It was an exhausting weekend for anyone with an interest in politics. In Westmeath the two count centres at Mullingar and Athlone played host to many candidates and party members, as they dashed from north to south to ensure everything was running smoothly in county and town.
It was an especially draining weekend for anyone up for Mullingar Town Council seats as the count went into a second day. And for those who lost their seats it was a visibly upsetting end to a hard campaign.
In particular, commiserations have to go to Fine Gael candidates Mick O’Connell and John Dolan. Mick had been co-opted onto Athlone Town Council after fellow FGer Nicky McFadden was elevated to the Senate. Likewise John took her seat at county council level.
It must be said that both men took to the role of councillor very well, serving the electorate as best they could, and were pleasant to work with. So it was no surprise on Saturday night that we were all a bit upset that they wouldn’t be returning to their respective council chambers. Instead they are to be replaced by their predecessor’s younger sister, Gabrielle McFadden.
It was probably the most bittersweet outcome of the election in the county. And there was a general feeling that both Mick and John had been, for lack of a better word, shafted. You couldn’t help but feel party management had stepped on one too many toes and didn’t really see the plan through. It was always a given that Gabby would do well. With her surname and personable manner she was sure to gather votes. But was the plan really thought through? FG were hopeful of keeping all sitting councillors as well as gaining a seat through McFadden. But in the end Westmeath bucked the trend and Fianna Fail stood strong (mostly ) leaving Mick and John in political abyss-land while dark horse and Mayo native Alan Shaw romped home, by-passing FG stalwart Mark Cooney on first preferences.
Although Fianna Fail did well, retaining three of their four seats on Athlone Town Council, it was at the expense of party faithfuls, outgoing Mayor Egbert Moran and John Butler. Labour’s seat also saw Ray Lennon out and newbie Jim Henson (not the puppet guy ) in.
In the county count there was slightly less drama. Despite his apparent worries and heavy campaigning, Tom Allen kept his seat in the Athlone area. There was no change in Mullingar West, while in Mullingar East FG’s Pat McLoughlin and FF’s Jim Bourke were out and Labour’s Denis Leonard and Fianna Fail’s celebrity candidate/auctioneer Aidan Davitt were in.
In Coole, the new four-seater saw newbie and Westmeath hurler John Shaw in along with sitting councillors FF’s Paddy Hill and FG’s Frank McDermott. Dan McCarthy’s seat was moved from Mullingar East into Coole and he had no problem retaining it.
In Kilbeggan Michael Newman was out and fellow FGer Colm Arthur was in. Not much of a shuffle from the outside looking in. But time will only tell.
They’ve a long five years ahead of them to prove to their electorate that the right decisions were made, but I’m sure they’ll have no problems keeping their promises!