Lenihan says 'tide was out' for FF


A member of one of Ireland’s most famous political dynasties admitted the "tide was out" for Fianna Fáil after losing his  Dáil seat.

Conor Lenihan, son of a former tánaiste and brother of the outgoing minister for finance, served as minister of state for science and for integration in the last government. His support collapsed from topping the poll in Dublin South West in 2007 to conceding defeat by lunchtime yesterday.

“Clearly the tide was out for Fianna Fáil in Dublin and nationally," he said. "Some 15 per cent nationally is not a party that is going places in terms of forming a government, or maintaining seats in a constituency like this - so really, whether I ended up in Dublin South or here, I decided to stay here with the people I know and love best and the people I have worked for, for 14 years. It didn’t work out this time.”

He was embroiled in controversy in May 2005, when off-microphone he told deputy Joe Higgins that he should “stick to the kebabs”, a reference to Turkish workers aided by Mr Higgins.

His brother Brian Lenihan, (51) is the only member of Fianna Fáil to win a seat in Dublin but his aunt Mary O’Rourke was another casualty in a night of bitter disappointment for Fianna Fáil.

The fall of the Tánaiste signalled not only the demise of a government but also the end of a Fianna Fáil political dynasty.

Mary Coughlan, (45) from  Donegal South West became the youngest member of the Dáil when first elected aged 21, following in the footsteps of her father Cathal and uncle Clement Coughlan, who both served as members of the Dáil.

She rose rapidly through the ranks and in 2002 she was appointed minister for social and family affairs and as minister for education before the election. Today she was declining to comment as she contemplated life out of office.

Another big family name will be absent from the 31st Dáil is that of Ahern. Former taoiseach Bertie Ahern did not stand, and neither did his brother, former junior minister Noel.

Another well-known Fianna Fáil casualty was Mary Hanafin (51), a former minister for tourism and minister for enterprise. She lost the battle for the fourth and last seat in her Dún Laoghaire constituency to People Before Profit candidate Richard Boyd-Barrett. Her father Des was a well-known businessman and party councillor who later served as a senator at various times from 1969 until 2002.

Her brother John is also involved in national politics and, like his father, has been a member of Seanad since 2002.

More successful was Michael Healy Rae in Kerry South who took his father Jackie’s seat. Mr Healy Rae Snr defended the area’s traditions. “I don’t care what they call us, we eat our dinner in the middle of the day every time,” he said. “I am proud of what I have done and I make no apology to anybody.”

The fall of Seán Haughey in Dublin North Central, Minister for Lifelong Learning, also signalled the end of one of Ireland’s most powerful dynasties and 54 years of a family member in the Dáil.

His failure to be returned brings an end to the Haughey line, which dates back to 1957, and the Lemass line, which dates back to November 1924.

“I have been elected to the Dáil on four separate occasions, on this occasion they decided not to elect me to the Dáil," he said.  “We have let the core Fianna Fáil vote down, we have had a very difficult few years, mistakes were made. The people have spoken, they have spoken very clearly, we need to assess what they have said, we need to take it from here and listen to what they have said.”

Also linked to the arms trial was an ancestor of Niall Blaney (37) who announced last month he would not be contesting the election in Donegal North East. His grandfather Neal, uncle Neil and father Harry all preceded him as TD.

Neil Blaney spearheaded “aid” efforts for Northern Irish nationalists at the start of the conflict but was later sacked from the Cabinet over the arms crisis surrounding the alleged importation of arms for IRA use.

Now Fianna Fáil faces its own modern crisis which has torn dynasties apart and could take years to emerge from.