WHEN talking about politics, Mick Barry rarely says “I”, opting instead for “we”.
As he was deemed elected on Monday afternoon, the Solidarity TD was flanked by a team that would rival any of the bigger parties.
That was the key to his success in a difficult election, as the seat they were fighting to keep wasn’t just his, it was theirs.
“It is a victory for all of our activists and campaigners,” Mr Barry said.
“Some nights we had more than 40 people out and it was our ground game that won us our seat.
“We were never going to win the air war and compete with the big money of the big parties, in terms of posters, billboards, national media coverage.
“It was the thousands and thousands of conversations on the doorstop, being able to talk but also to listen, that was key for us.
“It’s a reason for pride and it’s a reason for some humility as well.
“My mobile phone nearly exploded after the result was announced. I saw the numbers and the names of people who I have worked alongside in many, many campaigns down through many, many years offering their love and congratulations.
“It’s deeply appreciated and it makes you realise that you have to do a good job now. You have to do your best.”
Though he ended up holding his seat with a comfortable margin, for a while things didn’t look so certain.
For the last few years, Fianna Fáil had been targeting Cork North Central for a second seat, and, ultimately, the runner up was Kenneth O’Flynn, a former Fianna Fáil turned Independent councillor.
Mr Barry said his team had a clear message on the doors and in the posters: The last seat was a choice between him or the Fianna Fáil-Fine Gael arrangement of the last four years.
“Our feeling all along the line was that we were going to be in a battle for the last seat,” he said.
“I think that a lot of supporters greeted that with a degree of disbelief. But it became increasingly clear coming into the last week that that was indeed the case.
“I think a sufficient number of our supporters rallied to get us across the line, which we did comfortably enough in the end.”
He said that they went door to door reminding people of the campaigns they had fought on, like water charges and the Eighth Amendment.
“I think an important part of our election campaign strategy, which we got across in the media and social media, and through that poster, and crucially, that we got through thousands of conversations on doorsteps is that, yes, we’re in the battle for the last seat here and it wasn’t just a ‘get our guy in’ kind of pitch,” he said.
Nationally, the Solidarity-People Before Profit group lost just one of its six seats, despite the predictions of many.
“I’m saddened by the fact that Ruth Coppinger lost her seat in Dublin West,” said Mr Barry.
“I think Ruth Coppinger has been an outstanding representative not just for the people of Dublin West, but for women and for working class people in this country.
“I think that Solidarity-People Before Profit were written off by some commentators before the election.
“The fact that we’ve come back with five TDs is our answer to that.”
Mr Barry said this was a change election and the next government needs to reflect that, though Solidarity’s involvement would require some radical policy commitments.
“Within 24 or 48 hours of going on the doors, it was clear that something we knew was out there already was going to be a dominant question in the election, and that was an anti-Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael vote,” he said.
“People were saying to us, ‘I’m not sure who I’m voting for but I know who I’m voting against’.
“The mood for change among young people and working people was reflected predominantly in the Sinn Féin vote, and, to a not insignificant extent, in the Green Party vote.
“There is now a responsibility on those parties to fully represent that mood and I think the question that immediately arises is do you do deals with and make coalition arrangements with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.”
Solidarity-People Before Profit has always ruled out propping up the old parties of government, though it remains open to a left wing, progressive coalition.
“Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are the parties of the 1%, of the wealthy, of the landlords,” Mr Barry said.
“They are blockers of change.
“No government which includes those parties can represent real, radical change, and I would call on both Sinn Féin and the Green Party to rule out the idea of coalition arrangements with those two parties.
“If there is a potential majority in the new Dáil made up of forces other than Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael, then we are up for talking.
“But for us, talks are in large measure about the question of policy.
“The type of policy we’re talking about is 100,000 social and affordable homes over the next three years, the establishment of an Irish national health service — single tier, properly funded — the introduction of a national minimum wage of €15 per hour, and, crucially, a fundamental change in the way the economy is run so that instead of the way it is geared towards the needs of the corporations and the 1%, it’s geared towards the needs of young people and working people.
“If an alternative government can be put together on that basis, then good.”
However, the group has conceded that the numbers aren’t there for such a coalition to form.
That doesn’t mean Solidarity-People Before Profit won’t have an impact, however, as Mr Barry said they will be strategic about how they use their votes when it comes to electing a Taoiseach.
“But if not, then we would use our votes against the Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael nominees for Taoiseach, and not block an alternative government coming to power,” he said.