After achieving an incredible electoral success by taking the third seat in South Tipperary, Independent candidate Mattie McGrath declared he would never go back to Fianna Fail.
Just as the country delivered a phenomenal wipeout to the party, one of their own who voted against the party on the stag hunting issue, and finally jumped ship before the general election, Deputy McGrath ruled out ever returning to the fold.
His vociferous support raised the roof in the O’Callaghan complex shortly before 8pm last Saturday evening after he was declared elected on the fifth count without reaching the quota.
His decision to cut all ties with the party and run as an Independent had been vindicated and the celebrations began as he was surrounded by family, friends and supporters.
“We beat the trend and how I did it was with the strong resources of my family, friends and supporters. There wasn’t a day or a weekend over the past few weeks that I hadn’t a hundred canvassers out, volunteers offering to drive, a lot of party members came with me and I want to thank Cllr Richie Molloy for his magnanimous decision to support me.
“It was a movement really and I am deeply indebted to them and deeply indebted to the electorate for engaging with us, and being patient with us, being courteous and for giving me their number ones and many other preferences. I received preferences from everywhere,” he said.
Deputy McGrath said he also felt a sense of sorrow because he had a lot of friends in Fianna Fail - “some haven’t spoken to me since I voted against them last June and I feel sad about that”
“There are emotions there, it is a bit raw but in time I hope many of them will understand, as the many who have supported me understand, that I had to do what I did. I had no choice for the sake of the country. For the sake of the people of South Tipperary I could no longer support or stay within the party. And I have been proved right because I was elected and moreover because people have given a harsh judgement to Fianna Fail,” he said.
Asked if he would every go back to Fianna Fail, the Newcastle deputy insisted - “No, no, it is their job to build their party, no, I was elected as an independent and I would be less than truthful to the electorate, I don’t play tricks, I did my best to seek change. But they slept while Rome burned,” he added.
Deputy McGrath said he was sorry for a lot of young FF deputies who got in the last time. “I am so sorry that their careers have ended in ignominy. All I said to them was, why didn’t ye join me 18 months ago when I stood up against the leadership. Many of them have said that they are sorry now. I don’t want to be gloating, they made their own decisions and I made mine. It wasn’t functioning, it wasn’t working, there was a blindfold on and ‘see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil’ attitude.
“I don’t know what it was. Fianna Fail forgot their roots, they are all grown men and women who could make their own decision as well but they choose not to. I sympathise with my former colleague Martin Mansergh on losing his seat but politics is a tough game and is about representing the views of the people and if that takes troubling people, if that takes speaking out, then that is your job and duty,” he said.
Deputy McGrath said he had to fight to get on the FF ticket in 2007. Since then he was muzzled at every turn and said the party whip system had failed Irish politics.
He did not believe that South Tipperary would suffer because two Independents were elected and said it was a telling indictment on the party.
“People are angry, they are hurting, they are upset, they want leadership, they want to be able to do a day’s work and get paid for it, rewarded and look after their families, that is all they want.,” he said.
Deputy McGrath did not rule out supporting Fine Gael in the future and said he wanted to be constructive whether in opposition or in Government.
“We will see what Fine Gael want, they might not be interested in my support and that is fine but if there is a number of like-minded independents then we can get together and negotiate. There are a number of imponderables and we will have to cross that when we get to it,” he said.
“I have never worked with Seamus Healy before in the Dail, but we have seen over the years that he is anti all kind of things, I congratulate him on getting back but I want to work constructively for the betterment of people, not negatively”, he stated.