Ring tops the poll while Dail Eireann blooms for Rose

In she goes: Rose Conway-Walsh was elected to the Dáil last Sunday. Photo: Michael Donnelly

In she goes: Rose Conway-Walsh was elected to the Dáil last Sunday. Photo: Michael Donnelly

As soon as the early boxes were opened at the Mayo General Election count at the TF Royal Theatre last Sunday in Castlebar, it was clear there was about to be a big change in the political landscape in Mayo.

Sinn Féin's Rose Conway Walsh was taking big votes in every box and she looked set to take a seat in Mayo, with a bit to spare - and that turned out to be true. She led the votes on the tallies until the final boxes were opened from the Westport area - the heartland of Fine Gael's Michael Ring - who pulled ahead of Conway-Walsh at the end to top the poll.

Both Ring and Conway Walsh proved to be massive vote-getters, claiming 14,796 and 14,633 number one votes respectively - Conway Walsh seeing her first preference votes jump by 6,414 from four years previously, to take a seat, while Ring recorded his biggest ever number one vote and was the first Fine Gael TD elected in the country.

Further down the leader board was Fianna Fáil's deputy leader, Dara Calleary, who got 9,163 number ones and was sure to retain his seat, it was only a matter of when he did; it did take until the final count for Calleary to get over the line, but in a bit of personal history, he managed to pass the quota for the first time in his four general elections to date.

His party running mate and sitting TD, Lisa Chambers, came home in fourth spot on the first count, with 6,373 number one votes, but she did not have a big enough gap between herself and the Fine Gael duo of Michelle Mulherin and Alan Dillon hot on her heels, while The Green Party's Saoirse McHugh was in sixth place on the first count, with an impressive 4,177 votes.

Chambers managed to stay ahead of both Mulherin and Dillon all the way through counts right up to the final count, the elimination of McHugh from the race on the fifth count saw Dillon pull ahead of his running mate by 201 votes for the first time all day, thanks to 1,095 transfers from McHugh; Mulherin was eliminated on that count and she transferred massively to Dillon - he got 3,329 of Mulherin's votes compared to 548 for Chambers. Even with Calleary going over the quota on that count, he did not have enough of a surplus to save his running mate and Dillon took the fourth and final seat, without reaching the quota.

With Sinn Féin the story of the day nationally, it wasn't surprising that Conway-Walsh took a seat in Mayo - she's been a respected and hard-working member of Mayo County Council and the Seanad for the past four years, but the sheer volume of support she achieved took many seasoned political observers by surprise. It was a bad day nationally for the outgoing government - but retaining two seats in Mayo will have to be seen as a major achievement. As for Fianna Fáil, they will be disappointed that they could not hold on to the second seat they held in Mayo and in losing Lisa Chambers, they lost one of their most prominent front bench spokespersons and their Dáil representation in the county town.


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