Local political landscape painted as canvass formally concludes

A myriad of contrasting emotions were to the fore during the local election count in Moate Community Hall, in particular for first time Green Party candidate, Louise Heavin, who was elected to serve the Athlone electoral area at 11pm on Sunday night following the 11th count of votes. Louise is the sole female Councillor in the electoral area and is pictured in jubilant mode after her election was announced with her sister Teresa Heavin and campaign manager Meabh Cody.

A myriad of contrasting emotions were to the fore during the local election count in Moate Community Hall, in particular for first time Green Party candidate, Louise Heavin, who was elected to serve the Athlone electoral area at 11pm on Sunday night following the 11th count of votes. Louise is the sole female Councillor in the electoral area and is pictured in jubilant mode after her election was announced with her sister Teresa Heavin and campaign manager Meabh Cody.

The local political landscape has been painted for the forthcoming five year term of office in both the Athlone and Moate electoral areas following the counting of votes in the Westmeath local elections during the weekend.

Two new candidates will make their elected representative bow following their notable Athlone electoral area success, with both Independent, Jamie Moran, and Louise Heavin of the Green Party claiming the last two seats at 11pm on the 11th count on Sunday night.

Their success arrived at the expense of sitting Independent Councillors, Michael O’Brien and Paul Hogan, whom, after years of local authority service, failed to gain re-election.

With a notable showing of first preference votes (1,583 ), which saw him surpass the quote of 1,423, Town Mayor, Cllr. Frankie Keena, who was contesting his fifth ballot paper was elected on the first count, his strongest performance in a local election campaign to date. Speaking following his poll topping success, Cllr. Keena noted that he was still “pinching himself” as he acknowledged the overwhelming support of the Athlone electorate.

His Fianna Fáil colleague, Cllr. Aengus O’Rourke, also polled admirably being 109 votes shy of the quota as the initial figures were announced, but was deemed elected on the fifth count.

Outgoing Cathaoirleach of Westmeath County Council, John Dolan, also returns to his seat in the Council surroundings, the Fine Gael candidate’s election being finally confirmed on the seventh count as transfers from eliminated Independent candidate, PJ Coghill, ensured he exceeded the quota.

Boasting a vote count total of 715 votes, first time candidate, Sinn Féin representative, Padraig Hegarty, made it as far as the tenth count before he was eliminated, his transfers enabling the election, as the clock ticked on, of Heavin and Moran.

In the Moate electoral area, sitting Fine Gael Councillor, Tom Farrell, achieved poll topping status. Being just 129 votes short of the 1,696 quota as official figures were initially announced, the Walderstown native, ensured a return to the elected representative realm on the third count when transferred votes deemed him to be elected.

With four seats available in the reconfigured electoral area as a result of boundary changes introduced in 2018, the electorate showed their preference for two Fianna Fáil candidates, Vinny McCormack and Cllr. Liam McDaniel and Labour Party Councillor, Johnnie Penrose, to sit at the elected representative table.

The nine Councillors are the inaugural elected representatives to sit as the Athlone-Moate Municipal District in the Civic Chambers in Athlone, with the first meeting of the local authority due to take place in June.

Assessing the weekend vote across both electoral areas, Fianna Fáil was the strongest performing party claiming 75.1 percent of the vote, Fine Gael shared 47.1 percent of the vote, Independents 40.6 percent, Green Party 6.9 percent, Sinn Féin 6.1 percent, SocDems and Aontu 2.3 percent and Renua 1 percent.

In what was an arduous election process, tallies were first noted in Athlone IT on Saturday, prior to the ballot boxes being dispatched to Moate Community Hall for formal counting.

Their non arrival at the Moate location caused consternation on Saturday night, prior to Returning Officer, Ciaron Martin, adjourning the counting of votes to a 9am start on Sunday morning.

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