Dublin South West: ‘Change-mode’ confuses Rabbitte (SBP – 27th May 2007)

My article as part of the Sunday Business Post‘s Election 2007 coverage:

It was over before it began in Dublin South West, with outgoing Sinn Fein TD Sean Crowe conceding defeat before the first count.

In a result that reflected the national trend, Sinn Fe¤ in bore the brunt of the Fine Gael jump, rather than Fianna Fail as expected.

‘‘We were out of the loop in relation to auction politics and I think that’s a good thing,” said Crowe, referring to the decision by Sinn Fe¤ in not to offer tax-cuts as part of its manifesto.

‘‘Maybe some of our own supporters didn’t relish the thought of us going into government with Fianna Fail.”

Crowe’s exit this election makes it the second time that the constituency’s outgoing poll topper crashed out in the proceeding election.

Labour leader Pat Rabbitte managed to increase his personal vote by 2,000, although the reduction of the Labour ticket from two in 2002 to one this year meant the overall vote percentage for the party remained static.

Despite his own improved performance, Rabbitte was in a sombre mood in light of the party’s poor polling nationally.

‘‘It’s been an extraordinary election and it’s an extraordinary result for Fianna Fail,” he said. ‘‘The Irish people seemed to be in change-mode until the last week of the campaign, when they changed their minds. I’m not sure why.”

Rabbitte said despite the lacklustre result for the party, any question over his leadership ‘‘doesn’t arise’’ and it would take much analysis to decipher why the Irish electorate voted as they did. Former junior minister Conor Lenihan topped the poll and said it was a fantastic result for the party who had feared the loss of one of their TDs.

‘‘We were really pinned to our collar to bring back two seats here and, to be honest, we expected that Brian Hayes would knock out one of our two seats,” he said. ‘‘We had a very careful vote management strategy and that really paid off for us.”

Eighty per cent of Lenihan’s surplus went to running-mate Charlie O’Connor, who was all but guaranteed re-election after the first count but was forced to wait for five further counts until it was formally confirmed.

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