Massive sigh of relief from Fianna Fáil as party triumphs this time out

Sinn Féin in the frame for general election seat after securing 16% of byelection votes

Bobby Aylward (Fianna Fáil), who won the Carlow-Kilkenny byelection, canvassing at Piltown, Co Kilkenny, during the campaign. Photograph: Patrick Browne

Bobby Aylward (Fianna Fáil), who won the Carlow-Kilkenny byelection, canvassing at Piltown, Co Kilkenny, during the campaign. Photograph: Patrick Browne

 

From the moment this byelection in Carlow-Kilkenny was announced, it was described as “Bobby Aylward’s to lose”. Fianna Fáil tried to play down how crucial the contest was for the party, but when Aylward’s victory was announced in the early hours of yesterday morning, the collective sigh of relief from the huge crowd of supporters and politicians there could have been measured on the Beaufort scale.

It was the seventh byelection to have been held since the general election in 2011 and Fianna Fáil had nothing to show for itself until now. Moreover, its performance in opinion polls has been less than stellar and that kind of inertia crept into this byelection campaign.

There were mutterings about a challenge to Micheál Martin should Fianna Fáil not win. Fianna Fáil desperately sought a morale-booster. It came in the shape of this 60-year-old farmer. He was hardly a “renewal” candidate, but he had the Aylward name, his strong farming roots in a rural constituency and an easy personable manner that made up for his lack of debating skills.

His party is strong here. Even in the nadir of 2011, it still got 28 per cent of the vote and won 39 per cent of the vote in local elections in Kilkenny last year (29 per cent in Carlow).

Coalition parties find byelections tough, unless there are special circumstances, such as a TD dying in office. Since its high water line in 2011, the tide has been going out for Fine Gael. David Fitzgerald was an energetic, focused candidate. There will be some internal debate within the party about not choosing former IFA president John Bryan, but it is doubtful if this would have made any difference.

Sinn Féin was the other relative winner. Kathleen Funchion’s 16 per cent vote share puts her in the frame for the general election.

There was a great deal of interest in how Patrick McKee of Renua Ireland would perform. It was the party’s first electoral outing and the young councillor won 9.5 per cent of the vote. It was solid, if not spectacular. There was a degree of disappointment for some in the party who thought it might have a stronger debut. There needs to be realism, though, about the limits of the party’s impact in the short term.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.