Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

16.39 9 Jul 2021


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Fianna Fáil's Jim O'Callaghan says he "doesn't have answers today" about why his party performed poorly in this week's Dublin Bay South by-election.

He also says the party will need to think about whether Micheál Martin leads it into the next general election - currently set for 2024 or 2025.

In the by-election, Labour’s Ivana Bacik has topped the first count with over 30% of the vote and is now projected to win a seat in the Dáil.

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Fianna Fáil candidate Deirdre Conroy picked up just 4.6% of the first preference votes, leaving her in fifth place behind Labour, Fine Gael, Sinn Féin and the Greens.

Jim O’Callaghan is Fianna Fáil’s current TD in the constituency, having won around 14% of first preference votes in last year’s general election.

Speaking outside the county centre, Deputy O’Callaghan said he’d lose his seat if he won just 5% of the vote in the next election.

He said: “Deirdre participated very well, and I commend her for that.

“The result today for Fianna Fáil was extremely disappointing. I’m conscious we didn’t meet 5% - I’m very disappointed with that, I know Deirdre is disappointed with that, and I spoke to the Taoiseach and he’s also disappointed.

“I don’t have answers for you today to explain why it is Fianna Fáil’s vote declined from 14% in the last general election down to under 5% today.”

However, he said the results are “regrettably consistent” with recent opinion polls showing declines in Fianna Fáil support.

He suggested: “Part of the explanation I suspect for Fianna Fáil’s poor performance was that many people who wanted to vote for a centre-ground, centre-left party decided to get behind Ivana Bacik.”

He added that it appears people voted for Labour over Fianna Fáil and the Greens.

Deputy O'Callaghan conceded it's not a good result for his party, and they now need to reflect on it.

He said he “accepts his share of responsibility” for the poor performance as the director of elections for the campaign, but he’s not “exclusively responsible” for the party’s decline.

He said Fianna Fáil needs to make progress on housing issue by the time of the next general election, or his party will be facing similar results - arguing that a more “radical” approach is needed.

The results will shine a spotlight on Micheál Martin's leadership of the party - but Deputy O'Callaghan doesn’t believe a change in leadership is needed as a result of this election

Asked if Mr Martin should lead the party into the next general election, the Dublin Bay South TD said: “We have to think about that.”

However, he said any leader who indicates a date of departure “weakens themselves” - so he fully understands why the Taoiseach would say he intends to lead the party into the next election.

Meanwhile, Labour leader Alan Kelly says Ivana Bacik has been a member of the party for "all her adult life and hopefully today is going to be her day".

Main image: Fianna Fáil's Jim O'Callaghan and by-election candidate Deirdre Conroy outside the RDS count centre. Photograph: Leah Farrell / RollingNews.ie

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