Home Politics Local Elections Dom proud as he goes the distance in battle for council seat

Dom proud as he goes the distance in battle for council seat

Dom Dunne with his supporters following the 14th count in the Portlaoise Municipal District when he missed out on the final seat to Fine Gael's Thomasina Connell

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After the 14th count in the Portlaoise Municipal District came to a conclusion, duly electing Fine Gael’s Thomasina Connell, it spelled the end of the road for Renua candidate Dom Dunne.

Dom pulled in 379 first preference votes, 58 behind Thomasina, and while he narrowed the gap to 40 following the transfer of his Renua running mate Noel O’Rourke, he could never get ahead and it finished 796 to 743 in Thomasina’s favour.

The official announcements at election counts are usually drowned out with the joyous celebration of the winning candidates and this was no different.

But amid the celebrations stood Dom Dunne and his team, disappointed but not bitter by any means. Proud of their showing.

And Dom, a bundle of nerves all weekend as the battle for that last Portlaoise seat swung one way and the another, was insistent on getting a photo of the people who’d worked hard over the past couple of months to try and get him elected.

Among them were his wife Michelle and three teenage children – his son Ben, a 5th year student in Portlaoise CBS, and twin daughters Ali and Holly, who are in Scoil Chriost Rí.

Cast aside by Fianna Fáil, Dunne, who owns DMS Tyres in Portlaoise, was approached by Renua party leader John Leahy to run for them. And he threw himself into with gusto.

Leahy, comfortably elected in Offaly again, was in Portlaoise on Monday evening to witness the drama there and Renua’s last chance in the country to add a seat.

“Dom definitely has a future in public life,” said Leahy when speaking afterwards. “Unfortunately it only comes around every five years but you’d never know he might stick his name as a General Election candidate.

“The man has to settle now. He’s very emotional. I’d love to see any candidate that wears their heart on their sleeve. The man shed a tear here and it was genuine. His family the same thing.

“That just shows you that they left nothing behind. They put absolutely everything into this campaign. It was a real family affair by the Dunnes.

“They really came out in droves. Really eager to learn how they could get Dom across the line – and I think he has only gained support here.”

On the mention of a General Election, Dom was non-commital but he did pledge his support for Renua and Leahy.

“I’d hope first of all that John will go in the General Election in Laois-Offaly. And I told him tonight I’d give him a hand. I’ll knock doors. I’ll do whatever he wants me to do.

Dom Dunne and John Leahy
Dom Dunne and John Leahy

“I personally want to thank John. When Fianna Fail threw me to one side and thought that I wasn’t for them, John had faith in me.

“John asked me to run for Renua. I’ve really enjoyed it. I was pipped at the post but look these things happen you get up and get going again. We met we spoke, we liked what we said and he showed faith me in.

“It didn’t work out. Five years is a long time but please god I’ll do my best to come back. Who knows there could be ones not running the next time and I might have a better chance. I have a passion for it.

“I really enjoyed it and I really have to thank the people of Portlaoise-Abbeyleix electoral area. I knocked the doors. 99% of people I met were so nice. They talked with you. They engaged with you. And if anything else I’ve got a great experience out of it.”

Dom Dunne and John Leahy with supporters at the election count in Portlaoise on Monday

The reality of the ongoing housing crisis was something that Dom was exposed to during his campaign.

“For me personally, I feel very hurt to see all those vacant houses around and I can only talk about Portlaoise. It pulls at your heartstrings to go into estates with houses with nobody living in them. And then you see there’s people looking for houses.

“I hope someone in Laois County Council will listen, someone in the banks. Someone may do something. There are good genuine hard working people out there who can’t get on the property ladder to get a house. So many vacant houses. It’s all over the country. That needs to be addressed.”

Dom Dunne with a group of supporters

Acknowledging that he could have done more had he been elected, in terms of his campaign he has no regrets.

“I got a team behind me. Even down to my mother in law who put flyers in through letterboxes. My sisters, my sisters in law. This man beside me Declan O’Brien came on board.

“And they all bonded with each other. It was brilliant. Seven weeks. We had such great craic, we got drowned,” and with that he was overwhelmed by applause from those same supporters who gathered round to listen to his interview.

As for Renua in general. Apart from Leahy’s massive vote in Offaly, they didn’t win a seat anywhere else in the country.

“Nationally, it’s difficult, acknowledged Leahy. “The swing has gone back to Fine Gael and Fianna Fail.

Dom Dunne keeping an eye on the tallies in St Mary’s Hall on Saturday

“Nobody expected to see that. Sinn Fein have suffered a massive defeat nationally as well. For us we’re trying to grow a new party, build a new party. It takes time. We’re two years at the process with me at the helm. People think you should have automatic success.

“But you see it with the Greens, you see it with Labour, you see it with Sinn Fein. It’s swings and roundabouts. And I think we will get our bounce.

“And when you’ve men like Dominic Dunne running hopefully into the future I’ve no doubt but we’ll win seats. But it takes time.

“I think we need more candidates like Dom. He has proven – he has been out there. He’s not just one of these guys that put his name on a ticket and automatically think he’s going to be elected.

“He’s been involved in the Hospital Action Group, he’s been involved in various other groups, the Kolbe Centre. Very passionate about that. This is a man who is involved in the community. I have no doubt he will continue to be involved in his community and to get elected that is what you need to do.

“You need to be heavily involved. That’s how I got elected. I was heavily involved in the community and you build from there. A lot of the candidates we had around the country, they hadn’t been as deeply engrained as Dom has been.

“But apart from that you need likeable characters and Dom is that. I’ve really learned that over the last six or eight weeks.”

SEE ALSO – Check out all of the 2019 Local Election coverage on LaoisToday

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Steven Miller is owner and managing editor of LaoisToday.ie. From Laois, Steven studied Journalism in DCU and has 14 years experience in the media, almost 10 of those in an editorial role. Husband of Emily, father of William and Lillian, he's happiest when he's telling stories or kicking a point.