoped for a Fianna Fáil nomination and decided to run as an Independent when he failed to get it.

Although he will begin life in the Dáil as an Independent, he may well be reunited with his old party in the fullness of time.

Fianna Fáil had targeted Galway East for a gain and, should Mr McHugh rejoin the fold, his success will have that effect.

Kathy Sinnott

Cork South Central

Ms Sinnott's win was last night conditional on the outcome of the recount taking place in the constituency. She was already a national figure when she announced that she would run as an Independent candidate, having won a landmark judgment against the State relating to her handicapped son, Jamie, in October 2000.

Few gave her a chance of winning a seat, believing that Dan Boyle, of the Green Party, had the best chance of being the new face in the Dáil from the constituency. As it happened, both took seats.

She said she was persuaded to run after the publication of the Education for Persons With Disabilities Bill, declaring that it was the "last straw" and that somebody had to get inside the decision-making process.

Dr Liam Twomey

Wexford

He was a surprise winner - few commentators had given him a chance of a seat. As most interest centred on the possibility of Fianna Fáil taking one of the two Fine Gael seats, Dr Twomey launched an effective campaign which led to Fine Gael being wiped out in the county.

A Rosslare-based GP, he contested the election to highlight the deficiencies in the health service.

The issues he raised included access to medical cards for the less well off, the lack of a radiotherapy unit for cancer patients in the south-east and the levels of services at Wexford general hospital.

Four other Independents, who were members of the outgoing Dail, have been returned. They are:

Michael Lowry

Tipperary North

The re-election of the former Fine Gael minister was seen as a foregone conclusion. He has a powerful local base centred on Thurles, and his involvement in fundraising for Semple Stadium in the town is still a strong vote-winner.

He has a reputation as one of the most assiduous constituency workers in the Oireachtas.

Jackie Healy-Rae

Kerry South

Despite being put under pressure by Fianna Fáil, Mr Healy-Rae held his seat, although much less comfortably than he anticipated. He was one of the Independent TDs who was a reliable supporter of the outgoing government.

Tony Gregory

Dublin Central

Mr Gregory held his seat in this highly competitive constituency, which includes the Taoiseach, Mr Ahern. Mr Gregory is one of the longest-serving Independent members. He keeps a low profile in the Dáil, but is a hard-working constituency TD.

Seamus Healy

Tipperary South

A left-wing activist from Clonmel, Mr Healy won his seat in one of the last Dáil's most keenly contested by-elections.

• Ms Mildred Fox (Wicklow) was last night still hoping to be elected in Wicklow, where the count was continuing.

She succeeded her father, Mr Johnny Fox, as a TD for Wicklow in the by-election following his death.