I hope you all had a good weekend. What was I up to? Well, I spent my weekend in Moate. Now I know in this column I often talk about the various places I have been to, so that is why I’m telling you I went to the Westmeath election count in Moate. I went on Saturday night, and we waited, and we waited, and we waited, in vain, for the votes to arrive over from Athlone Institute of Technology, which had divided all the votes into local, European, and divorce referendum and was dispatching them to the various places. But the Westmeath votes failed to arrive, and having waited from around 4pm I came home around 7pm and vowed I would go the next day.
So Sunday dawned and the count began sometime after 10am. Now, there had been some bit of a delay and something amiss in Athlone, but finally anyway all that was sorted out and the count began. I kept in touch with Moate and when it came to about 3.30pm the Athlone FF rang me to say I should come over around 4 or 4.30pm. So over I went again, hoping that this time there would be some result.
A whole crowd of us sat down together, and we gossiped and talked with everyone who came in and everyone who left the large Moate Community Hall, which was the venue for the Westmeath Local Election count.
I enjoyed the count, I enjoyed the talk and banter with everyone, and I was particularly in good form as it became apparent that my party, Fianna Fáil, was doing well in the Athlone electoral area, and indeed equally well in the Moate area, and also in the Mullingar and Kinnegad areas.
Time went on, the banter continued, and the contestants’ faces and emotions ranged from despair to delight and back to despair again, and oh, it was very, very slow. Now, I am glad of that, because that means of course that the count is being done well, and remarkably the earlier tally which had been carried out by our tallymen in Athlone proved similar to the first count as it began to evolve.
So it was a very good result for Frankie Keena, who headed the poll, and Aengus O’Rourke shortly after him, both with very high votes. After that, there was quite a slump when the lower votes were eliminated and each separate count went on.
Finally, around 8pm, there was good news for Fianna Fáil in Athlone, and the other candidates had to wait for further eliminations before they, in turn, could have their moment of delight.
Over the many, many years in which I have been involved in politics, I always found the count centres to be fascinating places, full of life being played out in all its emotions. For many years during the General Elections, we would go to Kenagh in County Longford which was the count centre for Longford-Westmeath. I had many good days there, and one or two bad ones as well!
So we came home very happy from Moate and from my delightful weekend spent there!
As I compile this, the Europeans are still being counted and mulled over, and indeed disputed in some cases, particularly in Dublin between the TD Clare Daly and Barry Andrews. I expect that this will definitely go to a court case. Likewise down in the south of Ireland, where, as I write, they are just concluding the first count.
On Tuesday I went to visit somebody in Athlone, and on the way I noticed the empty poles where all the posters had already been taken down. Good for them; the candidates knew that to avoid any fine, they had to remove their posters and they really did a terrific job. No longer are the poles adorned with the happy, hopeful, cheerful faces that we had looked at for the last four to six weeks. I personally will miss them, but not so for many people in the Athlone area.
Elections are such trying times, particularly for candidates and their families. They live through the agonies and the long waits and the long counts. Then if it is good news they live through that as well, and if it is not good news, well then – stiff upper lip, dust themselves down, and away they go until the next time.
I heard so many heartfelt stories during my hours in Moate that will linger long with me, and that told of so much happiness and so much heartbreak also.
So the O’Rourke name will continue in politics and I am so glad of that.
In the midst of all that, on Saturday night following the aborted wait in Moate for the papers which never turned up from Athlone, I arrived back home in time to look at Virgin Media for the exciting rugby match between Leinster and Glasgow Warriors. Leinster were the winners in the Guinness Pro14, but it was a close call: Leinster 18, Glasgow Warriors 15. It gave Leinster the satisfaction of winning silverware following their defeat at the hands of Saracens last week, and acted, if you like, as a prelude to Ireland’s plans for the World Cup.
I also had the delight of seeing Roscommon win against Mayo. My two favourite GAA teams, but in the end my delight was unbounded for Roscommon, who played a strong game and never gave up. Good for them, and of course Mayo have the back door entry now into the further rounds as we go through the summer. Let’s hope Roscommon keeps its gritty play in full swing, as they exhibited against Mayo last Saturday.
Westmeath had a surprise defeat, but again they will have a further chance, and up to this it has been roses all the way for them.
Readers, I can tell you as I write this column this week I am fairly exhausted. You might say, not half as exhausted as the candidates who ran the race, but still I am spun out, but of course still very carefully watching and listening to the radio and television for the European election results.
Next week hopefully it will be back to ‘normal’ business and I look forward to that and to sharing it with my many readers.
That’s my lot for this week. Hope to talk with you all next week.
In the meantime go safely.
Slán go fóill.