'This change been coming for some time'

Catherine Connolly calls for 'a commitment to a different type of society'

Re-elected independent TD Catherine Connolly chats with supporter Marguerite Tonery the Galway West General Election Count at the Galway Lawn Tennis Club on Sunday. Photo:-Mike Shaughnessy

Re-elected independent TD Catherine Connolly chats with supporter Marguerite Tonery the Galway West General Election Count at the Galway Lawn Tennis Club on Sunday. Photo:-Mike Shaughnessy

In a sense, Catherine Connolly has made history four times in Galway West, a constituency that, up until last Saturday, was largely one of the most stable and predictable in the State.

In 2016, Independent Left TD Catherine Connolly, along with Fine Gael's Dep Hildegarde Naughton, made Galway electoral history, as it was the first time two women had ever been returned for the constituency. In 2020, deputies Connolly and Naughton were joined by Sinn Féin's Mariead Farrell - the first time three women had ever been elected in Galway West, and the first time women would be the majority representatives of the constituency. Furthermore, the election of Connolly and Farrell marked the first time Galway West returned two Left seats.

In a sense, the vote mirrors that of Election 2020, which has seen the best performance by the Left in the history of the State, and marks something of a sea change in Irish politics. Dep Connolly is far less surprised though, than many, by the result.

'I'll happily embrace my role in Opposition again, and equally, if there is a chance to have power, I'll happily embrace that'

"It's been coming for some time," she says. "It was evident in 2016, it was even evident in 2011, when I narrowly missed out on a seat by 17 votes, and Labour won a seat, so that was theoretically two seats on the Left. It was clear going from door to door in 2016 - public health, public housing, public transport - and the exact same issues again today. Really, the message was 'We want politicians to acknowledge the problems we have and begin to address them'"

Dep Connolly received a first preference vote of 5,439 (nine per cent ) - a 1.4 per cent increase from 2016 when she received 4,877 first preferences (7.6 per cent ). She was elected on the 13th count with an astounding total vote of 12,486 - by far the largest of any candidate in Galway West (3,580 from the Social Democrats, as well as substantial transfers from Sinn Féin and the Greens ), underlining how transfer friendly she is.

As the moves begin seriously to put together a new government, Dep Connolly acknowledges that it is doubtful a fully Left administration will be formed. "I don't think we've reached that point yet in Irish politics where a Left government can be put together," she says. "I'll happily embrace my role in Opposition again, and equally, if there is a chance to have power, I'll happily embrace that. There is a very important role in any Opposition to hold the system to account."

'I'm tired of the ideology from Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael that these problems are inevitable. They are certainly not. They are the creation of very bad policies'

Whatever the make-up of the next government, Dep Connolly said the 33rd Dáil must be the one that addresses the housing and homelessness crisis and the problems in the health service.

"I looked at some of the speeches I made in the last Dáil - housing, climate change - and at the end of that Dáil I was making the same speeches," she said. "We really need to take climate change seriously, and it must underpin all of our policies in relation to housing and public transport. I'm also committed to public health, and I'm tired of the ideology from Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael that these problems are inevitable. They are certainly not. They are the creation of very bad policies. We need a commitment now to a different type of society, where services are an essential part of that society, where we proudly pay tax and get our services in return."

 

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