John O’Donnell says the people of the Milford electoral area have mandated ‘the real John’ to represent them in Donegal County Council for the next five years.
The Kilmacrennan-based Independent Councillor will be returned to Lifford and is set to top the poll in the Milford area.
O’Donnell has polled almost 25 per cent of the votes cast.
“The people have spoken and I’m delighted with the outcome of the election,” O’Donnell told Donegal Daily at the Aura Leisure Centre, where tally figures show a comfortable passage back to Lifford for O’Donnell and Fianna Fáil Councillor Liam Blaney.
“For one in every four in the Milford electoral area to go in and give me a number one vote and God knows how many gave me a preference, it’s an absolutely resounding victory for ourselves. We’re over the moon and we’re enjoying the moment.
“There is a lot of joy and It’s very emotional. There’s a lot of relief to have it over me, especially this time. I always said that I’d let the people of Milford decide and let them speak. Now, I just look forward to representing and serving them for the next five years.”
In April, Donegal County Council voted to censure Councillor O’Donnell after a SIPO investigation found that he broke codes of conduct. O’Donnell was secretly filmed in 2015 during a meeting with an undercover reporter, who posed as a representative of a foreign investment firm looking for his support for a wind farm development.
This afternoon, O’Donnell declined to give an interview to RTÉ’s northwest correspondent Eileen Magnier. O’Donnell said he would speak to Conor Ryan, the Prime Time Investigates reporter who recently door-stepped him during his canvas.
O’Donnell described elements of media coverage as a ‘witch hunt’.
He said: “I have made a mistake and I have learned from it. I went in as a businessman and forgot about my political role.
“The people of the Milford area have given me a chance and I’m overwhelmed.
“It has been challenging. It would have been wrong of me to speak before the people spoke.”
O’Donnell said recent weeks had been ‘difficult’.
he said: “It is sore not only on me, but on my family and my group of supporters. You’re brought that spotlight and torture on them, but they stood behind me and supported me. They have always done that – and the people of the Milford area have delivered me a massive mandate. The vote shows that they believe in me.”
O’Donnell and his team knocked on almost 5,300 doors in the area.
He said: “That’s a lot of doors, but I wanted to do the canvas myself. I met the people and heard the views and concerns of the people.
“We had a good reaction on the door steps. The people saw I was doing good work and delivering for my locality. They see the real John and see the good things about him. I’m looking forward to getting back to doing what I do best – delivering for the people of the Milford area and the people of Donegal.”
O’Donnell said his priority would be completing some projects that are underway in his area, like a major community development in Kilmacrennan that includes a playground, a full-size soccer pitch and community hub.
He said: “I hope it’s a new beginning and I think it is. It must be when you get a vote and a mandate like that. I don’t think the people are too unhappy with my track record and the amount of service that I’ve delivered.”
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