I am thrilled to see Michael McDowell out of Dublin South East. As an active campaigner for John Gormley it is satisfying that not only can you convince enough people that your candidate is better than the others but also that McDowell is (not was) a malign influence on Irish political culture. In the last five years in particular, he has coarsened public debate by maliciously spreading half-truths and polarised people with his own brand of republicanism. I wouldn’t write the man off in elected politics so I won’t spend any more time on the man than I have to.
What is encouraging about the result in Dublin SE is the ability of people to see beyond bluster and elect someone with integrity. Politics at this level is a cynical sport and demonstrably so as the hours went by in the RDS last Friday evening. John’s campaign was well run and although I was hardly central to the strategy itself, it shows that all politics is local and then national. The day began with a tally and this being my first time at the count, I was delighted merely to be there and to see the boxes unrolling area by area. To be this close to the organics of the count was a pleasure. There was something rewarding seeing the parties working together at the beginning of the day and then breaking off civil contact as the tallies became clear by about midday. Seeing old faces from college and other campaigns was not always welcome but to be there, as I have said, was a great experience.
The day wore on slowly until the first count was announced by about 2pm. The tallies showed a gap of about 0.7% in favour of Gormley and the first count reflected the professionalism of the tally earlier that day. This gap was maintained right until the end. Hours went by and as the non-party candidates were eliminated, generally falling in favour of Gormley, the bigger SF and FF eliminations scalps emerged into view. It was clear that after the distribution of O’Callaghan’s eliminated votes that Gormley’s lead was not going to be narrowed. Once I saw the smile coming across the candidate’s agent’s face – a man congenitally glum all day – I knew there was more than a little light between the forces of dark and Green. Earlier that day and after the first preference tally, the agent had all but given up on John being elected but I was convinced this was a tactic to lower expectations early on (or perhaps he was just so tired he was being pessimistic).
Horse Show House liquid lunch and dinner went by. Too many sausages and chips does not make 73man a happy gent. I now also know that FF and FG people up and down the hall were wishing for the demise of big Mick for a long time now and wished us well.
McDowell arrived to concede defeat at about 8.25pm, 10 minutes or so after O’Callaghan’s votes had been tallied as going mostly to Big Mick but not enough to secure the seat. He was hounded by a SF and ‘others’ / media scrum out of the door of the main hall and I swear that emerging into the late evening sun of Friday was like Dorothy waking up after the trip to Oz – the witch was dead. I met an old UCD colleague at the entrance and while trying not to embrace her in a fit of gargantuan happiness and through my smiling face, I managed to communicate that McDowell had indeed conceded defeat. A joyous moment and rest is recorded on Flickr here and on several mainstream media outlets here and here.
One after thought: I read in today’s newspapers that McD, in a rush to get away from SF / the meejah on Friday night at the RDS forgot to bundle his own children into the waiting car as he did so well with his wife, Niamh Brennan. Surely a measure of the man.
Right, I’m off to desecrate some PD posters. Bye bye baby, baby bye bye.
Update: twenty major puts the cap on all that I wanted to say this weekend. All hail 20!