IT was a momentous weekend for Kildare politics here at the Convention Centre in Punchestown with the elevation of not one, but two Sinn Féin candidates to represent the county in Kildare House from 20 February.
For Cllr Patricia Ryan from Monasterevin and Réada Cronin from Maynooth – who both contested the 2016 Election coming respectively 6th and 7th – their vikctories was all the more sweeter as they become the first TDs from their party to be elected in the County of Kildare in the 102 years since Donal O’Buachaille.
“The people have voted for a new Ireland, and we won’t let you down,” said Ms Cronin in her acceptance speech.
“People believe Sinn Fein are competent and able to lead a Government, and it will be my honour to represent the people of Kildare North. Up the Republic!” said Ms Cronin.
Alongside these pair of pioneers, the wily leader of the Social Democrats Catherine Murphy matched Cllr Ryan’s feat in the northern constituency with a poll-topping return to Dail Eireann in just the third count, and the only TD to be returned on Sunday.
Indeed, up until 3pm yesterday (10 February) it looked Co Kildare were going to show the whole country the way to gender parity in representation with Fiona O’Loughlin (FF) looking highly likely to be the fourth woman elected from the eight seats available, until the Portarlington outsider Cathal Berry shaded her by a short head in the eighth count.
Elegantly, Ms O’Loughlin – like her party colleague Frank O’Rourke in Kildare North – conceded graciously to their opponent before either had to.
Outside of the renaissance of Sinn Féin and strong female candidates, a word has to be kept for the achievement of the 74-year-old stalwart Bernard Durkan (FG), who left the count on Sunday night in sixth place with the sanguine realisation that that might be it for his 39-year career as a TD.
But as his constituency colleague James Lawless said to me on Sunday afternoon when he was loath to write of Durkan, describing him simply as :”the ould dog for the long road”. And he was right.
Durkan attracted over 4,200 transfers in the next two distributions from Lawlor and Martin and sauntered back to Dail Eireann on the sixth count for an incredible 12th consecutive time – a feat only some long-forgotten tall fellow called Eamon De Valera has bettered.