A seismic Sinn Féin tidal surge, the prominent voting feature of this General Election, forcibly impacted the Longford/Westmeath constituency count centre at Athlone Institute of Technology, in its path claiming a major casuality as former Minister of State and Athlone based Deputy, Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran succumbed to the strong political waves, losing his Dáil Éireann seat.
Akin to ballot paper first preference outcomes which prevailed for Sinn Féin in numerous constituencies, the political party’s Longford/Westmeath candidate, Sorca Clarke, topped the poll with 11,848 votes, exceeding the required quota of 11,277 and was deemed elected on the first count.
Clarke’s success was to the detriment of outgoing Deputy Moran who conceded that the loss of his seat was due to the “Sinn Féin surge”.
Athlone, a designated regional growth centre under the National Framework Plan 2040 and the largest urban area in the Longford/Westmeath constituency, will now be without national political representation when the 160 elected deputies return to Leinster House.
Nigh on twenty four hours elapsed from the official first count announcement within the surrounds of the John Count McCormack Centre on Sunday night to the concluding tenth count, candidates ruminating the possible permutations as ballot paper eliminations progressed.
The remaining three candidates elected to serve the constituency did not realise their General Election fate until that final count with Joe Flaherty (FF ), Peter Burke (FG ) and Robert Troy (FF ) deemed elected without attaining the quota.
It is the non re-election of outgoing Deputy, Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran, which proved the major discussion focus from the constituency counting of votes. Elected as a TD in 2016, ‘Boxer’ served as Minister of State for the Office of Public Works and Flood Relief from June 2017.
Conceding that his seat loss was a major possibility as he assessed initial voting tallies, thoughts of despondency faded to shoots of aspiration when counting resumed on Monday morning as the Cornamagh resident garnered much early transfer traction and prior to the commencement of the tenth count, the outgoing Deputy was placed third in the four seat constituency.
With Longford based Fine Gael Councillor, Micheál Carrigy, being eliminated following the ninth count, his transfers were afforded in the main to fellow county candidate, Joe O’Flaherty and political party colleague, Peter Burke, as they claimed the second and third constituency seats respectively.
With Robert Troy attaining the fourth seat, being 790 votes clear of ‘Boxer’ when the count process officially concluded, the realisation was swift to dawn that Athlone would not have representation in Dáil Éireann, upon resumption of national political proceedings.
Speaking to the Athlone Advertiser as he acknowledged his seat loss, while immensely disappointed with the outcome, ‘Boxer’ stated that he would now take time out to spend with his family following twenty five years of public representative service prior to making a decision on his political future.
Fellow Athlone candidates dotted the weekend Longford/Westmeath constituency ballot paper, with various General Election outcomes.
Local Councillor, Louise Heavin (GP ) performed admirably, this being her inaugural occasion to contest a General Election, achieving a first preference vote of 2,325 (her vote count totalling 2,910 ) prior to her elimination on the eighth count.
Outgoing Senator, Gab McFadden (FG ) will ruefully reflect on her candidacy campaign, with her vote halving from that attained in the General Election 2016. Following the conclusion of the seventh count, the Fine Gael representative was eliminate from proceedings.
Both Donal Jackson (Ind ) and Dom Parker (SP ) were eliminated upon the conclusion of counts two and three respectively.