THE poll-topping independent TD Michael Collins can attribute some of his 11,712 first preference votes to the 1,500 people who benefited from life-changing healthcare treatments after travelling North on his ‘Belfast Bus’.
Some of his support can be attributed to the ‘no confidence’ motion he tabled against the former health minister, Simon Harris – a motion that ultimately toppled the government – as well as his near-constant haranguing of the former transport and tourism minister, Shane Ross.
Others voted for Michael Collins because they believe he puts in the hours – the leg work – on a whole range of local issues, including his stated opposition on any downgrading of Bantry General Hospital.
On Sunday, Michael Collins didn’t claim the victory for himself. He said: ‘This is a resounding victory for the people of West Cork. West Cork is the winner here tonight.’
Michael Collins originally sought election to the West Cork Municipal District in 2014 because he believed he was ‘already doing the work’ as an active member of local organisations and community groups in his home town of Schull and throughout the Mizen peninsula.
His elevation to the Dáil in 2016 paved the way for his brother Danny to be co-opted to the Council – and to be subsequently re-elected last year as another poll-topper – thereby expanding the Collins franchise.
Michael (51) said he is all about forward momentum. On Monday, mere hours after the final Cork South West vote in Clonakilty was concluded, he was talking about ‘getting the band back together’ again.
It was a playful reference to the rather serious business of reforming their Rural Independent Group – a number of like-minded TDs who want specific action, investment and policies for rural Ireland.
Although the number of independents in the 33rd Dáil has increased to 20, Michael says he has no illusions about him, or their particular grouping, becoming ‘kingmakers’, but neither does he underestimate the new government’s need for allies in what is likely to be an unprecedented coalition of people and parties.
He was forced to apologise to former transport minister Shane Ross on RTÉ on Wednesday for calling him a ‘scumbag’ during his victory speech in Schull on Sunday night.