Penrose election secures Labour speaking rights

With a ‘Lazarus-style’ resurrection during the final night of counting for Longford-Westmeath, Labour’s Willie Penrose took the last available seat in the constituency and in the process ensured his party would have a public profile in Leinster House.

Penrose’s 11th hour election was more than just a personal victory for the Ballynacargy man - it was crucial for the Labour party as it guaranteed them valuable speaking rights in Dáil Éireann.

This means the leader of the party, which has dropped from 33 seats in the last Government to just seven, will have the opportunity to question the Taoiseach and Tánaiste in the Dáil.

Deputy Penrose had publicly conceded defeat early in the process, after the first count revealed that his first preference vote had halved from 11,406 in 2011 to 4,822. This left him fifth on the leaderboard - behind Sinn Féin’s Paul Hogan but just ahead of Fine Gael’s James Bannon.

However, subsequent counts saw the gap between Penrose and Bannon narrow. With Bannon ahead by the small margin of 16 votes after a first full recount, the Fine Gael TD called for a second recount. After Boxer’s surplus votes were distributed, it was Penrose who came out ahead with just six votes to spare over Bannon, who was then eliminated.

The redistribution of Bannon’s votes saw Peter Burke (FG ) elected, and his surplus wasn’t enough to save Hogan, meaning Penrose filled the fourth and final seat in Longford-Westmeath.

They followed in the footsteps of Robert Troy (FF ), who was elected on the first count; Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran (Ind ), who got in on count 13.

In a speech following his election shortly after 8am on Thursday morning, Deputy Penrose said the marathon six-day count had demonstrated the “vagaries of the proportional representation system”.

“One should never say you’re dead until you have the stake through your heart,” he remarked.

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