Fianna Fail suffered its worst general election result in the county in its history, losing its remaining TDs in both the north and south constituencies, leaving it without a Co. Tipperary representative in the Dail for the first time in the party’s history.
Outgoing Minister of State Dr Martin Mansergh lost the seat he secured in the 2007 General Election while in North Tipperary former Minister of State Maire Hoctor also succumbed to the national tidal swing against the Soldiers of Destiny.
In South Tipperary, the Fianna Fail percentage of the first preference vote plummeted from 46% in 2007 when it secured two of the constituency’s three seats to just 13.1% of the vote in this election.
It was the first time since the South Tipperary and North Tipperary constituencies were established in 1948 that a Fianna Fail TD wasn’t elected to them. Prior to that the older county-wide seven seater constituency had always elected a Fianna Fail TD since the party’s foundation.
Dr Mansergh has indicated he is considering seeking a nomination to run in the Seanad election to boost Fianna Fail’s representation in the Oireachtas but has not yet reached a final decision on the matter.
He said he was not definitively saying he will never run for the Dail again but he hoped a younger candidate would represent the party in South Tipperary in the next general election.
Despite the severe electoral blows Fianna Fail has suffered in South Tipperary in the latest local and general elections along with the departure of Mattie McGrath, he believes there is still plenty of potential talent within the local party organisation to rebuild.
In relation to Mattie McGrath, he doesn’t believe he will ever return to the Fianna Fail party fold. “Looking at it from a local organisation and party point of view, we believe that the separation of Mattie McGrath from Fianna Fail is definitive.
“A lot of members of the party would feel very strongly that there has been a separation of the ways. Things have been said and done that make the separation beyond recall.”
The complete wipeout of Fianna Fail seats in the county was a trend replicated in many other constituencies across the country as the public vented their anger through the ballot box at the state of the economy and the Fianna Fail led Government’s performance.
Dr Mansergh said it was an “unprecedented” and “very severe” reverse for Fianna Fail but to describe the party’s overall performance across the country as a “wipe-out” was an exaggeration.
“I would consider what happened to the Canadian Conservatives when they were reduced to three seats, to be a wipe-out. What happened in 1918 to the Irish Parliamentary Party even though they won a few seats in the north of Ireland, was a wipe-out,” he said.
He admitted that Fianna Fail made “serious mistakes” in governing the country and it was now being punished for “mishandling” the economy, not in relation to the decisions of the past two years but before that.
“In 2007 we were elected on the basis of perceived economic confidence and that we might achieve a soft landing. We didn’t achieve a soft landing and we didn’t achieve a hard landing. We achieved a crash landing.
“We made serious mistakes, there is no question about it, when we allowed ourselves to be carried along by the euphoria that we were the best in Europe. To a certain degree, we allowed those attitudes to spread through society as a whole and we felt that we could take on the world. It was not just us as a party, we were very foolish as a society.”
When asked whether he ever thought he would see the day when there was no Fianna Fail seat in South Tipperary, Dr Mansergh said the electorate had become more volatile in its voting patterns over the years and he believed it was an “unnatural position” that Fianna Fail was the dominant party for 80 years.
“While I congratulate Fine Gael on becoming the largest party for the first time since the days of Cumann na nGael, I would say, how come it has taken that long? I don’t know of any other democracy where the lead party has remained the same whether in Government or in opposition.”
He said he was confident that Fianna Fail will bounce back because there is a tremendous tradition behind the party and he pointed out that Micheal Martin had established very quickly his credibility as an alternative leader of the party.