Longford-Westmeath’s new TD Gabrielle McFadden took her place in Leinster House on Wednesday this week, following her emphatic victory in last Friday’s by-election.
Deputy McFadden was greeted in the Dáil by Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who described her as “a person of exceptional qualities who will do a wonderful job of representing the people of the constituency”.
Speaking following her election in the early hours of Sunday morning, the new TD promised to represent Longfor-Westmeath “with a heart and a half”.
It was clear from the earliest tallies in the count centre in Kenagh on Saturday that Ms McFadden was on her way to winning the seat left vacant following the death of her sister Nicky in March.
She took 25 per cent of the total first preference votes, topping the poll across both counties in the constituency. She was elected on the seventh count with total votes of 20,058, despite not reaching the quota of 24,502 votes.
In contrast to the scenes of elation at other count centres across the country, with successful European and Local Election candidates hoisted in the air to the cheers of their supporters, it was a quiet affair in Kenagh as Deputy McFadden’s election was announced just before 1am on Sunday, to a respectful ripple of applause.
The new TD admitted she was “very emotional”.
“I wish I was standing in the count centre in Athlone topping the polls and that Nicky was by my side,” she said.
“I am really honoured and grateful to the people of Longford-Westmeath for giving me the opportunity to represent them. I will do what I promised and represent Longford-Westmeath with a heart and a half.”
Speaking earlier in the day, Deputy McFadden admitted that the days leading up to the election had been emotional for her and her family.
“Obviously my heart is broken. The whole family are devastated. Today and yesterday were very emotional. I hope Nicky is proud. I hope to continue her good work.”
Deputy McFadden feels she is in the ideal position to “hit the ground running” in Leinster House.
“I am not going in as a newbie - I know how to make representations and to raise parliamentary questions. I have been working with TDs and Ministers. People are suffering... they are not feeling the recovery, and I promised I would fight for them. I can’t be complacent,” she added.
She has also vowed to work on behalf of the entire constituency, particularly in attracting jobs to the region.
“I did a very good canvass, I listened and empathised with people, and I promised I would fight for Longford-Westmeath for jobs.
“It surprised me during the campaign to hear some of the candidates talking about the two counties. We are all the one constituency.”