Tense times in the Quinn house


ANALYSIS: Ruairí Quinn's family are used to nailbiting counts, so his son, Malachi, was not surprised to get an 11 a.m. phone call saying his father seemed in a bit of trouble.

Malachi phoned his father, who sounded "a bit fragile" and made arrangements for the family's traditional count day lunch.

"Everyone usually tells stories to distract him. We don't talk politics. With the tally numbers coming in it is a very stressful time," he said.

Normally Quinn spends the afternoon alone at the cinema, but tickets for the new Star Wars film were all sold out, so he went back with Malachi to his house in Sandymount.

"Myself and himself got into the gardening gear and weeded his potato patch for two hours in glorious sunshine," Malachi said, adding that when the Labour leader is stressed he likes to keep active.

"He is extremely good with his hands and when we were children he made us tree-houses and a double-decker bus and even a spaceship," he said.

With the radio on in the background there were moments of tension in the garden. "Basically it is just a matter of being there for him. It is nearly like a role reversal of the parent-child relationship. You don't fuss or smother because that will just make him agitated," he said.

Later they were joined by his seven-year-old brother, Conan, and they watched Harry Potter on video. "Conan was asking me what Dad could do if he lost his job. I told him that he could probably become a toymaker," he said.

Reports from the count centre became more positive as the day wore on. "We became more hopeful that he would be safe," Malachi said, and a few hours later his Dad, who had been elected without reaching the quota, was joyfully kissing his son in the full glare of the TV cameras.

Malachi said he felt empathy for Frances Fitzgerald's children when she lost her seat on Saturday. "I know how that feels. I was 10 when Dad lost his seat in June of 1981. It was a very hard time. This is Dad's life and his vocation. It's everything he believes in," he said.