LAST Friday more people voted for Pat Breen than had ever voted for any Fine Gael candidate in a general election in Clare.
It was a huge result for the West Clare man, who topped the poll, taking 9,855 first preferences, 1,283 ahead of his nearest challenger Michael McNamara. His vote increased by just over 2,800 on the 2007 election.
On Saturday evening Mr Breen said he was thrilled with how he polled. “When I heard the final tally earlier this afternoon tears came to my eyes. To me it’s a lifetime achievement to be at the top. This is my third election, in my first election I got 4,400 votes, in my second election I got 7,000 votes and now tonight I have 9,800 votes. That shows that the work on the ground and the dedication to the job has paid off as I’ve gone from strength to strength. I’m so delighted, I want to thank the people of Clare for their endorsement of me.”
While the election went brilliantly for Fine Gael, the party is now going to lead a government that will have to make a range of unpopular decisions. While Mr Breen acknowledged the difficult conditions facing the new administration, he said Fine Gael would meet the challenges.
“It’s a very difficult time to be in government but I think the people are acclimatised to what they’re going to experience. To be honest about it, our finances are really decided for the next four years given that we know how much money we have to pay the IMF. The first task for any government and any taoiseach will be to go to Brussels and see if they can renegotiate that interest rate. I think it’s a good time for a Fine Gael government to do that because we’re affiliated with the European People’s Party. If 2% was taken off that interest rate it would save a billion euro a year. The other area we have to focus on is to get credit moving again and bring a bit of confidence back to this country.”
He felt that the party didn’t have the support to get a third seat and that having an extra candidate probably wouldn’t have made the difference.
“Back in 2007 we had four candidates and I had no problem with that and I would have accepted four candidates again. If you examine the trend you will see that in 2007 we got six percent above the national average, we got 34% here and 28% nationally.
“This time we got about 35% nationally and 42% in Clare. We would have got a third candidate elected if that national picture changed a little bit. We needed to be about 40% nationally to get that third seat in Clare. I was confident from recent opinion polls that we would get that. It didn’t happen on this occasion, Michael McNamara was able to get that vote.”
He said he had been warmly received around the county. “I got a very good reception at every door and I went from Ballyvaughan to Whitegate to Kilbaha, right over to Meelick. I think people wanted change and not just change for the sake of change. I was confident given the reception I got at the doors that I would retain my seat but I had no idea that I would top the poll.”