Fine Gael politician Mary Mitchell O’Connor, who has served as Minister of State for Higher Education since June 2017, has lost her seat in Dáil Éireann where she previously represented the constituency of Dún Laoghaire.
Mitchell O’Connor was eliminated on the eighth and final count on Sunday evening, having been narrowly beaten by Cormac Devlin of Fianna Fáil for the final seat.
Mitchell O’Connor thanked her supporters on Twitter and said she would now be spending more time with her family.
Dún Laoghaire, which in 2016 returned three Fine Gael representatives and one People Before Profit (PBP) representative, will now be represented by Richard Boyd Barrett of PBP, Ossian Smyth of the Green Party, Jennifer Carrooll MacNeil of Fine Gael and Cormac Devlin of Fianna Fáil.
During her time as Minister of State for Higher Education, Mitchell O’Connor implemented measures to reduce sexual violence and harassment in higher education institutions and oversaw the creation of Technological University Dublin, Ireland’s first technological university, and the opening stages of the formation of several others around the country.
Mitchell O’Connor also introduces initiatives to reduce gender imbalances amongst senior academics, this year announcing 20 women-only professorships.
Mitchell O’Connor received criticism in August for advising students to use their Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) grant to cover the rising cost of student accommodation. The Fine Gael-led government which she served in has been under consistent fire during her tenure from students’ unions and institutions for its record of funding the higher education sector.
During a pre-election debate held in Trinity on the future of higher education funding, Mitchell O’Connor defended her government’s record but conceded that the sector still required “extra funding”.