Michael Fitzmaurice wins Roscommon South-Leitrim byelection

Independent candidate defeats Fianna Fáil’s Ivan Connaughton on seventh count

 

Independent candidate Michael Fitzmaurice has beaten Fianna Fáil’s Ivan Connaughton to win the Roscomm-South Leitrim byelection.

Following the surprise defeat for Fianna Fáil, party leader Micheál Martin insisted that he would lead the party into the next general election.

Mr Fitzmaurice, an agricultural contractor who lives outside the constituency, secured the seat on the seventh count with 14,881 votes to Mr Connaughton’s 12,050.

The seat was vacant following the election of Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan, who endorsed Mr Fitzmaurice, to the European Parliament in May.

Mr Fitzmaurice embraced Mr Connaughton, who topped the poll with 7,334 first preference votes, when he arrived at the count centre tonight.

The chairman of the Turf Cutters & Contractors Association, Mr Fitzmaurice was elected to Galway County Council in May and lives in Glinsk Co Galway. He said he would not be bound by invisible boundaries.

He said he had travelled the byways and boreens of Ireland over the past seven or eight years and had met the ordinary people of Ireland, who he believed want the political system changed.

The new TD said he had a vision and waned to be able to look his children in the eye and tell them he had done something. People who were fed up of how politics works could stay at home shouting at the telly “but some of us have to lead the way and get up of our arse and do something,” he said.

Commenting on the outcome, Mr Flanagan said a seed had been planted and “if I were Enda Kenny I would be very worried”.

Mr Connaughton said he was disappointed but he pointed out that party vote had gone up from 15 per cent to 23 per cent which he said was a good omen for the next general election.

He had led the field for the first four counts, but Mr Fitzmaurice surged ahead when the bulk of transfers were counted.

Mr Martin said he did not feel under pressure following the result and would lead his party into the next general election. “There is no question about that”, he told reporters at the count centre in Roscommon.

The party’s performance was not a disappointment given the increase in its vote since the 2011 general election, he said. Asked if Fianna Fáil had under-estimated Mr Fitzmaurice given the widespread perception that this was “Fianna Fail’s seat to lose”, he said the party did not have the seat . “It was Ming’s seat.”

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams pointed out that party candidate Martin Kenny had come in third on first preferences and he quoted the Taoiseach’s comment after the May elections in saying: “Fine Gael and Labour have been walloped”.

Fine Gael’s director of elections and Minister of State Michael Ring insisted he was pleased with the 5,593 first preferences won by party candidate Maura Hopkins who was only elected to Roscommon County Council in May.

“She will not be in the Dáil this evening but she will be in the next Dáil,”he said.

Mr Ring said byelections were notoriously difficult for government candidates.

The first count left Mr Connaughton with a lead of 1,114 over Mr Fitzmaurice (6,220).

Labour candidate Senator John Kelly polled just 2,037 first preferences and was eliminated on the fourth count.

He said the protest vote was an issue but insisted that “in a year and a half people will realise that the Government has done a good job”.