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General Election 2020: Meet the fresh-faced new TDs representing Ireland in 33rd Dail


These are some of the fresh-faced new TDs to emerge from a roller-coaster general election – and who will represent a changing Ireland when they enter the 33rd Dáil.

And many of the debut deputies represent Sinn Fein, having been swept into the Dail on the unstoppable republican wave.

The first Sinn Féin deputy in Mayo since 1926 romped home as high profile candidates such as Fianna Fáil’s Brexit spokeswoman Lisa Chambers lost out.

Two-time GAA All Star Alan Dillon took the fourth seat in the same constituency, while The Greens’ Marc O’Cathasaigh, a teacher, was elected in Waterford.

The ‘overwhelmed’ 43 year-old took the party’s first seat outside Dublin, while Fianna Fáil’s James O’Connor in Cork East is keen to address transport issues.

Sinn Féin’s Rose Conway-Walsh was elected on the first count with a whopping 14,633 first preference votes in the four-seat Mayo constituency.

She said: “Right from the beginning of the canvass it was clear that people wanted change and it was obvious that people were prepared to change their own voting patterns to bring about that change.

“People might very often want change but they don’t see it as being their responsibility to change things as well and that was clear from when I started canvassing in Castlebar.



Rose Conway-Walsh, Sinn Féin celebrates with her supporters after being elected on the first count in February 2020


Sinn Fein’s Claire Kerrane

“The momentum then gathered as we went along, it was very consistent across the county, the whole movement for change and I think that was borne out [on Sunday] in the ballot boxes.”

The first Erris-based TD in more than 50 years continued: “I had spoken 651 times since I became the leader for the Sinn Féin group in the Seanad.

“And I always tried to make it relevant to issues that were affecting people like the fishermen, the farmers, around health, around housing, pensions and [the approval for the drug] Spinraza [which treats spinal muscular atrophy (SMA)] and valproate as well.


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“So all of those issues. And what I think happened was all of those issues came together.

“It’s been 17 years of consistent work for me, whether it be in community development first, then in the local authority and then in the Seanad.”

The 50 year-old added: “It call came together and I was well-positioned in Mayo then to be the person for change.”

Meanwhile, Mayo GAA hero Alan Dillon kept Enda Kenny’s Fine Gael seat, which the party had held stretching back to the former Taoiseach’s dad Henry in the 1960s.

Dillon, a former teacher and a quality consultant with pharmaceutical company Allergan, was elected on the seventh count with 10,977 votes at 3.30am on Monday.



Mayo’s Alan Dillon was elected as a TD for Fine Gael

He said: “I’m thrilled, it’s one of the biggest achievements of my life.

“We had a fantastic canvass team and they all played an important part.

“We got the backing from the Kennys, Enda and Fionnuala and his brother Henry and wife Maureen.

“It’s been a huge honour and a priviledge for the people to give me that trust with over 5,000 first preference votes at the first count and I topped the poll in Castlebar so that was hugely important.

“I always knew I was in with a chance then because a lot of our canvasses, even in rural parts of Mayo were strong.

“A lot of people were advocating for a change and for a new voice and they saw that I have something, probably new and more energising to offer and they went for that.”

Dillon, 37, beat high profile Fianna Fail’s Lisa Chambers, 33, to the fourth seat in the ultra-competitive Mayo constituency.



Lisa Chambers TD pictured at the Fianna Fail ard fheis 2019 the Citywest Hotel, County Dublin

He added: “Lisa’s done very well the past four years as a deputy, she’s had a big portfolio in terms of Brexit, very high-profile, but again, it was Rose Conway-Walsh who probably did the damage there.”

Elsewhere, Fianna Fáil’s James O’Connor became one of the youngest TDs in the country when he was elected at the expense of running mate Kevin O’Keeffe who lost his seat in Cork.

The 22 year-old said: “It’s hard to believe, it’s amazing.

“I think I’m the second youngest to be elected. It’s fantastic.



James O’Connor, Fianna Fail, canvassing in Cork East constituency

“I went to bed two nights ago after seeing the exit poll and I didn’t think I had a chance.

“I’m sorry for Kevin [O’Keefe], but as a 22 year-old and someone who only entered politics nine months ago, it’s a huge honour and I’m very grateful to people for that.

“I really did focus in on problem areas that were very prevalent in the constituency like public transport really, which was one that [helped] my profile.


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“Bus Éireann were absolutely overcharging constituents really across East Cork for their bus fares and that was the first big project I focussed in on.

“Congestion was another big issue as well and I did a lot of work there trying to change that and road funding.”

Meanwhile, Fine Gael took no seat for the first time ever in Waterford as a hard-working Green Party councillor triumphed.

Marc O Cathasaigh, a married dad of three, said: “I’m overwhelmed. The final count and result wasn’t announced until nearly 4am [Monday] morning so I haven’t had much time really to process my emotions.



Marc O Cathasaigh, Green Party, who was elected in Waterford

“In terms of overriding emotions it’s humbling really because I’ve said repeatedly I’m only the fella on the poster and behind that there was a huge team of people who went out every night of the week in order to make it happen.

“There was polling of peoples opinions and attitudes which put climate change and the envronment at around 7% to 8% of peoples motivating factors in their voting.

“That obviously corresponds to the 8% or so that we got.

“But in terms of how we got on and getting someone elected a lot of that is to do, like any successful, political movement is the work on the ground.

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General Election 2020

“We worked extremely hard to get two councillors home in the local elections and the same with getting Grace O’Sullivan elected to Europe.

“So we’ve been working very hard in Waterford since about 2015 to build a network, because you don’t win an election based just on top-down messaging.”

The 43 year-old said the protracted fight for 24/7 cardiac care for the South East is a top priority.

He added: “On a national level we are unapologetic about putting climate action and action on the biodiversity loss front and centre in terms of all of our policy platforms.”



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