Eoghan Dalton Reports
Sinn Féin’s David Cullinane received the highest first preference vote in Waterford’s voting history last weekend. His 20,569 votes fired him past the quota twice over and made his almost 10,000 surplus votes key to filling the remaining three seats.
The newly re-elected deputy described the result as “extraordinary”, which included him besting Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael’s candidates in their respective back yards, overcoming Fianna Fáil’s Mary Butler in Portlaw and Fine Gael’s Damien Geoghegan in Dungarvan.
He similarly topped the poll across each ward of Waterford city and two more in the county.
This result is a long way from the 2,955 votes (or 6.4 percent) Cullinane received when he first stood at the 2002 general election. In that vote, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael got a combined vote of 67.8 percent. In 2020, his 38 percent surpasses the 34 percent received by the two main parties.
“I don’t think anyone would have seen that,” he told the Munster Express.His sons Emmett (13) and Finn (8) were glued to the exit poll on Saturday night, with Cullinane himself laughing that he was “taken aback by how interested they were” as boxes opened today and results rolled in.
He paid tribute to the mother of his children, Kathleen Funchion who topped the poll in Carlow-Kilkenny. “They’ll have a mam and a dad who are TDs – they’re very proud.”
Cullinane said there will have to be “compromise somewhere” in attempts to form a government: “It remains to be seen what that compromise will mean. I think every party has to realise that the electorate have given us very few options – but those options have to be explored.”
Cullinane denied that a Border Poll would be a red line for a coalition. He also insisted that Sinn Féin won’t “do a Labour”.”If a coalition happens, it will be a partnership of equals,” he said, emphasising that Sinn Féin’s focus will be on Health, Housing and a cut in the Universal Social Charge.
He added: “It’s quite clear to me that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael can no longer keep up the nonsense that Sinn Féin are not fit for government.”He ruled out another general election being held in the coming months as “ridiculous” and added that he “wouldn’t like to be the party that engineers” another poll.
He further described talk of a second election as a “slap in the face” to the people who voted.
“It will only be difficult to form a Government if there is transience from the two bigger parties,” he added.
“We’ll stand second candidates in constituencies where we can take second seats so if the bigger parties want to do that that’s up to them. But I don’t think that’s where the people are at.”