Dermot Cantillon has ‘no regrets’ about Seanad bid

Chairman of Naas racecourse failed to be elected

Naas Racecourse chairman Dermot Cantillon came up short in his attempts to get into the Seanad. Photo: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Naas Racecourse chairman Dermot Cantillon came up short in his attempts to get into the Seanad. Photo: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

 

One of Irish racing’s most high-profile administrative figures has said he is disappointed at not being elected to the Seanad but has “no regrets” about trying to trying to get into the upper house of the Oireachtas.

Dermot Cantillon, the current chairman of Naas racecourse, and a former board member of Horse Racing Ireland, tried to secure one of 11 seats selected by the agricultural vocational panel last week.

He ran as an independent concerned about the outlook for rural Ireland in general but also to try and represent the thoroughbred industry within the Oireachtas.

Cantillon failed to be elected after securing 27 first preference votes from a panel consisting of country and city councillors, TD’s and outgoing senators. He survived until the eighth count when he was eliminated on 30 votes.

Cantillon, who owns and runs Tinnakill House Stud in Co Laois alongside his wife, Meta Osborne, the current vice-chairperson of HRI, described his first political venture as “both frustrating and enlightening.”

He said he may try to run for the Seanad again but only if the electoral system to it is reformed.

“Before I did this I studied the 2013 referendum and all the reports, including the McDowell report, and there’s nearly unanimity as to what should happen.

“It (election to the Seanad) should be more democratic, less elitist and should have a more broad voice. But that broad voice is only there to a limited degree,” he said on Sunday.

“As an independent with little back up and no party, you’re depending on crumbs really so I found that difficult.

“There are a lot of independents there but those people have developed relationships over time.

“I don’t think there was anybody in this election who came in as a first time candidate without being a country councillor, an existing senator or a TD.

“I probably knew all that at the start but I was hoping to break the mould.

“If I got the promises I was promised I might have had a chance. But people say two days out, you take every promise and divide them by half. Then the night before you divide by half again. So basically I was left with 25 per cent!” Cantillon added.

Despite that he said another 13 votes might have got him ahead of some rivals, and gained him momentum, but 27 first preferences represented a respectable tally for a first time candidate with a non-party background.

“Respectability was not what I was looking for - I was looking to be elected,” he said before expressing disappointment at how he was unable to contact city councillors in Dublin during the campaign.

“I was very disappointed in urban councillors in Dublin. You have to make your pitch but it was nearly impossible.

“They wouldn’t answer their phone, they wouldn’t answer e-mail, it was impossible to make an appointment to see them on a person to person basis. And of course I got stalled with the coronavirus situation and couldn’t visit anybody.

“As a person going for the first time, that people didn’t know, it was more important for me to meet people. An existing TD, Senator or councillor would be known,” Cantillon said.

He added: “For an independent, never in politics before, it’s very difficult. There was the referendum in 2013 and everyone came away saying the abolition of the senate wasn’t going to happen and everyone was on for reform but nothing has happened.

“It was established for people outside politics to come in and it was designed so they might have a chance of getting elected. But really the more I went into it the more difficult it seemed.”

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