There are no fewer than 23 independents in Dáil Éireann currently. The majority of these are from rural constituencies, and the Irish Farmers Journal survey shows their level of support among farmers continues to hold at 20%.
The Healy-Rae brothers, Michael Lowry, Michael Fitzmaurice, Mattie McGrath, Michael Collins, Denis Naughten and Sean Canney are now seasoned TDs. The rural Independent ranks were swelled after the 2020 general election by the likes of Richard O’Donoghue, Cathal Berry and Carol Nolan.
Independents have eaten into the vote of traditional main parties, with many being “gene-pool” Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael. This is most graphic in Cork West, where Fine Gael has no TD in its former stronghold. In Tipperary. There are two Independent TDs (formerly three).
Fianna Fáil has one seat of five and Fine Gael none. A similar situation prevails in Roscommon/Galway, where Fitzmaurice topped the poll, followed by Naughten, with Fianna Fáil pipping Fine Gael to the fourth and last seat.
Most of the rural Independents take a strong stance on issues like opposing any cut to the national herd and supporting the cutting of turf. Their seeming lack of interest in being part of Government has not hampered their popularity.