The Green Party is celebrating its first ever by-election victory in Dublin-Fingal after Joe O’Brien secured the seat vacated by Clare Daly after the eighth count.
Mr O’Brien, a Skerries-based councillor, fended off the challenge of Fianna Fail’s Lorraine Clifford-Lee who finished in second place and Labour’s Duncan Smith who finished in third position.
Mr O’Brien was formally elected with 12,315 votes having topped the poll and led the field from the front all the way through.
At 26%, this was the lowest turnout for a byelection ever.
DUBLIN FINGAL FINAL COUNT
O’BRIEN ELECTED#iestaff pic.twitter.com/JKSalGsxKF
— McConnellDaniel (@McConnellDaniel) November 30, 2019
Speaking to reporters after his victory, Mr O’Brien said he was humbled and honoured to have been elected but said it was the result of more than seven years effort.
Responding to his election, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan could not contain his delight.
“We’re thrilled. I mean, this is going to be the first time we have won in a byelection. Joe was a really good candidate,” he told the Irish Examiner.
Conceding defeat, Fine Gael’s James Reilly described Verona Murphy’s comments about migrants as “very hurtful” and said he rejected them totally.
Speaking on his arrival at the Fingal count centre, Dr Reilly expressed his disappointment at his failure to get elected in the Dublin-Fingal by-election.
He said by-elections are “notoriously difficult” for governments to win and said the low turnout impacted on his result.
“Well it is a disappointing outcome obviously. But with a very low turn out, yeah, I am disappointed,” he said.
The former health minister and deputy leader of Fine Gael rejected claims he was “past it” and should have made room for a younger candidate. “I have plenty of energy left, I am interested in the future, I am not bothered about the past. I am the candidate selected,” he said making clear his intention of standing for the party in the upcoming General Election.
He said the Dara Murphy controversy over his continued absence from the Dail did not impact his vote, but did say the comments about migrants by Verona Murphy “did come up on the doors.”
“It certainly did come up. Some of my constituents, a very nice Nigerian couple who are Irish citizens raised it with me. I have a multi-racial practice, my extended family is multi-racial too. So it is very hurtful for people who have just come to the country, who want to contribute who find it difficult enough without being marked out. So I reject all that,” he said.
Fianna Fail’s Housing spokesman Darragh O’Brien had conceded defeat to the Green Party earlier in the day.
Speaking to the Irish Examiner at the count centre, Mr O’Brien said while his colleague Senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee has “performed very credibly” there has been a “sizeable move toward the Green Party.”
Mr O’Brien said the low turnout, which could end up being a record low turnout, is a concern for all parties.
“It’s been a very decent performance. Turnout is very low obviously that’s something that all of all parties have to reflect upon. Lorraine has polled well and should come in, looks like second on about 18%, so that’s a very credible performance,” he said.
“Obviously, you know, we go into every election campaign to try to win it. But there has been a sizable move towards the Greens and Cllr Joe O’Brien, their candidate. So you know, I’ve I’ve been that soldier I’ve won seats I’ve lost seat, I’ve won it back,” he added.
“It’s not easy day for you know, for the candidate, there will be disappointment, but there will be other days as well. And I think this know our challenge is trying to win two seats out of five and the general election which will be coming up very shortly now after this we will be back here again,” he said.