Galway West’s Catherine Connolly says Labour has ‘lost its soul’

Independent one of two women elected beside Éamon Ó Cuív, Seán Kyne and Noel Grealish

Newly elected Independent TD for Galway West Catherine Connolly has said she will not return to the Labour Party which she quit a decade ago, and says she believes Labour "lost its soul" and has "left a vacuum in Opposition".

She says she believes Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil should "stop the nonsense" and form a government and put an end to Civil War politics.

“I think it would be very helpful to healthy debate that we would have a left and a right [in the Dáil],”she said.

Cllr Connolly, who is one of two Independents and two women returned to the five seater, was deemed elected on the 14th count without reaching the quota.


Both she and Fine Gael's Hildegarde Naughton are the first women returned to the constituency since former Fianna Fáil minister for justice and European Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn held a seat.

Commenting on the loss of the Labour seat first secured by President Michael D Higgins in Galway, Ms Connolly said the party she was formerly a member of had "failed to see the writing on the wall".

“It was clear that there was a disconnect between the people of Galway and the message coming from Government,”she said. She felt the Government parties “sold their soul to professional companies and public relations advisers, rather than listening to people”.

Cllr Connolly, who narrowly lost the last seat in 2011 by 17 votes, paid tribute to the "revolutionary" voters who returned "the first independent woman" to Galway West.

“I am sick and tired of being told Independents can’t make a difference, and it is an insult to those who elected to us to say that,” Ms Connolly said.

She said if Fianna Fáil was to have a Damascene conversion to improved health services and adequate housing, she might consider working with them, but she could not see that happening.

It was “not inevitable” to have a health or housing crisis, and both were unacceptable, she said.

An integrated public transport system was part of this, she said. Cllr Connolly is a committed cyclist and left the count centre last night on her bicycle.

Too early

Ms Naughton was also returned on the 14th count without reaching the quota, said it was far too early to talk of possible coalition configurations.

She played down claims that her running mates, Seán Kyne, who retained his seat, and John O’Mahony, who lost his, were not fully supportive of her during the campaign.

She said she did not run on the gender quota, although she was committed to it, and believed she had been elected on her work ethic.

“I wouldn’t have been a great advocate for the gender quota but I think we needed it . . . we needed a jump start,”she said, welcoming the number of women elected.

She said she was committed to issues such as investment, job creation and improved health services, and a better share of investment for the west of Ireland. She said she would like to see consultants lead a move to beginning a phased shift of University Hospital Galway to Merlin Park.

Three outgoing TDs held their seats in the keenly fought Galway West constituency – Fianna Fáil's Éamon Ó Cuív, Independent Noel Grealish and Fine Gael's Mr Kyne.

Mr Ó Cuív was one of the first to congratulate Mr Grealish, who is a former Progressive Democrat chairman and the party’s last leader before the party was disbanded in2009.

Mr Ó Cuív had identified Mr Grealish as one of a number of Independents from “gene pool Fianna Fáíl” that the party could do business with in trying to form a new government.

Sinn Féin senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh lost out on the final seat, with more than 1,000 votes separating him and Ms Naughton.

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins is the former western and marine correspondent of The Irish Times