THERE was a split in FG in West Cork in the six months leading up to the general election, which is one of the reasons the party was wiped out locally.
That’s according to candidate Senator Tim Lombard, who also admitted that neither he, nor running mate Karen Coakley, had ‘great name recognition’ on the doorstep which left them weak as a party without party stalwart Jim Daly on the ticket.
The senator, a first time Dáil candidate, was eliminated at the final count in Clonakilty around 4am on Monday, despite having earlier felt confident that transfers would get him over the line to secure him the third seat.
He was 2,100 votes ahead of SD’s Holly Cairns going into the final count, but said he wasn’t expecting the volume of transfers she got from SF’s Paul Hayes which saw her elected.
The Social Democrat picked up 3,023 transfer votes on the eighth count from Hayes, giving her a total of 10,078. Lombard was eliminated on 9,526 votes, having got just 393 transfers from the Sinn Fein’s candidate’s elimination.
Nationally, the senator said, 58% of people had voted for change: ‘Our brand just wasn’t as strong as we thought.’
But locally, he acknowledged ‘issues’ in the party, not of his making, and ‘fuss’ created over who joined him on the ticket, weren’t helpful.
A well publicised petition of 560 signatures from party members was sent to Fine Gael’s director of elections, Paschal Donohoe in January, requesting that former councillor Noel O’Donovan be added to the ticket, after Karen Coakley had already been selected.
At the time she told this newspaper that she felt she had been ‘bullied’ in an attempt to make her withdraw her name.
The Skibbereen woman declined to comment to The Southern Star after the election this week. However, Tim said the fall-out meant that there wasn’t full participation in their campaign by party members. He said his campaign was supported by family and friends.
‘There was a split in the party because Noel was not added. There were different views on that. I did my best to stay out of it, but was dragged in. Personally, I didn’t mind who was added, but there wasn’t a big enough vote for three of us,’ he said.
He described himself as bruised, exhausted and a bit emotional after losing, and his friend and former schoolmate Tánaiste Simon Coveney admitted he didn’t sleep after hearing the news from Clonakilty.
‘Tim Lombard is a very close friend of mine and anybody who is over 2,100 votes ahead of the next person when there’s only one person left to be eliminated rightly expects to be elected, so this was a real shock … I think for the Fine Gael team down there and for Tim Lombard, in particular, it’s very hard to take,’ he told Red FM at the Cork South Central count centre in Nemo on Monday. He had to wait until the final count to take his own seat.
Meanwhile, Senator Lombard’s thoughts now turn to the Seanad elections and he will decide over the coming days if he’ll run again.
‘I was three-and-a-half years working towards the election and I’m 19 years in politics. That’s a lot of sacrifices and time. I’ll be talking to my wife and family and deciding over the coming days,’ he said.