McDowell battles his way back to the Dail

 

ANALYSIS/PDs: Confounding all predictions, the Attorney General and PD president, Mr Michael McDowell, topped the poll in his Dublin South-East constituency.

In an extraordinary resurrection, he received 6,093 first preferences just five years after losing his Dáil seat and declaring that he was leaving politics.

McDowell confessed that even he was surprised at topping the poll. "I wasn't expecting to top the poll. I have to say that honestly, but I knew that we were there or thereabouts," he said.

In a remarkable turn-up, he was elected along with outgoing Green Party TD John Gormley on the fourth count. The two of them had battled it out for the fourth and final seat in the constituency at the last election; then, after one of the longest recounts in the history of the State, McDowell finally conceded defeat, losing to Gormley by just 27 votes.

He attributes his success to hard work by a committed campaign team and to the change of strategy in the final weeks of the campaign in which the PDs urged voters to give them their number ones if they did not want Fianna Fáil to get an overall majority.

If the PDs now coalesce with Fianna Fáil, what will become of the Bertie Bowl? "Policy issues like that have to be decided in the context of any agreement for government and I'm not going to start negotiating now," he said.

McDowell, who is a grandson of Eoin MacNeill, was also criticised during the campaign for an attack on Sinn Féin in which he said: "They are willing on a quiet basis to celebrate their paramilitary links, but when they are asked by members of two democratic bodies which they claim to respect - the US Congress and the Oireachtas - to come before them to discuss their activities in Colombia, they point-blank refuse."

Fine Gael, of which he was a member before joining the PDs, called on him to resign over the comments, but McDowell believes that people in his constituency listened to him. After all, he had been trailing the Sinn Féin candidate, Daithí Doolan, in the IMS/RTÉ poll. In the end, Doolan was eliminated after the third count. The other seats went to Fianna Fáil's Eoin Ryan and to the Labour leader, Ruairí Quinn, who was elected without reaching the quota, pushing out the sitting Fine Gael TD, Frances Fitzgerald.