Speaking to The Munster Express, Deputy Butler said that “there’s no-one getting carried away with that,” despite the latest poll placing Fianna Fáil on 33 per cent, nine points clear of Fine Gael and 17 ahead of Sinn Féin.
“We felt that our pre-election support was underestimated given how well we did in the 2014 Local Elections,” said Deputy Butler, a point that just as readily applied to her own election performance.
“Ah yes, to be honest, calling a spade a spade,” she conceded. “But funnily enough, there were three opinion polls undertaken during the campaign that I wasn’t privy to at the time and I came in on the first one at around 14 per cent, which Fianna Fáil was very happy with because at that stage I was relatively unknown, to be fair. Then I climbed to 15 in the second one and by the last one I’d gone up to 17 per cent which was very promising, and sure it all went very well for me come election day itself,” gaining just over 20 per cent of the first preference share.
Deputy Butler added: “Look, the Times poll putting us on 33 per cent is obviously good news but opinion polls are what they are – a snapshot in time – and I’d not be getting carried with it at all. But it has been said back to us given that we were 10 weeks without a government, that we were prepared to concede a lot as well to ultimately facilitate the formation of a minority government. We knew the country needed a government, that was the most important thing. We didn’t sit on our hands like Sinn Féin or People Before Profit did and I must admit I was surprised that the Social Democrats withdrew from the (government formation) talks as quickly as they did, as I’d rate their three TDs very highly.”
But wouldn’t we have had a more stable government if Fianna Fáil had joined Fine Gael in office?
“Probably,” she admitted, “particularly in terms of getting bills passed. But we are in this for the long haul. We are committed to three budgets and we’ve no intention of walking away from that. But if the Government falls in the morning, I feel it will be down to Fine Gael not keeping the Independents in line, as we saw when the Independents went against the Attorney General’s advice and Enda Kenny’s advice (on the Fatal Foetal Abnormalities Bill).”
Fianna Fáil wasn’t whipped on the vote, and five of its TDs sided with Mick Wallace and other opposition TDs on the issue. However, Deputy Butler, who was among those who helped defeat the bill said she was happy with her decision.
“I really felt it was an affront to all children with special needs,” she said. “But how do we define a fatal foetal abnormality? We could be talking about hours, days and weeks when it comes to this, I realise it’s a very sensitive and upsetting issue and I have had representations from both perspectives on this, but I would class myself as pro-life and I can live with my decision quite easily. And, to be honest, I thought more than five of our TDs would have voted in favour of the bill…but there was way more lobbying done on the Hare (coursing) Bill the week before than I did in relation to the Fatal Foetal Abnormalities Bill.”
Deputy Butler stated: “I’m really enjoying the challenge that comes with being a TD and I have to say, in my view, that the Fianna Fáil party in this Dáil is a lot more vibrant than it was in the previous Dáil, given the seats we picked up, going from 20 seats up to 44, along with the presence of six women, including myself, among the ranks.
“We now occupy four floors within the office space of Leinster House now, including our Senators, and it’s hard to believe that Senator Lorraine Clifford and myself were reared within three miles of each other, and now we’re on the same corridor in Leinster House.