Independent block hold the balance of power

Back with a bang: Fianna Fail's Sean Carey made up for disappointment in missing out five years ago narrowly, by comfortably claiming a seat this time around in the Belmullet Local Electoral Area.

Back with a bang: Fianna Fail's Sean Carey made up for disappointment in missing out five years ago narrowly, by comfortably claiming a seat this time around in the Belmullet Local Electoral Area.

After all the counting was said and done in the local elections, just like five years ago, the Independent councillors elected now hold the balance of power in the council chamber.

Fine Gael managed to increase their seat number from ten to 12, while Fianna Fail also saw their representation rise this time around, picking up an extra seat to go from ten to 11.

Sinn Fein were the big losers from the election with their representation on the council falling by two-thirds, going from three seats to one, with long time councillor Gerry Murray the only Sinn Fein member to hold on to a seat, as both outgoing councillors Treasa Whelan and Joe McHale lost their spots.

There was some change-around in the independent block, with Michael Holmes, Gerry Ginty and Frank Durcan all retiring from politics at the end of the term of the last council.

Outgoing Independents Michael Kilcoyne, Christy Hyland, Richard Finn and Seamus Weir were all re-elected, with newcomer Mark Duffy from Ballina - one of the stories of the weekend - being joined by Westport based Johnno O’Malley, who was a former Fine Gael councillor, as he took the final seat in Westport to complete their half-dozen of representatives.

Castlebar, which was the biggest constituency with seven seats up for grabs, returned three Fine Gael, three Fianna Fail and one Independent councillor. Fianna Fail’s outgoing trio of Blackie Gavin, Al McDonnell and Martin McLoughlin all held on to their seats, with Gavin going from the last man in, five years ago, to beating the quota on the first count this time around with 1179 number ones.

Fine Gael increased their representation from two to three in the area, they had lost long-serving councillor Henry Kenny after he retired from politics ahead of the election. Cyril Burke was re-elected on the 13th count, with former town councillor Ger Deere getting over the quota on the 12th count and newcomer to politics, Donna Sheridan, taking their third seat on the 13th count after an impressive first time showing.

Michael Kilcoyne, now the only Independent Councillor in the chamber alongside the six other party councillors, was the first man over the line, repeating his poll-topping performance of five years ago to be first man home with a massive 2,589 number ones.

Sinn Fein lost its seat in Castlebar with Joe McHale failing to get near the vote that Therese Ruane got in 2014 when she romped home to take a seat.

The Ballina area had lost a big chunk of its territory to the reconstructed Swinford Local Electoral Area and two sitting councillors went with it. Independent Gerry Ginty retired from politics ahead of the election leaving one seat from the six remaining sitting councillors up for grabs.

Fine Gael took two seats - the first and the last of the count, with Bonniconlon based John O’Hara topping the poll with 2,123 first preferences. The Fine Gael council whip, Jarlath Munnelly, had to wait until the final count of the day to retain his seat. The transfers from his two running mates, Aileen Horkan and Kieran Gill, were instrumental in holding off the challenge from Fianna Fail’s Eamonn Moore at the end.

From as soon the boxes were tallied it looked certain that Fianna Fail would take two seats in Ballina, with outgoing councillors Annie May Reape and Michael Loftus getting 1,363 and 1,320 number one votes respectively on the first count and always looking comfortable.

Outgoing Independent councillor, Seamus Weir, looked like he might be in danger of losing his seat early on and for a long time it looked like it would be a battle between him and Munnelly for the last seat, but he put in a strong transfer-friendly performance to be the second last man home.

The big story from the Ballina election was the showing of Independent candidate Mark Duffy, who bagged a massive first preference vote getting 2,095 number one votes. Duffy ran a smart ground campaign and was very active on social media and got the numbers out. He even had time to leave the count centre and go play for Ballina Town in the middle of the count on Saturday evening. The big two political parties will be keeping an eye on the Independent in the future and a potential tilt at national office could not be ruled out in time to come.

The other six-seater in the count was in Claremorris - the outcome of the six seats in this area were sown up early on Saturday morning when the tally figures started piling in, with Fine Gael’s four seat strategy coming off like a charm. They took 54.2 per cent of the vote in the area and got all four over the line - even with monster vote-getter Patsy O’Brien hoovering up 22.6 per cent of them himself, going home with 2,955 number ones.

He was joined in passing the post by colleagues John Cribben, Tom Connolly and Michael Burke. The latter only joined the race six weeks out and had previously won and lost a seat in the council on two different occasions, but his decision to run again proved right as he was elected for a third time to the council.

Five years ago Westport and Belmullet were lumped in together into one electoral area, this time around the areas were split in two, with Westport having four seats and Belmullet having three. In the smaller area Fianna Fail made their one gain in the county, with Sean Carey joining outgoing councillor, Paul McNamara, in the council.

The party hoovered up 46.6 per cent of the vote. Fine Gael’s Gerry Coyle was the top vote-getter in the area, going over the quota on count one with 1,806 votes. There was disappointment for Sinn Fein here with Teresa Whelan losing the seat she had been co-opted on to three years ago, in place of Rose Conway Walsh. Whelan was 600 votes off Carey after count one and that was the game ball.

The four-seat Westport area saw Fine Gael and Fianna Fail take one seat each, with Independents taking two. Ironically, both of the Independents became Independent after failing to receive the nomination from Fine Gael to run in the area. Christy Hyland topped the poll - he switched to the Independent colours in 2014 and Johnno O’Malley took the last seat. O’Malley was narrowly beaten for the nomination for Fine Gael at the section convention and struck out on his own. O’Malley lost his seat five years ago and this will have been a sweet comeback for him.

Another returning candidate took Fine Gael’s sole seat - Peter Flynn opted out of politics five years ago after serving a single term as a councillor - but he threw his hat back in the ring this time around and polled 1,250 number one votes. Fianna Fail’s Brendan Mulroy retained his seat with a strong showing, picking up 1,191 votes to comfortably hold on to his spot. There was one sitting casualty in the area with Fine Gael’s Teresa McGuire losing the seat she had won five years earlier.

The Swinford area was reconstituted for this election, with councillors who were formerly in Ballina and Claremorris last term competing for the seats and all four who were sitting councillors were elected with the minimum of fuss, with Fianna Fail taking two seats, Fine Gael one and Sinn Fein one. Gerry Murray was the first man elected over the weekend and the only Sinn Fein candidate to do so, beating the quota on the first count with 1,896 number one votes. Re-elected alongside him were Fianna Fail duo Michael Smyth and John Caulfied and Fine Gael’s Neil Cruise.

Mayo Local Election Figures

Seats: Fine Gael 12 (+2 ), Fianna Fail 11 (+1 ), Independents 6 (-1 ), Sinn Fein 1 ( -2 )

Vote Percentage: Fine Gael: 37.2 (+ 2.8 ), Fianna Fail 29.9 (+0.6 ), Independent 20.6 (-3.9 ), Sinn Fein 7.4 (-3.4 )

Poll Toppers: Patsy O’Brien (FG ) 2,955, Michael Kilcoyne (Ind ) 2,598, John O’Hara (FG ) 2,123

First time elected: Mark Duffy (Ind ), Donna Sheridan (FG ), Ger Deere (FG ), Sean Carey (FF )

Sitting seats Lost: Joe McHale (SF ), Treasa Whelan (SF ), Tereasa McGuire (FG )

Returning after losing seat or stepping away: Peter Flynn (FG ), Michael Burke (FG ), Johnno O’Malley (Ind )

Gender Breakdown: Male 28/ Female 2

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