Labour TD Ged Nash says that winning back his seat in Louth has prevented what could have been an “existential threat to the future of the party.
The Drogheda man, who lost his seat in 2016 amidst Labour’s worst election performance in its history, claimed the third seat in the constituency on Monday afternoon, a finish even he admits took him by surprise. But, given Labour’s strong performance in the the local elections nine months ago, Nash felt the party were well poised to reclaim the seat.
Labour ended the day with six TDs returned to the Dáil Éireann, with Joan Burton the high profile casualty.
Speaking to LouthNow.ie after his re-election, Nash said Louth was an important marker to lay down going forward. “It was very important for the future of the party. If we didn’t win Louth back, there was an existential threat to the future of the party,” he said.
“We have a strong tradition here going back to the creation of the state. We wanted to continue that tradition. We believe people need a Labour party voice here, a strong centre left voice, someone to stand up for working people.”
Last year, Michelle Hall strengthened the Labour presence in Drogheda with her election to Drogheda Borough Council alongside Mayor Paul Bell and Pio Smith while former USI leader Annie Hoey was elected to Meath County Council.
“That was an important turning point when people started to look again critically at Louth and think a win here was more probable than possible,” Deputy Nash, who has spent the last four years in Seanad Éireann said. “We got a sense last May that it could happen for us. I am particularly proud that it happened for us against the backdrop of a massive Sinn Féin result here in Louth.
“We’ve always put the country first, as we did in 2011 and 2016. We suffered because of it. I would do it again, it was an important thing to do.
“I’m very proud of the work I did in the latter part of that government as a minister, creating our plan for full employment, pioneering work around how we set the minimum wage which has seen five successive increases and work around the abolition of zero hours contracts,” he continued.
Much of the discourse around the general election in Louth in the lead up to the weekend had centered on how the five seats would be split geographically. In 2016, the numerical advantage, so to speak, had gone to the north of the county with Gerry Adams, Peter Fitzpatrick and Declan Breathnach elected. Imelda Munster and Fergus O’Dowd are both Drogheda based.
Now, alongside O’Dowd and Munster, Nash will be serving as a third TD based in south Louth. While quick to point out he has been elected to represent the entire constituency of Louth and east Meath – citing healthy polling in mid-Louth and in Dundalk too, Nash said the bulk of his vote was in Drogheda and that the town had particular issues to address.
“I want to thank the people of Louth – from Hackballscross right down to Mosney in east Meath for the support they’ve given us,” he said. Nash added that his numbers outside of Drogheda gave him “something to build on in the future.
“We didn’t win this seat in the last four weeks. We won it in the last four years through sheer hard work, by sticking to a plan. We targeted a certain number of votes. We pretty much got what he expected was needed to be competitive but not in my wildest dreams did I go into the polls on Saturday thinking we would win the third seat.
“There’s a real demand for people that poltical parties should work together in the interest of the town,” he added. “I have always tried to reach out beyond my own comfort zone to ensure that that happens. Others, haven’t reciprocated over time. Given what is happening in Drogheda and the message we have been sent, there is an onus and responsibility now for all us to work together.
“I am a TD for Louth and east Meath, for all of it – not just my hometown in Drogheda.”
Addressing the crowd alongside three of the other candidates and an emotional Declan Breathnach (Nash consoled the Knockbridge native with a hug), the Labour TD spoke of how the last four years had provided him with some “dark times.” He also spoke candidly about the death of his father-in-law, Joe.
He was joined on Monday, at a celebratory moment, by his wife Marian, motheri-in-law Peggy and parents Jimmy and Elizabeth as well as nieces, nephews and friends including former Labour colleague Dominic Hannigan.
“We’ve had some dark times in the last four years. The election, almost four years ago in late February, was a particularly dark point. Seats come and go, that’s the nature of politics, the swings and roundabouts of it. But that very week, I lost my father in law. That’s the thing that hurt the most. It was a difficult time.”
The election, almost four years ago in late February, was a particularly dark point. Seats come and go, that’s the nature of politics, the swings and roundabouts of it. But that very week, I lost my father in law. That’s the thing that hurt the most. It was a difficult time.
/ NASH ON A POSSIBLE LABOUR LEADERSHIP BID
Speaking to LouthNow.ie on Sunday, Deputy Nash said this:
“Not for the first time I’ve said, at some point in the future I would like to be considered as a leader of the party. It’s going to be up to myself and colleagues over the next days over what the future holds.
“That’s a discussion in terms of the leadership and where that goes. That’s a discussion we’re all going to have internally as friends, as comrades and as family.
“I think Brendan deserves the time and respect to be allowed to make a decision himself. Nobody is going to put him under any pressure on this, he deserves more than that. We’ll see what happens over the next period of time.”