Result beyond worst fears - Noonan


NEWS: The Fine Gael leader, Mr Michael Noonan, has acknowledged that the election was "a very bad day for FG".

He added: "It was beyond our expectations and beyond our worst fears. It's been a seriously bad election result for our party."

Mr Noonan was speaking to Charlie Bird on RTE television on Saturday night.

Announcing his intention to resign as Fine Gael leader, Mr Noonan said: "Yes, I'm going to resign. I know that the party will need time to reflect on who they want to select as the new leader.

" I think the party may consider it appropriate that the leader would be elected by both TDs and senators, so they may wish to wait until after the Seanad election.

"I'm entirely at their disposal if they want me to act in a caretaker capacity for some weeks until the Seanad elections are over. I will do that, but if they'd like me to resign earlier I will do that also."

Mr Noonan said he had fought a very strong campaign since he became party leader. "I have given it my best but when you're the leader of the party you have to accept responsibility for the results on election day.

"I took over the party when there was an expectation of very serious seat losses. A lot of people pledged their faith in me to reverse the decline. I didn't reverse the decline so I accept the responsibility."

Asked if he intended to stay on in politics, he said: "The people of Limerick gave me a very fine vote indeed . . .

"The Taoiseach, who must be congratulated on his great success, is somebody who I believe will form a government with the intention of lasting for another five years. So those of us who have been re-elected have a constituency job to do, but I don't see that I'm tenable as a leader of the party after such a bad result."

Asked what had gone wrong, he said, "The actual movement of votes was that a number of Fine Gael people, a number of traditional Fine Gael voters, were happy with the Government and they voted for either Fianna Fáil or the PDs."

Mr Noonan said he took "absolute responsibility" for the result. "I had very good staff, very good advisers, an excellent director of elections. The responsibility is mine and mine alone".

Mr Noonan spent yesterday evening at home with his wife. When contacted by The Irish Times, he refused to be drawn on the statement he made on television.