Re-elected Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice has hit back at Senator John Kelly’s dismissive comments about Independents.
After the senator was eliminated after receiving just 1,211 first-preference votes in last weekend’s General Election, he repeated his comments about non-party representatives.
“You won’t achieve anything as an Independent,” Senator Kelly said.
Deputy Fitzmaurice was asked about the remarks after he was elected on the sixth count after surpassing the quota – 11,421 – with 11,630 votes.
Between them, Independent TDs Michael Fitzmaurice and Denis Naughten, who topped the poll, secured over 51 per cent of the first preference votes in the Roscommon-Galway constituency in the General Election.
“The people have spoken today, so we must have achieved something,” said Deputy Fitzmaurice, before adding sharply: “John has gone home; Michael is still here; Denis is still here.
“So, obviously, we must be doing something right because people don’t vote for you if you are not achieving.”
While Deputy Fitzmaurice did not, as many predicted he would, top the poll, his percentage of the first preference votes actually increased from the Roscommon-South Leitrim by-election in October 2014.
On that occasion, which resulted in him securing a Dáil seat for the first time, he secured 18.7 per cent; this time, his share rose to 21.3 per cent.
“Any day that you get elected in a General Election or a by-election is a good day,” said Deputy Fitzmaurice. “I thank the people who came out and gave me the guts of 10,000 No. 1 votes.”
Last weekend’s election saw further growth of the Independent vote in the Roscommon region. Deputy Fitzmaurice said that that was because of the electorate’s disillusionment with the mainstream parties.
“Down through the years, in the west of Ireland, a lot of politicians have promised so much and delivered so little,” he said.
“I think the people are sick of promises. They want politicians to be upright and forthright with them. I am a pretty straightforward politician. I am blunt, but I think that’s what people want: a straight out bluntless to tell whether it can or cannot be done. I don’t just say something for the sake of saying it.”
The election was also a success for the Independent Alliance, the political grouping that Deputy Fitzmaurice helped to found last year.
They secured six seats, and Deputy Fitzmaurice was especially pleased that two local candidates were elected for the first time: Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran in Longford-Westmeath and Seán Canney in Galway East.
The Independent Alliance could yet have a say in the formation of the government, something Deputy Fitzmaurice said that he was open too.
“I have no fear of being in government, if the opportunity arises and if a proper programme for government can be formed,” he said.
“People vote for you to do the best you can for them and, if that opportunity comes, we won’t shy away from it.”
He said that, whether he was in opposition or government, his priorities over the next five years would be health and “rural Ireland, full stop”.