Inishowen’s Padraig MacLochlainn has said he was “honoured” to represent the people of the peninsula and Donegal in Dail Eireann and promised to “work harder than ever for them.”
The loss of the Sinn Fein outgoing TD’s seat was the biggest shock of the election in Donegal as the Buncrana man was one of the early favourites.
It became clear on Saturday morning that he was facing a battle for the final seat and it was hard fought. However, after the 13th count, just 184 votes behind Independent candidate Thomas Pringle, MacLochlainn conceded.
Speaking to the ‘Journal,’ he thanked everyone who voted for him and also congratulated fellow Inishowen man Charlie McConalogue, who was elected on the first count.
He added he had a “passion” for the people of the county and accepted their decision. He stressed he also wanted to promise he would “work harder than ever” for Donegal and its people and will stay active in politics.
He said: “I’m conscious of the fact that for 14 years, thousands of people across Inishowen have given me support and I’m not going away. I’ll continue to fight for them.”
The Buncrana man pointed out how Sinn Fein’s vote remained the same in Inishowen, as they took 5,000 votes in 2011 and the same this time.
He added: “The problem for me this time is that 1,500 of those voted for other Sinn Fein candidates. I get a sense, looking back now, even though there was polls and otherwise, they thought I was safe, because Sinn Fein were moving forward in the polls nationally. I could never really shake it, you know - anybody I spoke to I reaffirmed that I’m not safe.”
Despite murmurs of a recount in the count centre due to the closeness of the vote, Mr MacLochlainn said he didn’t want to do that and had personally made the call to concede.
He said: “I’m not a fan of recounts if they can be avoided. People have worked very hard. It’s a great achievement for Thomas. He’s an independent, he’s here with his family and it was the right and manly thing to do.”
The former Buncrana Town and Donegal County Councillor said the party made the decision to run three candidates “with a good heart,” based on the information they had. He said the team “probably got our calculations a wee bit wrong” but he had “no regrets.”
He added: “The thing I take heart from is that Sinn Fein didn’t lose votes in Inishowen, and secondly I’ve missed out narrowly, so I can see that, and I’m going to come back and keep working in the community and come back in the next election. Politics is bigger than me, and the people of Donegal are bigger than me, and they’ve made their decision, I respect it and I’m going to work harder than ever.”
He added that he felt an “immense sense of pride” in that he had the opportunity to represent the people of Donegal and Inishowen and is now more “determined than ever.”
He told how he had started out as a community activist, then was elected to the Council and the Dail and will now work as a community activist once again.
He quipped: “I might take a wee short break first though. But then I’ll be back!”