So close yet so far for FF's Malcolm
Having put in massive hours and after covering countless miles over the course of his campaign, it was a case of so close and yet so far for Gorey councillor Malcolm Byrne after he crashed out of the running for a European seat in Ireland South on count 16.
Having topped the poll in Gorey in the local elections, the Fianna Fáil man's attentions turned to Cork, where unfortunately it wasn't to be this time out. However, he did put in an incredibly strong showing, managing over 69,000 first preference votes and finishing up with over 80,000 by the time he was eliminated.
'The whole thing has been a remarkably positive experience,' he said. 'It was always going to be a big challenge, particularly with so many big brand names involved. I said from the start I wanted to run a positive campaign and be ambitious for Ireland's role in Europe and I think we've done that.'
Speaking of the numbers of votes he clocked up, Malcolm was delighted with the support he received.
'It's humbling, it really is,' he said. 'I got great support from the people of Co Wexford, which was really encouraging, and I'm really grateful to everyone who got behind me and helped out. I tend to look at these things as a learning experience. I feel had we had a couple more weeks, maybe we could have done a little more.'
'In the end my votes changed things around slightly as well. They helped Billy Kelleher, Mick Wallace and Deirdre Clune. They were crucial votes in the end. I'm pleased and upbeat about the campaign overall. Obviously I would've loved a different result, but that's the way it goes.'
Inevitably, with Mick Wallace set to leave a Dáil seat behind him when he departs for Europe, people's thoughts in Wexford have immediately switched to a by-election. Although Malcolm's long time friend Lisa McDonald had already been selected as Fianna Fáil's candidate for the next general election, the party may have to re-examine things in the wake of such a strong performance from Malcolm. The Gorey man comfortably topped the poll in his district, while Cllr McDonald faced an anxious wait in Rosslare LEA. Also having managed over 69,000 first preference votes in the European race, his profile has never been higher. However, the Gorey man remains coy.
'I'm not going to comment on whether it will be a by-election first or a general election or what will happen,' Malcolm smiled.
'I just want to get through this week first and then it will be up to the party to assess the situation. Fianna Fáil did very well this time out in the local elections, but asking me now if I'm going to be going for the Dáil is like asking somebody when they're doing their next marathon just after crossing the finish line!'
'I'll take a few days to catch my breath and there are decisions to be made in relation to Wexford County Council and the agenda for the next five years. Other than that, I'm not really thinking about anything else but thanking all those who helped me so much over the course of my campaign.'