Prendergast defeat a huge blow for Labour

EAMONN LACEY

EAMONN LACEY

This general election delivered another crushing blow to the Labour Party in South Tipperary with Senator Phil Prendergast way off the race for the third seat.

She was expected to be involved in the battle for the third seat and even though her vote improved on her 2007 showing, she was eliminated on the second count.

It was newcomer, Fine Gael’ s Cllr. Michael Murphy and Fianna Fail’s Martin Mansergh who provided the challenge to Independent Mattie McGrath for the third seat on the day with the Labour Party candidate not in the contest.

When first preferences were counted Senator Prendergast, while she increased the Labour vote from 8.77% to 10.9% of the first preference vote, she was way behind Mattie McGrath (14.7%), and both Murphy and Mansergh on 13.1%.

It was a demoralising outcome for Prendergast who had fought the election on her record of fighting to protect the acute hospital services at South Tipperary General Hospital and St. Michaels.

A senator since 2007, the former midwife now has the opportunity to become a member of the European Parliament.

She was the Labour Party nominee for the vacancy if both the sitting MEP Alan Kelly was elected in North Tipperary and Arthur Spring was elected in Kerry North.

The Labour Party however were hoping she would deliver a seat in South Tipperary where the party was founded in 1912.

Eamon Gilmore and other high profile members of the party had visited the constituency to boost her campaign and she had also received the backing of former Labour TD and Ceann Comhairle Sean Treacy in Clonmel.

“The field was very strong, there were a lot of people pulling out of Clonmel. I increased my vote everywhere except Clonmel,” said Senator Prendergast this week.

She expressed huge disappointment at the setback and thanked her family, her team of canvassers, everybody in the party and staff for the wonderful backing and support they gave her.

“I did everything I possibly could, there was not one thing I could have changed. I knocked on the doors, did the work and worked very hard to protect the hospital services but all that work did not translate into votes,” she said.

“I do regret not having delivered a seat for the Labour Party. It was a seat the party really wanted,” she said.

Senator Prendergast, who began her career as an elected representative in 1994, said she believed her work had made a difference to people’s lives in a positive way and she had no regrets about entering public life.

Senator Prendergast, who finished second in the by election to Tom Hayes in 2001 as a WUAG candidate and contested two general elections (2007 and 2011) as a Labour Party candidate, is now on her way to Europe to represent Munster.

“I heard it on the doorsteps that I was ok as I would be in Europe and that was used against me. There has been no formal arrangement about it. I knew if I did not win the seat in the general election that I was next in line after Alan Kelly and Arthur Spring and both of them have been elected to the Dail. Alan Kelly is a hard act to follow but I am ready for a new challenge and I believe I will still be able to work to protect the hospital services in South Tipperary,” she said.

She congratulated the three people who won the seats in Tipperary South. She accepted that the people had made their decision and ‘that was that’.