Irish Examiner - - Front Page - Cianan Brennan

The rev­e­la­tion by Finian McGrath — In­de­pen­dent TD for Dublin Bay North, Dis­abil­i­ties Min­is­ter, and erst­while mem­ber of the In­de­pen­dent Al­liance — that he would not be seek­ing re-elec­tion put the cat among the pi­geons.

If the first day of cam­paign­ing is any­thing to go by, it is go­ing to be an elec­tion chock full of sur­prises.

We’ve known for months who would not be con­test­ing any fresh vote, with the likes of Michael Noo­nan and Enda Kenny hav­ing made it clear that any fu­ture bat­tles would be con­ducted with­out their re­li­able pres­ence in the trenches, while in Cork North Cen­tral 75% of TDs elected last time out will not be con­test­ing the vote next month.

Within min­utes of Leo Varad­kar in­form­ing his Cabi­net of his in­ten­tion to hold a gen­eral elec­tion on Fe­bru­ary 8, how­ever, an­nounce­ments were drop­ping.

The first big one was a bomb­shell. The rev­e­la­tion by Finian McGrath, In­de­pen­dent TD for Dublin Bay North, dis­abil­i­ties min­is­ter, and erst­while mem­ber of the In­de­pen­dent Al­liance, that he would not be seek­ing re­elec­tion put the cat among the pi­geons.

It leaves an open­ing in one of Dublin’s most hotly con­tested con­stituen­cies for par­ties such as the So­cial Democrats to tar­get. It sees a fourterm TD un­ex­pect­edly refuse his seat, and it surely spells doom for the In­de­pen­dent Al­liance, al­ready mi­nus Kevin ‘Boxer’ Mo­ran for the com­ing con­test.

Just four days ago, Mr McGrath had wel­comed the Cabi­net to his lo­cal haunts to dis­cuss dis­abil­i­ties is­sues.

He him­self had nipped in to se­cure the fi­nal seat on count day four in Dublin Bay North at the last time of ask­ing, emerg­ing vic­to­ri­ous af­ter five min­utes of elec­toral car­nage saw Labour’s Aod­hán Ó Ríordáin pay the price for five years of coali­tion with Fine Gael.

A pop­u­lar fig­ure in the Dáil with a deeply felt de­vo­tion to the rights of peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties, Mr McGrath rep­re­sented the sta­ble side of the In­de­pen­dent Al­liance, con­trasted with his more bom­bas­tic col­leagues Shane Ross and John Hal­li­gan. In sign­ing off from Le­in­ster House, he said his po­lit­i­cal record “shows that I have been rad­i­cal, prag­matic, open, and al­ways will­ing to take re­spon­si­bil­ity to serve my con­stituents”. “I did my best,” he said. Mean­while, sen­a­tor Michael McDow­ell, a for­mer TD and at­tor­ney gen­eral, took the op­por­tu­nity to con­firm that his im­me­di­ate fu­ture lies in the Seanad, not the Dáil, with his com­mit­ment re­main­ing to “re­form” the Up­per House.

But for ev­ery­one rul­ing them­selves out, oth­ers are wait­ing in the wings, in­clud­ing those who lost their seat pre­vi­ously, such as Mr Ó Ríordáin and Joanna Tuffy of Labour, as well as new blood.

Twice-elected MEP Matt Carthy quickly con­firmed he would be seek­ing elec­tion to the Dáil for his home con­stituency of Ca­van/Mon­aghan, in or­der to en­sure that the “legacy” of de­part­ing lo­cal TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin would be main­tained.

In Sligo/Leitrim, for­mer MEP Mar­ian Harkin an­nounced her plan to run for TD, and she made it abun­dantly clear she would be happy to be “at the cen­tre” of any moves to form a govern­ment.

Mean­while, an ex­pected an­nounce­ment may prove to be quite the headache for Fine Gael — Verona Mur­phy, whose can­di­dacy in the re­cent Wex­ford by-elec­tion proved so con­tro­ver­sial, an­nounced her de­ci­sion to run as an in­de­pen­dent, with her views on mi­gra­tion is­sues ap­par­ently stronger than ever. Ex­pect sparks to fly.

Pic­ture: Sam Boal/RollingNew­

Finian McGrath: De­ci­sion not to stand is set to spell doom for the In­de­pen­dent Al­liance.

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