Poll topper Charlie McConalogue said he’s “delighted and humbled” to be returned to Dail Eireann, adding the extent of his vote “surpassed” all his expectations.
The Inishowen man was one of just 23 candidates nationwide to be elected on the first count, with 12,533 votes on a quota of 12,218.
He received 7.798 first preference votes in Inishowen, almost 45% of the overall total of 17,853 votes - almost 60% of the total electorate in the peninsula of 29.866.
The Fianna Fail TD was met with a rapturous welcome when he arrived at Letterkenny’s Aura Leisure Centre on Saturday evening with his wife, Jackie, and was greeted with applause, hugs and cheers.
Speaking to the ‘Journal,’ the delighted Deputy was quick to thank his campaign team and supporters who “worked very hard” to achieve such a strong vote, as well as all who voted for him.
He said he hoped that he and the party can “now repay the faith the people of Inishowen and Donegal” have in him.
Deputy McConalogue said he was always working on the basis it would be a challenge to hold on to his seat and added that “you don’t allow yourself” to think about topping the poll.
He said: “I think, no matter what walk of life you’re in you take it a step at a time. You work hard on terms of what you can see.”
Deputy McConalogue described his Inishowen support as “tremendous” and said it was “humbling” to see the results come in.
He said: “I think the first box was at Craigtown NS and we took over 70% of vote in it. That was the very first one I saw and that’d take your breath away for a second. You don’t expect that strong a vote,but there were boxes in 60% , 70”% and the 50s and 40s and it’s fantastic.”
Deputy McConalogue paid tribute to his current and former constituency office staff, Paula O’ Brien, Helen Nolan, Patrick McGeoghegan and Karen McCormick, who have “spent the last number of years assisting people with with various projects, working on issues and trying to make progress in communities for various projects. That’s very important and they play a very important role. We’re very blessed to have an exceptional team of three county councillors in Inishowen - Rena Donaghey, Martin McDermott and Paul Canning, as well as the party organisation who’ve worked so hard and I think got to every door. I’d like to thank the Director of Elections Philip McLaughlin on a tremendous campaign, Comhairle Ceantair Rosaleen Dowds and secretary Kathleen Byrne.”
Deputy McConalogue said he believed there had been such a strong vote for Fianna Fail nationally as there was a “tremendous frustration” with the Fine Gael/Labour Government, adding: “I think we’ve been a constructive opposition opposing strongly where we don’t agree and also being constructive where we think its the right thing to do.”
He said: “I think the platform we put forward in terms of trying to bring about a fairer approach to Government, one that’s more caring and understands the needs of people in all sections of society and those that depend on public services, that resonated with people.”
Deputy McConalogue said there are a number of issues he will be seeking to address and work on.
He said: “These include investment and jobs -which are a big issue and broadband is right up there - nothing’s happened on it in the last five years. Health is a very significant issue, people are waiting longer and longer on operations and appointments. Ambulances and education are other significant ones and also, the thing that came through the doors a lot is the issue of mental health. We do have a crisis in terms of mental health and need to look at what we can do in terms of supporting that.”
Deputy McConalogue also added that he would be opposed to a coalition with Fine Gael and said he wanted to see, first and foremost, “if we can get a Governement put together that has Fianna Fail leading it.”