It was a delighted James Bannon who strode through the media throng on Sunday morning last after his election to the 31st Dail. While it was no surprise that he secured a seat, the fact that he secured 9,129 first preference votes was an immense source of pride for the Legan man. This represented an increase of 1,500 votes from his 2007 vote of 7,600 and is the highest vote ever recorded by a Fine Gael TD in the county.
Speaking after his election in Kenagh, Deputy Bannon paid tribute to his party leader Enda Kenny who, he said, “has built the party from the ground up. I remember bad days for Fine Gael and this is one of the better days for the party.”
He immediately outlined his priorities for the coming Dail term and reaffirmed his commitment to St Joseph’s Care Centre in Longford which, he said, “will not close on my watch”.
“I don’t believe that St Joseph’s will close. I believe there is upgrading taking place there at the moment,” he added.
He also spoke of the importance of maintaining and increasing the level of service at Mullingar Hospital.
He blamed Brian Cowen for building up the services at Tullamore Hospital to the detriment of Mullingar and said that he hoped to see the services at Mullingar enhanced by the acquisition of “ a speciality service”
When the boxes were opened in Kenagh on Saturday morning, it appeared that Fine Gael could obtain three seats in Longford Westmeath but it was not to be. Even though he polled over 6,600 first preferences Cllr Peter Burke failed to take a third seat for the party, after Nicky McFadden secured the second FG seat.
Mr Bannon accepted his second stint as a TD was tinged with mild disappointment at the party’s inability to take three seats, with Fianna Fail’s Robert Troy snatching the fourth and final seat from Mullingar’s Peter Burke.
“It was our sincere hope that we would get the three seats here this evening. It may not have worked out for us on this occasion, but we have a very strong team in place to achieve our goal come the next general election,” he said, insisting plans to arrest the region’s jobs crisis and kick-starting the local economy had already begun.
Bannon played down his chances of securing a junior ministerial vacancy at the weekend, saying the decision rested squarely on the shoulders of Taoiseach elect Enda Kenny.
“I will wait and see (about a ministerial position). That is the Taoiseach’s prerogative,” he said.
On the loss of Mr Kelly from the Longford electoral area thereby leaving him as the sole TD in the county, Mr Bannon acknowledged that he was now the only Longford based TD in the Dail. .
“That was the people’s decision, not mine,” he replied to the Leader after his election was announced.
“I will probably have a greater burden on my shoulders to deliver for Longford/Westmeath and I look forward to that challenge.
“I have a great team of councillors and public representatives who have done a Trojan job for Co Longford and now with Fine Gael in government we hope to achieve a lot more for our county and for Westmeath as well.”