Fianna Fáil TD Declan Breathnach admits he would want nothing to do with forming a government with Sinn Féin whilst also conceding that decision may be taken out of his hands as he faces a battle to the last for the final few seats in the Louth constituency.
At the end of play on Sunday evening, after the fourth count, Breathnach was seventh in the polls with 5,975 – leaving him 285 behind the Green Party’s Mark Dearey and 759 short of Peter Fitzpatrick who occupied the fifth and finals seat.
His poor showing surprised many with the party in real danger now of not holding a seat in the next Dáil Éireann. His running mate James Byrne, of Drogheda, received 3,911 first preference votes and his transfers are yet to be distributed.
Speaking to LouthNow.ie, Breathnach said he knew all too well the precarious position he is in,”I hope I can retain my seat. I wouldn’t say I’m overly confident but one wish would be that whoever takes the five seats here that they will work as hard, as diligently and as cohesively as I have to deliver what’s best for this region in the Dáil.
“It’s not over till the final ballots are fully assessed. I hope I’m in the shake up for the second last or last seat. The closeness of Ged Nash, Mark Dearey, Peter Fitzpatrick and I for three seats that are left – I would suspect that three of the candidates within that grouping will probably be elected without reaching the quota.”
The quota is 11,778. It seems highly unlikely that all those remaining candidates will reach that. Fine Gael TD Fergus O’Dowd could be added to the above list too.
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“I have to compliment my election team, the canvassers and the posterers, the people that ran what I would call a massive campaign. We were at every door in the area that was allocated to me and I understand the same was the case for my running mate James Byrne. We solicited every vote we could get.
“We certainly didn’t get a message of this degree of change and I think what has happened here in Louth is reflective of what has happened across the country,” he continued. “But whoever the victors are, there is a need for them to not wait for 72 days of people sitting on their hands – the people who are now in the pivotal, pole position, Sinn Féin, it is up to them to make the moves for how government will be formed.”
Breathnach says he would not want to be part of any Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin government. Micheal Martin has previously said similar, but wasn’t as committal on Sunday.
“On a personal basis, I have said and will continue to say they are not ready for government,” he told us. “My strong opinion, as it has been before today’s result and still exists, is that I would not be doing business with them.
“Ultimately my party leader has said the same. I understand Jim O’Callaghan has come out this evening (Sunday) saying the same. We have got to be true to some principle. I have raised the issue of the Special Criminal Courts, I have raised the issue of criminality.
“I believe there are very sincere democrats in every party but I believe there’s a history that can’t just go away particularly in this border region. This may sound arrogant, I can assure you it’s not. If people cannot respect the courts, if people cannot come out and speak on the issue of Paul Quinn and many other issues that are part and parcel of the Sinn Fein organisation and condemn and clearly say we are on the road to democracy, I won’t be dealing with them. Maybe I won’t have to if I don’t take the last seat.”
The TD from Knockbridge, who was first elected in 2016, said his party’s performance in Louth was disappointing especially given how Fianna Fáil had performed in the local elections in 2019, where three candidates emerged victorious in north Louth.
“We were making huge inroads. I have no doubt, and particularly the younger generation who are coming up within the FF organisation are as committed as I was when I was their age and will continue to work regardless of whether we have a TD in the Dail.”