Last Saturday’s count in Athlone saw some notable changes to the Athlone Electoral Area. Most notable of course is the loss of Athlone Town Council. Our nine town seats have been dispersed and instead we are left with just a seven-seat Athlone Electoral Area which will sit, combined with the 13 Mullingar seats, on a reduced county council of 20 (from 23 ).
Some Athlone town councillors decided not to run, including now Deputy Gabrielle McFadden, council stalwarts Kieran Molloy (FF ) and Mark Cooney (FG ), and Independent Sheila Buckley Byrne. Deputy McFadden decided to concentrate all her canvassing on her by-election campaign, which clearly paid off. However with McFadden now in Leinster House, and Buckley Byrne deciding not to run, the Athlone Electoral Area is now left without a female voice.
The by-election caused a few more upsets, most notably the low first preference number for Aengus O’Rourke, who received a remarkable 8,910, he was hot on Gabrielle’s heels to the very end.
O’Rourke was openly disappointed with his Local Election first preferences of 1,048. He believes running on both the by-election and Local Election tickets split his vote with some supporters giving him a first preference on the by-election ballot paper but opting for other FF party members on the Local Election level.
The now former-county councillor Tom Allen was absent from the count in the gael scoil in Lissywollen due to prior commitments, a charity gig in the UK. Alan Shaw, who was a late addition to the FG ticket looked understandably upset at receiving only 722 first preferences, while Labour’s Jim Henson was a bit more positive about his loss. Henson says he will still be involved with the party, despite their near-obliteration across the country at a local level.
The Athlone Electoral Area now stand with two Fianna Fáil and two Fine Gael councillors, one Sinn Fein, and two former-FF, now Independents.
Friday June 6 sees the Westmeath County Council AGM where allegiances and coalitions will be made.