Four newly elected TDs welcomed by Taoiseach
‘I do hope your stay will not be a short one,’ says Varadkar as parties eye general election
The Leas Ceann-Chomairle, speaking in Irish, said the TDs should never forget the great honour bestowed upon them. File photograph: The Irish Times
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar welcomed the four newly elected TDs to the Dáil and said they were arriving 3½ years into the Dáil. “I do hope your stay will not be a short one,” he said as as other party leaders warned of the challenge ahead and highlighted record low turnouts in the byelections.
Fianna Fáil TDs Malcolm Byrne for Wexford and Pádraig O’Sullivan for Dublin North-Central; Sinn Féin TD for Dublin Mid-West and Green Party TD for Dublin Fingal Joe O’Brien were formally introduced to the Dáil and took their seats with their respective parties. Clerk of the Dáil Peter Finnegan announced that each of the TDs had been elected in the byelections to succeed four TDs elected to the European Parliament. Party whips for each of the winning TDs and chief usher Colm O’Rourke led the TDs down the steps to the chamber floor where they shook hands with the Taoiseach and party leaders of other parties.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said a TD’s first day at Leinster House will always be a memorable occasion. Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said Mr Ward was a “very welcome addition to the Sinn Féin team” but she warned that the “battle is now on” to change politics in Ireland and said “the message has come back loud and clear that the Government and Fianna Fáil are failing people”. Labour leader Brendan Howlin welcomed the “newly minted” TDs to the House and said “it is an extraordinary privilege to be in this place” and to be elected by the people.
Welcoming the new TDs to the Dáil People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said they were “brave” to put their names on the ballot paper and to “stick your head above the parapet”. But he said what would be of most concern was the “abysmally low turnout” just months before a general election. Dublin Fingal had a record low byelection turnout of 25.6 per cent but the highest in Wexford was just over 35 per cent. He said there was a “sense of disengagement and disillusionment” on the doorstep and he warned that “we have a job to prove ourselves as relevant”.
Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said they had to work to restore confidence and the numbers voting which was central to what they were doing. Independent TD Maureen O’Sullivan said it was not to take away from the four TDs to note that the gender figures had been skewed again as there were two fewer females in the Dáil.
Rural Independents Group TD Mattie McGrath welcomed the four TDs and praised everyone who stood in the four byelections. He also said he was concerned about the poor turnout.
Social Democrat TD Catherine Murphy – who had been first elected in a byelection – said the four TDs were coming into the Dáil at the tail end of a Government which might last weeks or months.
Leas Ceann-Chomairle Pat the Cope Gallagher, speaking in Irish, said the TDs should never forget the great honour bestowed upon them.